Climate change

We need to fix our addiction to fast fashion.

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Following the rise of the internet and trend culture, clothing items are now more disposable than ever. We all have clothes we have bought as an impulse buy from H&M or Primark for a festival that is now discarded in a drawer somewhere.

I was taken aback last month when browsing through my Facebook feed after I found a video clip posted by BBC Radio Bristol which showed hundreds of shoppers queuing outside Primark in Bristol, eager to be let inside and hunt for the latest bargains.

For many people, being able to browse the shelves of high street stores is rewarding, and likely feels like a therapeutic exercise following the crashing boredom that lockdown has brought. Many high street chains have been advertising sales with up to 50% off, but before we go racing to the shops, it’s important to stop and think.

Most of us care about fashion and feel that looking good is important. However, can we justify going out and spending money on new, mass-produced clothing when we know full well about the dangers of fast fashion and the harmful impact the industry is having on our biosphere? Research recently released by Business Insider found that the fashion industry emits more carbon than international and maritime shipping combined.

For many of us though, our morality is shaken at the sight of a good bargain. In a similar way to how some demand a broad array of public services whilst lamenting having to pay higher taxes, we can’t have it both ways. We need to lead by example by being responsible and making decisions that will best protect the environment.

Collectively, we can have a big impact by protesting with our wallets and not giving these companies our business by shopping at more independent, ethical shops instead.

Primark has been scrutinised in the past for their poor treatment of garment factory workers in Sri Lanka. In 2014, an SOS note was found hidden inside a pair of Primark trousers alleging slave labour conditions, apparently written by a Chinese garment factory employee.

We cannot turn a blind eye to some of these companies’ predatory and immoral behaviour. In recent years, through demonstrations and protests by organisations such as Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, the general public have become more aware of the precinct issue of global warming. 

Whether we agree with the tactics used by some of these groups is up for debate, but what is clear is that they’ve helped spread awareness that climate change is an issue that needs addressing. Last month The Guardian reported that we have sixth months to avert the climate crisis. Time is running out.

We as young people can be change-makers. We’re more tech-savvy than previous generations and know how to utilise social media to find independent, vintage shops that are struggling now more than ever. 

Although many retail stores are currently suffering and facing job losses, some of the larger retailers like H&M and Primark will likely survive due to their size. The smaller, family-run shops need our business now like never before.

In a 2019 poll by Hope Not Hate, the majority of those who took part agreed that climate change was an emergency and believed that politicians are not doing enough to tackle the problem. 

We need to follow up this declaration with deeds and not words. We should be active and not passive. Buying less fast fashion is just one small step that could make a big difference if we all slightly adjust our shopping habits.

When Greta Thunberg came to Bristol in February, she spoke of how the politicians and the media were “sweeping their mess under the rug”. Perhaps now it’s time for young people to take her advice and be the “adults in the room”.

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