How to Reduce Your Fast Fashion Consumption

How to Reduce Your Fast Fashion Consumption

If you’re active online, you might have noticed “fast fashion” as a popular buzzword lately––but what, actually, is it? According to Merriam-Webster, fast fashion is defined as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”1 Fast fashion is typically known for being inexpensive, widely available (especially recently due to online shopping), and “trendy” with what’s currently in style. Clothing created this way is often low quality because it’s being created with the intention of being sold at a very low price point, so production costs have to be kept low.

Fast fashion is also, unfortunately, generally associated with poor working conditions. Fashion companies often outsource their textile production to countries such as India and Bangladesh, where it is cheaper to produce and there are fewer labor safety regulations.2 Some garment workers make as little as $1.58 per hour, and many employers have been found to violate overtime and workplace safety laws.3 Workplaces are often unhygienic and can be contaminated by substances such as dust produced from materials; garment workers have been found to suffer from health issues such as coughs, fevers, respiratory problems, and musculoskeletal problems, including scoliosis.4,5 There have even been tragedies where workers were killed, such as the 2013 building collapse in Bangladesh, which resulted in over 1,100 avoidable deaths.6

The increase of fashion production has also led to an increase in fashion waste; each year, we produce 13 million tons (that’s 26,000,000,000 pounds!) of textile waste globally––about 70 pounds per year by each average consumer.7 Even more heartbreaking is the fact that most (up to 95%) of this waste could be reduced or reused, but is instead thrown away. Some fabrics, such as polyester, take up to 200 years to decompose,7 meaning that we are creating an abundance of waste that isn’t breaking down in our environment. The United States is one of the biggest consumers of fast fashion, and one of the biggest producers of fashion waste. Since trends are now changing faster than ever due to social media, we are buying clothing quickly to stay trendy, and throwing it away just as quickly to make room in our closets for the next trends.

Beyond textile waste alone, the fast fashion industry is also contributing to the destruction of our planet. If we don’t work to reduce fashion waste, it is estimated that the global emissions produced by the apparel industry will double by 2030.8 Apparel production also contaminates water supplies and dries up water sources.8,9 Did you know it takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt, and about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans?9

It’s crucial that we, as a society, reduce our fast fashion consumption. From a moral standpoint, we have to protect workers who are being exploited for their textile production. And from an environmental perspective, we must reduce the irreversible damage that we are doing to our planet, both from textile waste and contamination from apparel production. Fortunately, reducing your fast fashion consumption can be easier than you think!

Here are some ways you can reduce your fast fashion consumption and fashion waste:

  • Buy less. This seems like a simple concept, but sometimes it can be difficult. Our current society encourages consumerism and tells us that we MUST have the most recent trends. However, you will save money and reduce your consumption if you choose to buy staple pieces that will never go out of style instead of the newest trends. Bonus points if you buy durable clothing that will last! This will save you from needing to replace low-quality clothing items every few years.
  • Thrift! There’s no shortage of secondhand stores in Los Angeles. These range from lower price options, such as Goodwill, to specialty “curated” stores with higher price points. Many secondhand stores even have charitable focuses and donate some of their proceeds to local organizations. Check out the LA Vintage Map for an interactive map of secondhand stores in and around L.A.10
  • Donate your clothing to thrift stores instead of throwing it away. In general, most thrift stores are always open to take donations, as long as your old clothes are in decent condition. Even if you think nobody would want your old clothes, there are lots of people out there who would be excited to spruce up their own wardrobe with your pieces!
  • Swap clothes with friends. If you don’t feel like buying from thrift stores or donating your old clothes, find a buddy who wants to change up their wardrobe and trade a few pieces with them. This is a fun way to shake up your closet.
  • If you are able to, choose to shop at smaller, sustainable businesses. Sometimes this is called “slow fashion”––clothing that is high quality and made by workers who are paid fairly and work in safe conditions (often within the US). However, this clothing is often more expensive, as the cost of producing it is higher, so this might not work for everyone’s budget.
  • Learn to mend, alter, and upcycle your own clothing! Sometimes our clothes don’t fit perfectly, or they start to come apart at the seams a bit. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them! Learning how to update or fix your own clothing will help you feel agency and control over your wardrobe, and it will help you keep clothes in your closet instead of tossing them at the first sign of wear. There’s no shortage of tutorials on YouTube and TikTok––search “beginner sewing” to find some videos! You can also find an easy mend guide on Remake.com.11
  • Repurpose your old clothes. If your old clothing is well-loved and starting to fall apart beyond repair, you probably can’t donate it––but you can find other purposes! Cut up old clothes into rags to use for cleaning (you can use these instead of paper towels, which is even better to reduce waste). You can also turn an old t-shirt into a pillow (check out a tutorial here).12 Be creative and see what ways you can come up with to give your clothes a new life!

