Join 4,000 people fighting climate change with our fun, bite-sized plans

Feb 2021 | What is fast fashion and how can you fight it?

Cute history lesson: when I launched Changeletter, fast fashion was our FIRST topic! As a treat, I'm about to show you one of the very first graphics our designer Malena ever made for Soapbox. She's the best.
โ€

This month, we're going to be talking about fast fashion and its planetary impacts. As always, we'll tell you what you can do to take action. Plus, we're having an interactive panel event on 2/24/21 at 2pm PST/5pm EST with industry experts, retail employees, and fashion entrepreneurs so you can get your questions answered. We'll also do an exercise to see how sustainable your very own wardrobe is and leave you with tips to make it better.

โ€

Here's our #throwback graphic - let's get started!ย 

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 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
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."ย - Meghan Mehta, Google

Read:ย Fast fashion quick facts

โ€

Today, I want you to read this fact-packed article from the World Economic Forum. They cover the most significant impacts fast fashion has on the planet. As always, I'll share the points that stuck out to me the most for those of you who aren't going to click on the article (no judgment; I feel you).

These are also good conversation starters for your friends and family.

โ€

  • ๐Ÿคฎ The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of humanity's CO2 emissions.

  • ๐Ÿšฎ Up to 85% of textiles go to landfill each year. There's no way to justify the fashion industry's carbon emissions because we don't even make good use of our clothing.

  • ๐Ÿšฑ The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide. It's also the second-largest consumer of water โ€” yikes!

  • ๐Ÿข Over a third of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from microplastics โ€” much of which comes from washing our clothes. For example, every time we wash our WFH leggings made from polyester (which is made from plastic), a tiny amount ends up in the ocean. That adds up.


If you want to actually do something about these numbers, let's talk about it during our event! We have industry experts ready to listen and they're in a position to push for structural change, so let's make it happen.

Listen - watch where you put your microfiber!!

โ€

โ€

Here are some takeaways from the video. It's only 2 minutes, which is the shortest video we've featured in the history of Changeletter! It also showcases the unintended consequences of recycling plastic waste into clothing, which seems like a good solution... until you wash those clothes.

  • ๐Ÿ‘š Polyester is increasingly prevalent in our clothes. More polyester = more demand for the stuff used to make polyester (aka plastic)

  • ๐Ÿงบ Every time we wash synthetic fabric like polyester, super tiny pieces called microfibers come off and run into our rivers, lakes, and oceans

  • ๐Ÿคฎ Microfibers in the oceans act like sponges, sucking up other gross pollutants

  • ๐Ÿก These lil pollutant blobs end up in fish bellies and ultimately human bellies - yuck!

  • ๐ŸŒŠ It's estimated that there are 200 MILLION ocean microfibers for every human on the planet


I own a pair of Rothy's, which are shoes made by diverting plastic water bottles, and I'm glad I haven't washed them yet. This video has given me a lot to think about.

For me, one big takeaway is that we must come up with robust, systemic solutions instead of constantly duct-taping over our problems. We literally have to take a hard look at our dirty laundry.

Last thing - come to our event to get solutions that YOU can be a part of. It'll be an interactive, non-sucky virtual event and I hope to see your faces so we can work on this as a community.

Act - 7 steps you can take from home

โ€

If you're looking for sustainable brands to shop from, here's a price-organized list from The Good Trade. I didn't want to encourage consumption in our action plans, but it's handy to have around when you need something new.

Instead, here's a 7-step plan!

โ€

  1. ๐Ÿ’š Buy less. The #30Wears campaign challenges you to ask yourself, before you buy a new piece of clothing, "Will I wear this at least 30 times?" No need to spend $$$ on "slow fashion" if you can make your current items last!

    โ€
  2. ๐Ÿ‘š Buy natural. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are made from polyester. Which is made from plastic. Which is made from oil. Which is petroleum. Which is a fossil fuel.

    If you want to learn more about the planetary impact of synthetics, Jordan on our 2/24/21 panel will tell you all about it.

  3. ๐Ÿ” Buy secondhand. This was also new for me starting 2020. ThredUp makes it really easy to buy secondhand online! Save money and save clothes from landfills.
    โ€
    โ€
  4. ๐Ÿข Wash less. As we discussed last week, about a THIRD of ocean plastics pollution comes from clothes washing (those pesky synthetics). If you're indoors all day, do you really need to wash your jeans after every use?
    โ€
    โ€
  5. ๐Ÿ’™ Wash better. You can use natural detergents/fabric softeners like Dropps and get a laundry filter. This Lint LUV-R is $145 USD and one of the most effective solutions. If you're short on cash, you can try a microplastic-filtering mesh bag like Guppyfriend. It catches less microfibers, but I still think it's a good start for throwing in your synthetic swag.

    โ€
  6. ๐Ÿ‘– Donate effectively. ย I always call a few women's shelters/homeless shelters in my area to see if they're accepting clothing donations. I want to make sure the clothes I donate are actually used (instead of something like Goodwill). I've also gifted on Buy Nothing!

    โ€
  7. ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Dispose consciously. Okay here's a key step! If the stuff you're Goodwill-ing isn't in good condition, there's a chance it may get landfilled. Instead, if you have clothing in subprime condition, drop it off at a Levi's store, use Ridwell, or give your shoes at Soles4Souls. If those aren't a thing in your country, try this.

โ€

Reflect - fashion is connected to everything

โ€

A few of you have mentioned that you're overwhelmed by this fashion content. After all, you may own clothes from these brands (same). And profit at the cost of our planet seems unstoppable. But I'm here to tell you that as consumers, we are absolutely making a difference.

โ€

Today's REFLECT module provides key takeaways from Hothouse Solutions, one of my favorite sustainability newsletters.

โ€

I really enjoyed the Hothouse fashion article because of how well the writers contextualized the problem AND the solution. I encourage you to read the full article, but here's some key points if you're short on time:

  • ๐Ÿฅ‚ A huge industry win: Last week, H&M raised 7x more funding than they were hoping to, and it's mostly because they committed "to some of the most ambitious environmental goals among global fashion brands". Even if this is just a PR move, it's inevitable that consumer pressure from people like us are forcing brands to move in a sustainable direction.
  • ๏ธ ๐Ÿ›ข๏ธ What makes fast fashion so cheap: I highlighted this before, but cheap fossil fuels are the main reason fast fashion can be so fast. Everything is related: big oil, synthetic clothing, even agriculture! (Read the article, it's worth it.)
  • ๐Ÿ‘ฏ We're actually kicking fashion execs' butts: "Brands are feeling the pressure from a younger, savvier demographic that wants to wear its ethics. A 2019 poll across North America, Europe, and Asia found 72% of shoppers were buying more environmentally friendly products than five years ago, and more said they expected to do so."
  • โšก Renewable energy can change the game: 45% of the fashion industry's carbon footprint could go poof if they switched to renewable energy. That's huge!
  • ๐Ÿ’Œ My favorite quote: "While individual action is no match for change at an industrial level, our buying decisions signal what matters to us, which means showing support for preferred or regenerative fibers, and by buying used and buying less."
    โ€

Seriously, this article is so good. It made me think about the bigger picture of fashion (last week, I was not at all thinking of regenerative agriculture or renewable energy) and it makes me optimistic that we can fight for individual and structural changes together. After all, that's what Soapbox is here for.

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 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
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."ย - Meghan Mehta, Google