The truth unzipped: Why it’s time to ditch fast fashion

By Naomi Higo, Institute of Urban Ecology

You’ve probably seen the term “fast fashion” floating around. But if you don’t know what it means, here’s the skinny on your skinny jeans. Fast fashion is a business model that mass-produces cheap, trendy clothes in high-speed cycles. But that kind of rapid production has consequences.  

The fast fashion industry is infamous for being one of the planet’s biggest polluters. It’s also one of the biggest sources of sweatshops and child labour in developing nations. So, what can you do about it?  

As consumers, we have the power to choose how and where we spend our money. Some of the easiest ways to make sure you’re not supporting a fast fashion company are to educate yourself, buy less and buy second-hand. 

  1. Build your knowledge. Learn more about the fast fashion industry and the environmental consequences of clothing and textile consumption so you can make informed decisions about what you’re buying. Read more.
  1. Buy secondhand. Not only does thrifting help the planet and save you money, it’s also fun! At thrift shops you can often find one-of-a-kind vintage items as well as quality pieces made of wool, silk, cashmere and other fabrics that stand the test of time. Read more.
  1. Upcycle your outfits. Don’t just throw away your holey sweaters! There are ways to revive your much-loved pieces. You can learn to do minor repairs or even remake them into something new. Worst case scenario, you can donate them to a textile collection service in lieu of dooming them to a landfill. Read more.

Want to get started on lifestyle changes like these? Join Douglas College and the Institute of Urban Ecology for Circular Economy Month and Waste Reduction Week! Oct. 23–27 is packed full of free events at both campuses to support Douglas College students and employees in living more sustainably.  

Waste Reduction Week comes from a larger Canadian tradition dating back to the ’80s, one that’s all about limiting environmental harm. It historically explores everything from individual choices up to the systemic changes needed to transition to a circular economy. (A circular economy is one that minimizes waste and reuses resources as much as possible.)

At Douglas, we strive to be global citizens and role models in our communities. Part of being a global citizen is recognizing that the choices we make in our cities affect more than our urban ecosystem. Their effects radiate outward to people and nature in other parts of the world.   

It’s easy to think of the environment as “a problem for the experts,” but you don’t need to be a scientist to make a difference. Sustainability is interdisciplinary. No matter what your skills or passions are, if everyone made one small change today, those small changes would add up to one big change globally.   

Chef Anne Marie Bonneau said it best: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

Want to learn more about reducing your fashion-based waste? Attend our Waste Reduction Week events!

Naomi Higo is the Urban Ecology Coordinator at Douglas College’s Institute of Urban Ecology. As an educator with a passion for conservation biology, Naomi has worked on causes like animal rescue, ocean health, habitat loss and the exotic pet trade. She believes that sustainability education should be integrated into every field.