Sources:
1. Definition of FAST FASHION. Published July 6, 2023. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fast+fashion
2. Ross E. Fast Fashion Getting Faster: A Look at the Unethical Labor Practices Sustaining a Growing Industry. International Law and Policy Brief. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://studentbriefs.law.gwu.edu/ilpb/2021/10/28/fast-fashion-getting-faster-a-look-at-the-unethical-labor-practices-sustaining-a-growing-industry/
3. March 21 RR•, 2023. The Exploitation of Garment Workers: Threading the Needle on Fast Fashion. DOL Blog. Accessed July 17, 2023. http://blog.dol.gov/2023/03/21/the-exploitation-of-garment-workers-threading-the-needle-on-fast-fashion
4. Kabir H, Maple M, Usher K, Islam MS. Health vulnerabilities of readymade garment (RMG) workers: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(1):70. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6388-y
5. Hobson J. To die for? The health and safety of fast fashion. Occupational Medicine. 2013;63(5):317-319. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqt079
6. Bangladesh textile workers’ deaths “avoidable.” BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-22296645. Published April 25, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2023.
7. Abssy CLEHCVM. World Reimagined: The Hidden Environmental Costs of Clothes, and How Companies are Addressing It. Published January 13, 2022. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/world-reimagined%3A-the-hidden-environmental-costs-of-clothes-and-how-companies-are
8. Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries. One Planet network. Published September 17, 2021. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.oneplanetnetwork.org/knowledge-centre/resources/measuring-fashion-insights-environmental-impact-global-apparel-and
9. McFall-Johnsen M. The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet. Business Insider. Accessed July 17, 2023. https://www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10
10. LA Vintage Map – All vintage, resale, and thrift stores in LA. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://lavintagemap.com/
11. How to Mend Your Clothes: 5 Easy Stitch Fixes for Beginners. Published April 30, 2020. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://remake.world/stories/style/how-to-mend-your-clothes-during-quarantine-5-easy-stitch-fixes/
12. How To Make A Throw Pillow Out Of A T-Shirt. Published September 24, 2019. Accessed July 19, 2023. https://thewickerhouse.com/2019/09/how-to-make-throw-pillow-out-of-t-shirt.html

What Are “Forever Chemicals”?

What Are “Forever Chemicals”?

You may have heard the term “forever chemicals” in the news lately. Maybe you heard it from the $5 million class action lawsuit with Thinx menstrual underwear,1 or the multibillion dollar lawsuit with 3M.2 But what are “forever chemicals”, and how did they get that name?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals, meaning they don’t exist naturally in our environment. For years, they have been used in consumer goods or industrial processes because of their water resistance and non-stick properties. For example, PFAS are used in non-stick pans, waterproof fabric (such as raincoats or stain-resistant rugs), and grease-proof takeout food containers. They’ve also been used in industrial goods, such as firefighting foam.

PFAS don’t break down easily, and “persist” in our environment, which is why they’re often known as “forever chemicals”. They often end up in our water supplies, meaning we get exposed to PFAS when we drink contaminated water or eat produce that was watered with contaminated water.3 Additionally, when we eat fish or wildlife that was exposed to PFAS, we can absorb their PFAS into our own bodies. This process is known as bioaccumulation.3 Finally, we can get exposed to PFAS by using products that contain the chemicals, such as skincare and cosmetics.4 Representative data from people in the United States has shown that PFAS are detected in the bodies of >99% of our population.5

Although PFAS seem scary, there are ways to protect yourself. Here are some ways to try to limit your exposure:
● Teach yourself which companies avoid PFAS in their products! You can check the PFAS
Free Products List6 or use the browser extension Clearya,7 which alerts you when you
are online shopping for products that have unsafe ingredients.
● If you are able to, swap out your non-stick cookware for stainless steel or cast-iron options. If you only have access to non-stick cookware, make sure you use soft utensils such as wood or silicone while cooking to avoid scratching your pans.
● Avoid products labeled “waterproof” or “stain resistant”. These products are often coated with PFAS. This could range from clothing items to home products such as couches and rugs.
● Avoid take-out food packaging when possible, and always remove take-out food from its packaging before reheating it.
● Make popcorn on the stove instead of microwaving it. Some microwavable popcorn bags are coated with PFAS.
● If you have access to them, use water filters in your home that filter out PFAS, such as reverse osmosis or activated carbon filters.

