Stop shopping

close up photo of knitted sweater
Photo by Karolina Ostrzolek on

Veganuary has grown so much since its launch in 2014, with a quarter of a million people signing up online last year. Choosing to address some concerns about the earth is worthy of some esteem, and though there are arguments for and against going vegan as a way to reduce carbon emissions, my own view is that doing whatever you can is a great start.

What gets lost in much of the discussion around carbon and the climate emergency is the impact of consumerism as a whole. We are aware that our phones have built in obsolescence and yet we continue to buy the same brands, the newest version of our favourite models. There is an option on the market for an affordable ethical phone, but reviews aren’t great and even the makers of Fairphone continue to release upgraded versions each year. Spending money, bringing something new home, gives us that hit of dopamine. But it’s terrible for the planet.

One of the quickest ways to reduce your impact on the environment is to stop buying fast fashion. “The apparel industry accounts for 10 percent of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.” Second only to oil.

The industry is the second largest user of water, and if you are a regular shopper your habits might be contributing more to the destruction of the earth than by flying internationally. Not only is more water used in the production of throw-away clothes, but it costs carbon to ship them around the world and when they are washed, they release microplastics into the sea.

A Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall documentary series in 2015 highlighted the problem of how much clothing is sent to landfill. Around 10,000 articles of clothing, or seven tonnes, is discarded every 10 minutes. “85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.”

But there is so much we, as individuals, can do to help. Easier than changing your eating habits, easier than cycling everywhere: just stop shopping for fast fashion.

Movements in the last decade or so have endorsed minimalist, capsule wardrobes: Project 333 is a good place to start as a way to learn how to use what’s in your wardrobe in more creative ways. One thing I love about this approach is that it is easy to see what items you love to wear and which you hold onto out of a sense of hope.

Buying ethically made clothes is a good start, too, if you can’t bear the idea of going without a new dress for a big event, or truly need to replace a pair of jeans. At least you can be sure your money is going to make it down the line of production. And spending more on each item of clothes encourages us to take better care of what we own.

The best thing to do, though, is to stop buying new. Charity shops are packed to the rafters, eBay is always on, and there are a few new options too: Re-Fashion is an online charity shop with free returns, Oxfam is online, and Vinted and Depop are great if you have specific looks in mind.

And this is without even discussing the human cost of fast fashion, which, in my opinion, is even more vital than the ravaging of our world’s resources. This year, pledge to avoid £5 dresses that get one wear and embrace #NotNewYear.

Or just be more mindful of your shopping habits. Buy second-hand or ethically produced, get creative and wear what you already own, and feel smug about doing good as you tuck into that cheeseburger.