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November 2019 | Fast Fashion

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on November's topic: fast fashion. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes


What’s covered:

  • READ - the fashion industry's massive pollution problem
  • LISTEN - how secondhand shopping can reduce 6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions
  • ACT - a fashion guide that fits your budget
  • REFLECT - 3 ways to do Black Friday better


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"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
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"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google

🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ β€” Let's start by looking at a few articles together.

Read |Β Why should we talk about sustainable fashion?

The bad news: your clothes are making the Earth reaaall dirty. And not in a fun way. Read on for some Daylight-Savings-level-depressing facts.

The good news: Today and every Wednesday of November, we give you info on how you can make cleaner choices that truly allow you to be part of the solution. Just in time for good Black Friday decisions!

Keep reading: for more facts like the one below. We buy - and wash - so much per year and the microfibers from our clothes are equivalent to 50 BILLION plastic bottles! Wash the heck?!?!


Turtles are still dying, Greta is still fighting, and we're still deciding if global warming is a thing. Environmental change often seems really, really futile.

But here's something we all do every day: wear clothes! (And if you don't, well...I'd love to hear about it.) Β And what's more, our clothing choices have a huge impact on the environment - more than most of us know.

That's why we picked fashion for this month's topic - the fashion industry does a LOT of damage, but we can all make tangible strides to mitigate it. We can start by buying less, or at least turning away from fast fashion.

Fast fashion (the opposite of sustainable fashion) is cheap, low-quality clothes produced at breakneck speeds, prioritizing instant gratification of trends over sustainability.

It turns out that $10 Forever 21 dresses are, actually, too good to be true. Here's a primer from The Good Trade that explains fast fashion more clearly.

They're just clothes - how bad can they be?

You're right - clothes themselves aren't a problem. As trendy as it might be to go back to the days of Adam and Eve, those leaves would definitely start to poke after a while.

It's our approach to the creation of fast fashion that makes it so damaging. Here are three main problems:

  1. We make WAY more than we need - and therefore, waste an egregious amount as well. 85% of textiles go in the dump every year, according to Business Insider.
  2. In the capitalistic race to put the trendiest and lowest cost items on the market, working conditions are the first to be forgotten. In 2013, 1,134 garment workers died in a Bangladesh factory collapse, in the production of fast fashion.
  3. Because of the emphasis on low cost and low quality, environmental implications are largely ignored. In 2015, the greenhouse gas footprint from textiles production was traced to 1.2 billion tons of CO2. 1.2 BILLION! And about 20% of industrial water pollution globally can be traced to the dyeing and treatment of textiles.

Wow, I want to take it slow. What's next?

  • Read this Business Insider article (that we linked earlier) to get the lowdown on how fast fashion emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. If you're interested in specific companies' production (like H&M), here's an LA Times article for you.

  • Subscribe to The Daily Good, a daily 30-second read on conscious living for women's fashion. I signed up for it last week, and I love it! (Dudes, let me know what your favorite non-gender-specific ethical fashion newsletter is.)

  • Follow Aditi Mayer from She writes about style, sustainability, and social justice - I particularly like her Conscious Consumerism Without the Pricetag article. It's actually where I first learned about the Bangladesh factory incident.

  • Check out Nicole Garcia's Ethical Clothing Guidebook - she's an East Bay Area local, a mission-oriented designer, and actually designed our Soapbox Project banner. We

  • Make plans to buy or exchange clothes while you await our ACT module, in two weeks, on how to make your wardrobe sustainable! Bonus points if you decide to not go Black Friday shopping at all.


🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.

🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN β€” we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.

Listen |Β Saving 6 billion pounds of CO2 through secondhand shopping


Today, we feature a Conscious Chatter podcast episode with Erin Wallace, a leader at ThredUp, the world's largest online thrift store. Erin said something during the episode that stood out to me - in many cities, thrift shops were either too dirty and unseemly, or too bougie to justify it being a "thrift" purchase. It's exactly how I've felt about shopping secondhand!

This episode, however, has changed my view.

The benefits of resale shopping and the circular economy are too large to ignore, and ThredUP provides a good compromise for people like me, looking to make a change, but scared away by my local thrift store.

My biggest takeaway: If everyone in the US bought just 1 item used instead of new this year, it would save around 6 billion pounds of carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the road for a year.

You can listen to the episode here.


Podcast highlights

"Small changes have massive impact when performed at scale, which is what we're out to achieve" - Erin Wallace, ThredUp VP & circular economy leader

  • Resale is expected to outpace fast fashion 1.5x fast fashion by 2028! We can all be part of the solution.
  • Thrifting can be a great cheap thrill - not only are you reducing your environmental impact, you get trendy clothes for a fraction of the original cost
  • The Marie Kondo phenomenon didn't really tell people where they could dispose of their clothes or what to do when you clean house! Many clothes could have contributed to landfill waste.
  • The millenial and Gen Z adoption of secondhand clothing is 2.5x that of previous generations. Ok, boomers.