Most importantly, make sure you are expressing to policymakers that they need to take action to protect us from PFAS! And help your friends and community members become aware of PFAS so that they can take action to protect themselves, too.

Sources:

1. PFAS Class-Action Thinx Period Underwear Lawsuit Settled for $5 Million. Consumer
Notice, LLC. Published January 26, 2023. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.consumernotice.org/news/pfas-thinx-lawsuit/
2. Multibillion-Dollar Settlement Reached In 3M ‘Forever Chemicals’ Lawsuit. Consumer
Notice, LLC. Published June 28, 2023. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.consumernotice.org/news/3m-settlement-forever-chemicals-lawsuit/
3. Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) Factsheet | National Biomonitoring Program | CDC. Published May 3, 2022. Accessed July 9, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFAS_FactSheet.html
4. Nutrition C for FS and A. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Cosmetics. FDA.
Published online March 3, 2022. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (NHANES). Updated tables, January 2019.
6. PFAS-Free Products – PFAS Central. Accessed July 9, 2023. https://pfascentral.org/pfas-
free-products/
7. Clearya: Nontoxic Shopping Made Easy! Clearya. Accessed July 9, 2023.
https://www.clearya.com

2023 Central Group Banquet Awardees

2023 Central Group Banquet Awardees

This past May, we were excited to celebrate three of our amazing Central Group activists and volunteers at the 2023 Angeles Chapter Awards Banquet!

Innovation in Outings Award: White Cane Hike Team  (Will McWhinney accepting)

Will holds award given to him and Hearts for Sight founders and ICO volutneerWill McWhinney, our indefatigable Outings Chair, helped jump-start hikes for the blind and visually impaired. Since 2019, in collaboration with an organization dedicated to providing access to nature for the blind and visually impaired and with the support of Inspiring Connections Outdoors (another Sierra Club group), the White Cane Team led almost 40 hikes monthly, sometimes with up to 50 people, for around 235 visually impaired and blind Angelenos and guides. Last year, with Will’s experience as an instructor for wilderness hiking and camping, the group added camping trips to their list of activities.  

White Cane Hikes involve numerous volunteers from a variety of affiliations. The hikes require a 1:1 volunteer-to-VIP ratio, meticulous scouting, accommodations, and other unique challenges. The team’s enthusiasm and energy has resulted in growing participation. The collaboration is an example of people from diverse backgrounds coming together inclusively to benefit a community empowering themselves equitably, in the spirit of the Jemez Principles.

Congratulations, Will and the White Cane Team. You all deserved this award as a reflection of your amazing work.

Environmental Justice Award: Linda Cleveland

Linda holding her award with DyanaLinda is immersed in a seemingly endless list of environmental justice initiatives – right where she lives. She was part of the “40 Million Reasons to Go Electric” campaign, and helped coordinate a ride-and-drive event in Watts, working to bring awareness and support for electric vehicles to her community. Linda also recently helped organize the Wattskanda Renaissance Parade, uplifting community developments for a healthier Watts.

She also helped lead efforts on the South Los Angeles AB 617 Community Steering Committee and has advocated for increased funding and an expansion of the community boundaries. Linda is also involved in the Tree People Watershed Leadership Group, Watts Rising-Transformative Climate Communities advisory group, and various other community leadership roles. She eats, sleeps, and drinks her community’s well-being. 

Linda is both an activist with Sierra Club and helps lead Watts Clean Air and Energy Committee (WCAEC), a Sierra Club partner. 

Linda and her daughter, Jackie Badejo, were just honored in the South Coast AQMD’s 2022 Clean Air Awards, receiving the award for Leadership in Air Quality for their work promoting air quality and climate awareness for the Watts Community and for their work on the Community Steering Committee.  

Linda is being recognized today for her consistent and determined efforts toward social and environmental justice. We’re proud of you!  

