Slow Fashion: How We Can Reduce Our Carbon Footprint with Clothes

by Katie Nalle

It’s difficult to talk about sustainability without mentioning fast fashion. Fast fashion is the practice of mass-producing inexpensive and low-quality clothing in an attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing trend cycles. This practice encourages short-term usage of items that lead to more waste being added to our landfills; this is also known as “throw-away culture.” Trend cycles have always moved quickly, but with the popularization of TikTok in recent years, it is moving faster than ever. A quick trend cycle means that things don’t stay fashionable or popular for very long, sometimes even only staying in style for a few months before becoming outdated. This is a big shift from the multiple years, or even decade-long, trend cycles that existed before the late 2000s.


The good news is that there are plenty of ways that we, as individuals, can work against fast fashion to reduce our carbon footprint. Firstly, and probably most obviously, we can refrain from buying clothes that are mass-produced and mass-marketed. The less demand for these items, the less likely they will continue to be produced. Doing your research on clothing companies before you buy is a good way to make sure that you are purchasing clothing that is produced by a sustainable and ethical company. Some brands will have a section on their website about their values and production, which can provide some insight into their practices. Another good indicator of whether or not a brand is a good choice is the pricing of its clothing. If a brand is selling clothing that looks like it is a high-quality product but for an extremely low price, this is a sign that they are mass-producing its product.


Practicing these mindful behaviors is called engaging in “slow fashion.” Designer Vivienne Westwood is quoted as saying “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” This is a philosophy we should keep in mind when shopping for new items. Higher quality purchases may put a dent in our wallets, but ultimately they will last longer and be more sustainable; plus, high-quality clothing will always be on trend.


So, as a consumer, it is important to ask ourselves, what can we do to participate in slow-fashion to help our environment? For starters, by avoiding the negative impact we have on the environment due to the cost of the fast fashion manufacturing process, we can choose to purchase items made with sustainable materials that can help reduce our carbon footprint. Practice shopping with intent, think before you buy, and refrain from purchasing clothes that you can’t see yourself wearing for a long period of time. Take the first step to reduce waste by limiting the amount of clothing you throw away each year. Thrifting is another great option. Although we should be buying clothes with the intent of keeping them for a long time, donating clothing or selling it to a second-hand buyer can give clothes a new life and keep them out of landfills. Another great option is clothing rental services. These services are becoming increasingly popular and help those who want to stay up-to-date with current trends without buying clothes that they will only wear once or twice.


This all sounds easy enough, but realistically slow fashion really is slow. Take your time and create a plan for how you can engage in this practice. Working these healthy practices into your shopping routine takes time. Even small changes can make a big difference, so do what you can today and add in the rest over time as you are able to.