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.

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

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Whatโ€™s covered:

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Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

๐Ÿ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 3,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
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Read |ย 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?!?!

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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.) ย 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?

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

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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.

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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

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

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Act |ย How to make your wardrobe more sustainable
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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.

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    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.


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ETHICAL BRANDS GUIDE: Which stores fit my price point?
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I'll go from cheapest (me) to less cheapest (hopefully a better version of me).

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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.

The Average Person Budget($30-$60)


The Tech IPO Budget ($60-$200)

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

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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!

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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.

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Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

๐Ÿ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 3,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."ย - Meghan Mehta, Google