Sierra Club Ambassador Award AND Innovation in Activism Awards: Mathieu Bonin 

Mathieu gets a thumbs from from DyanaDuring the pandemic, when acquiring a full roll of toilet paper might have been your only goal, Mathieu Bonin created a safe outdoor event that was both educational and good for the environment. He started Trash Talk Saturdays, where volunteers are invited to pick up trash at urban parks while learning about its history on a live conference call (listening in through ear buds). Volunteers thus can maintain social distance while experiencing nature and learning.

Mathieu’s first Trash Talk, at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, was included in the L.A. Times’ “Wild” column. He and Sierra Club volunteers have now cleaned and learned about parks around the region, including South Park, Bosque del Rio Hondo, Sepulveda Basin Nature Reserve, Griffith Park, Elysian Park, Ascot Hills Park, Debs Park, Elyria Canyon Park, Hollenbeck Park, and Lincoln Park.  As Mathieu puts it, “My idea is that knowledge enhances our appreciation of most everything; it’s a cognitive approach.”

Trash Talk Saturdays are posted on MeetUp, and the public is welcome! We salute Mathieu for his innovation, and meticulous and interesting research exploring each park’s history and sociology, often pulling in politics, class, race and gender.  

Profiles in Activism

Profiles in Activism

PROFILES IN ACTIVISM

Our newsletter this quarter is designed to introduce you to our volunteer Executive Committee and to perhaps get you excited about volunteering with us. We asked the seven members on the committee  to tell us why they became activists with the Sierra Club and then had them answer some questions we gave them. Meet our amazing and dedicated group!

BARBARA HENSLEIGH, CHAIR

Barbara with a big smile while hikingI have been volunteering since 2016 after a devastating election. I worked on the phaseout of oil drilling in the L.A. basin; eliminating single use plastic through ordinances; the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan; lobbying officials to, among other things, require affordable housing and charging stations in new buildings; and rebuilding the Central Group, to name a few.

What is my favorite eco-friendly restaurant?  I love Un Solo Sol, in East L.A., across from the Metro’s Mariachi Plaza stop. It’s vegan and unprocessed and the nopalitos are yummy. The owner, Carlos Ortiz, is an activist himself, a bonus. For ice cream, Pazzo Gelato on Sunset in Silver Lake is a favorite. IMHO it’s the best ice cream in town, and without the plastic spoons or containers.

Who is my hero and why? James Baldwin is my hero. He steadfastly spoke truth to power in a way that could not be ignored or diminished. Watch his debate with William F. Buckley, on YouTube, for one example. And he wrote well to boot!

JESS CHOW, VICE CHAIR

I joined the Sierra Club about 6 years ago, after becoming frustrated by the lack of progress and the worsening state of our environment. It became clear to me that working with elected officials was the most effective way to drive swift change. Although I had never been interested in politics before, I recognized the potential for impactful change working via an organization like Sierra Club.

Since then, I have been actively involved with the Club in numerous ways. I am Vice Chair of the Central Group Executive Committee, serve as the regional representative for the Angeles Political Committee, and co-chair the Angeles Chapter Banquet Committee.

What is your best camping pro-tip? We just took our 3-year-old camping, and the best advice given to us that we now pass onto other families is to bring a portable kiddie potty!

What advice can you give to someone who wants to be an environmental activist?  Activism is a very broad word, and can come in many forms! To get started, do something that you love for an organization that aligns with your values, and leverage your existing skill sets to get you started. There’s always a need for things like social media content, tabling/talking to people, or putting on events. No one’s expecting someone to know how to lobby a politician right out of the gate!

ROBYN BYTHEWAY, SECRETARY/TREASURER

I’ve focused on living a sustainable lifestyle in my personal life for a while, but I joined Sierra Club after realizing that we need more systemic change in order to impact climate change, pollution, and environmental racism. I’ve now been a Central Group member for four years, and in that time have joined the Executive Committee and currently serve as the Central Group treasurer and secretary. I work a lot on various legislative projects and also on endorsement committees.

What is your favorite hike in Los Angeles? I’ve only done it once, but the hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy tops the list of my hikes in the Los Angeles area. It was grueling, but definitely worth it.

What is the matter you have worked on in the SC you are most proud of? I’m proud of having worked on Sierra Club’s endorsement committees during the last Los Angeles election. It was the first time I had participated, and I enjoyed the process of researching candidates’ environmental records, and hearing firsthand from them about their environmental priorities and goals.

