The fast fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Fast fashion is a term for the type of clothes that are produced, bought, and thrown away quickly. It’s unsustainable, but it’s a huge part of today’s society. According to a 2019 study, 37% of people aged 16-24 say it would be embarrassing to wear the same outfit to multiple events. The Wall Street Journal said that, “the average person will buy 68 garments [in 2020], and wear each piece only seven times before disposing of it” (Foussianes, 2020). This creates an endless cycle of producing, buying, and throwing away that harms people and the environment.
Many big clothing companies pay their workers less than minimum wage for laboring long hours every day in unhealthy conditions. “A recent New York Times investigation ... revealed that workers creating Fashion Nova clothing in Los Angeles were being paid as little as $2.77 an hour,” almost $4.50 under federal minimum wage in the US (Foussianes, 2020). The conditions of the factories are harmful to workers, and sometimes deadly. In 2013, a Bangladesh garment factory collapsed, killing 1,100 people. The fast fashion industry is harming its workers and our environment. It’s time to take action.
For the next two weeks, avoid buying clothing from fast fashion brands. You’ll be helping the environment and garment factory workers.
Comment below or use #project5billion on social media to share your favorite sustainable clothing brands with us!
Try buying used clothes from consignment shops or second-hand stores. You’ll be eliminating the production of a new garment, and you’ll be saving some money!
If you have to buy new clothing, buy from ethical, sustainable brands. If that’s not possible and you have to buy from a fast fashion brand, keep the clothes for as long as possible.
Write a letter to an unsustainable garment company in your area telling them why you’ve chosen not to shop there and what they have to change for you to buy their products. The more letters, the better, so try to get your family and friends involved in your letter-writing campaign.
Crumbie, A. (2019, Sep. 5). What is fast fashion and why is it a problem? Ethical Consumer. Retrieved Aug. 22, 2020, from https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem.
Foussianes, C. (2020, Jan. 17). What Is Fast Fashion, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It? Town & Country. Retrieved Aug. 22, 2020, from https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/fashion-trends/a30361609/what-is-fast-fashion/.
Industrial pollution accounts for half of all pollution in the US. Of this half, a large portion comes from big retailers. These companies’ US factories are responsible for releasing three million tons of toxic chemicals into our air and 275 million metric tons of hazardous waste into our environment every year. They also destroy 15 million acres of land annually. Many companies also operate overseas, which accounts for the annual 1 billion metric tons of CO2 that the US emits internationally. Luckily, local retailers contribute much less to the climate crisis.
According to an infographic by HuffPost, ⅔ of local retailers use recycled materials. Recycling one ton of steel can conserve 1400 pounds of coal, 2500 pounds of iron ore, and 120 pounds of limestone, all of which are energy-intensive materials to mine and produce. Local businesses don’t often produce their goods internationally, and they don’t have huge factories. Shopping locally also benefits the economy and the community--local shops generate 20% more local economic activity than shopping at big retailers. Your business will also help these shops survive the COVID-induced recession.
For the next two weeks, shop at local farmers’ markets and shops instead of big stores. By taking the challenge, you’ll be benefiting the environment and your local economy.
Salguero, M. (2017, Dec. 6). Why Buying Local Is Worth Every Cent [Infographic]. HuffPost. Retrieved Aug. 8 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-buying-local-is-worth_b_4310520
Almost 48% of the $12 billion spent on paper towels in 2017 was spent by Americans alone. Joe Pinsker, of The Atlantic, wrote: “In an era of waning American exceptionalism, inhabitants can at least pride themselves on an underratedly important, probably shameful distinction: They reside in the paper-towel capital of the world” (Pinsker, 2018).
Disposable paper towels are wasteful and can only be used once. Some can be composted, but many of them are treated with chemicals and dyes that are bad for the environment and make them impossible to compost. These chemicals are often bad for our health as well.
Creating, packaging, and transporting paper towels generates carbon emissions. This is true with almost all products, including a widely used alternative to a paper towel - a reusable cloth. But a cloth will last much longer than a paper towel, so instead of buying new packaging and paying for more transportation every month or two when you need another package of paper towels, you’re only buying a few towels every couple of years.
There are concerns that reusable cloths trap germs and contaminate surfaces that you’re trying to clean, but there is little evidence to support this. According to Brad Gray, Head of Campaigns for environmental organization Planet Ark, you won’t have to worry about germs as long as you regularly clean your cloths and use hot water.
For the next two weeks, use a reusable cloth instead of a paper towel. This will help you reduce your carbon footprint and your paper use!
One great alternative to paper towels is a reusable cloth. You can easily make one by cutting up an old shirt or other piece of cloth. You can also buy more sponge-like ones at many stores, or use a tea towel.
One not-so-great alternative is a sponge. Sponges often contain harmful chemicals and are disposable. Here is a link to Project 5 Billion’s challenge to avoid sponges from fall of last year. If you want an extra challenge, try avoiding paper towels and sponges for two weeks. Reusable cloths are a great alternative for sponges, too, so you’ll only need one cleaning tool!
Blatchford, E. (2016, July 15). Paper Towels Vs Cloths: Which Ones Should You Use In Your Kitchen? Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/02/22/paper-towels-versus-cloth_n_9294566.html.
Pinsker, J. (2018, December 10). Americans Are Weirdly Obsessed With Paper Towels. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/.
These challenges ask you