Most of the stats cited in this episode are from ThredUP's 2019 Resale Report - it's a really informative read.


🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.

🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT β€” Now it's time to do something. Let's go!

Act |Β How to make your wardrobe more sustainable

Here's our guide on what you can actually do to be a more conscious consumer, especially with Black Friday approaching.

(P.S. There's a Twitter hashtag #ShopEthicalInstead by @EthicalHour if you want to participate in a series of challenges leading up to Black Friday.)

  1. Buy less stuff. Seriously. I learned this technique for hanging clothes that showed me how many unnecessary things I buy - you put the hanger on so the hook is facing towards you. When you wear that item, you can put it back the normal way. If you don't touch it in a year, you probably didn't need it!

    If the hanger technique isn't your thing, consider doing regular mental check-ins and set small goals. Maybe it's buying just one less thing than you usually would.

  2. Leverage the resale economy.

    ThredUP is a good place to start if you like shopping online! Here's a 10% discount code.

    Stores like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange allow you to buy, sell, and trade clothes! It's a neat way to make some quick cash if you have quality clothes that are looking for a new home.

    You already knew about Goodwill, but did you know about GW Boutiques? I didn't, until last week. Turns out, Goodwill has a few stores just for designer items and you can find a location here. What a time to be alive.

  3. Make ethical and sustainable purchases (there's options for every price point)!

    I've included two-ish stores for you to check out in each (loose) price category here. Use the categories more as guidelines. Yell at me on email if I got something wrong.


ETHICAL BRANDS GUIDE: Which stores fit my price point?

I'll go from cheapest (me) to less cheapest (hopefully a better version of me).


The Nivi Budget ($0 - $30). This is where I like to hang out. I've bought dresses at $25 from both these stores and they've survived many washes.

  • Pact has options for women, men, and children. Their clothes are made with organic cotton and are super comfy! Pact is good for basics - they even sell undergarments.
  • Krochet Kids has clothes and accessories for all genders and their founding story really drew me in. They aim to transform communities in Peru and Uganda by teaching people how to make and sell clothing. Plus, they've got really nice stuff (I own two dresses from there).


The Average Person Budget($30-$60)

  • This literally contradicts the number I said above, but I'm going to include Everlane and Reformation, specifically for jeans. They both range from ~$70-$110 on jeans, but they tend to have some pretty sweet deals throughout the year. (Plus, jeans are already super expensive.) Reformation is primarily for women, but Everlane includes all the bois. Be whoever you want to be and buy yourself a nice, long-lasting pair of jeans!
  • I just discovered Tonle, a zero-waste, fair fashion company. They have reaaally cute dresses. Also, read about their production practices!

The Tech IPO Budget ($60-$200)

  • Rothy's for shoes (they sell women's shoes). Their shoes are made out of recycled plastic, they're comfortable, and you can throw them in the washing machine! Although I have no IPO money, I do have a pair of Rothy's, and I love them.
  • Topo Designs has a bunch of clothing and gear, and if you show the San Francisco Divisadero store this newsletter, you can get 15% off. Plus, they have really cool backpacks...


🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.

Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!


🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT β€” what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?

Reflect |Β 3 fun things for you in preparation for Black Friday


Black Friday decisions usually follow none of the above things - we buy lots of new stuff that's often unethically made, causing great damage to textile workers and the environment.

But we have two more days to do convince ourseles to opt out of Black Friday/Cyber Monday... or at least do some research for Black Friday 2020!

If you're going to go shopping this year, check out Brightly's Ethical Black Friday Survival Guide. I loved their guide because it's not just about where to shop - they also talk about setting a budget, muting unwanted promotions, and other helpful tips. Plus, Brightly is a super new company, which means you can say you heard about it before it was cool!


Here's what else you can do!

  1. Host a clothing swap with your friends! That way, you get new things without having to spend money OR feel bad about your fashion implications. Malena, our designer, just did one this weekend.
  2. Check out Hasan Minhaj's most recent Patriot Act - "The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion". Hasan, if you're reading this, it's okay that you copied our November topic for your show. (Jk, we love it.)
  3. If you must go Black Friday shopping, remember, you get 15% off when you show your copy of Changeletter to the Topo Designs store in San Francisco! Also, here's $10 off of ThredUp.


β€πŸ Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.


Check out our membership community for more resources like free weekly events with social justice experts, sustainable product discounts, pre-written email templates, a social impact job board, and in-person hangouts with new friends. Thanks for taking action with Soapbox Project!

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

πŸ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 5,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar,
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google