KAWANA KENYA

Hi, I’ve been a member of the Sierra Club since 2019. I started because I was concerned about the negative health impacts of the oil fields in my neighborhood and wanted to turn my concern into action that would benefit my community. My environmental passion is based on equity work and helping to uplift the voices of historically underrepresented groups.

What is your favorite hike in Los Angeles? My favorite hike in L.A. is the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but I also love walking down residential streets and checking out all of the different gardens.

What is your favorite native plant? At the moment, I’m fond of the crimson pitcher sage, but since I’m very new to gardening this is likely to change. Basically, I like anything that’s low maintenance, low water, smells good and is beautiful.

What advice can you give to someone who wants to be an environmental activist? My advice to someone wanting to be an environmental activist is to pick your passion and stick with it. Start by learning as much as you can on your issue and then find others who also share your passion. Set goals and then work consistently to achieve them. Be prepared for the long game, because even small victories are often difficult to achieve.

AMANDA STEMEN 

Amanda having fun the roots of a giant treeI’m volunteering for the Sierra Club because I’m passionate about having a healthy world for all. I’ve been with the Central Group for seven years now and have been working on parks and green space issues in the city of Los Angeles.

What is Your Most Interesting Adventure? Hmmm… it’s hard to pick my most interesting adventure, but it was probably solo hiking in the mountains of Trinidad, Cuba, where I came across a bunch of wild boars and farmers who were astonished at how a white American female found her way to their trails.

What is Your Favorite Podcast? I have two favorite podcasts: “On Being” with Krista Tippett and “Your Undivided Attention” put out by the Center for Humane Technology. I highly recommend anyone concerned with the state of the world to listen to both.

RAJ PATEL

I’ve always been passionate about the environment, but I was driven to join the Sierra Club six years ago when it was made evident to me that the current systems in place are unsustainable for both humans and the planet. While the necessary changes won’t happen overnight, I believe a lasting impact can be achieved through the collective and focused energy of people working together.

During my time with the Central Group, I’ve served on the Executive Committee, helped on a variety of campaigns such as Oil and Plastic Pollution, and planned a Zero Waste Fair.

What is your best camping pro-tip? When I was a student with the WTC (Sierra Club’s Wilderness Travel Course), we went camping in the snow for a couple nights. There I learned that a Nalgene filled with boiling water inside of your sleeping bag is an effective way to help you keep warm at night!

What is your most interesting adventure? In 2019, my wife and I hiked a 40-mile portion of the Kumano Kodo in Japan, which is a series of pilgrimage routes through the mountains and countryside of Japan. We saw beautiful landscapes, met wonderful local people, and experienced a completely different side of Japan.

MATHIEU BONIN

Mathieu at the beachI have been volunteering for the Sierra club since 2019. At that time I was shocked by the environmental policies made by a previous administration, how it was destructive for the ecosystems and for minorities. Morally I felt the need to act, at my modest level, for more environmental protections and more environmental justice. What led me to the environmental questions was a friendship with a biology and geology teacher who taught me ecology and natural history while I was studying environmental philosophy. We have been taking our students to Joshua Tree and the Salton Sea for ecological and philosophical field trips. It all started here for me; I am now interested in the question of urban parks and what aspects they allow us to reflect. I would like to be both literate in human and natural history to understand and protect our natural and human ecosystems.

How long have you been with Central Group and what have you been working on? I have been in the Sierra club for four years. I helped create Trash Talk Saturdays, which consists in cleaning a park while listening to a talk I make about the history and aspects of an urban park – I have been working on 18 parks now! It is an incredible experience. I also participated in the fundraising event “CityWalk,” doing some research for the team, and I have been following some campaigns such as “Stop the Gondola” at the State Historic Park. I like tabling and meeting future new volunteers!

What is your favorite hike in Los Angeles? It’s not a hike per se, but I am commuting every day with my bike and I enjoy the L.A. river from Frogtown to Burbank. Every day is different, contemplating the birds and the flow. The seasons remind me that L.A. is within a wider natural system, and the L.A. river is a part of that.

What is your favorite book or podcast and why? I recommend Cyclettes by Tree Abraham. It allows you to experience poetry, personal writing and philosophy in the same book. This book helped me to understand the relationship I built this year with my bike and my biking. If, like me, you are interested in the relationship between landscape and science, A Natural History Guide to the Pacific Coast and North Central Baja California and Adjacent Islands by Dennis L. Bostic is a good example. Finally, about urban parks I would recommend the excellent podcast “Open Space Radio” by the National Recreation and Park Association.