In my household, mid-to-late summer has always ushered the beginning of back-to-school-sales. Therefore, this month we turn our focus to “fast fashion”, or the process of quickly producing inexpensive and disposable clothing in order to keep up with changing trends. We all have bought “fast fashion” (think H & M) at some point in our lives. However, it behooves us to pause and consider the true costs of clothing meant to be inexpensive and quickly discarded on workers and our common home.
Fast fashion is harmful to the environment because of the air and water pollution created during its production, and also has climate change impacts through the production process of polyester, and post-consumption impacts through additional waste sent to landfills. Fast fashion is also unjust to laborers as many retailers operate in developing countries where labor laws and restrictions are almost non-existent. Sweatshops (including child labor) and human trafficking are both major concerns in the fast fashion arena.
Personally, I made the commitment about five years ago that I would try to buy clothes that were “new to me” rather than brand new. On the rare occasions I do buy something new, I ask myself if the item will be worn AT LEAST 30 times. If it’s too “trendy”, it’s not bought.
Below are ideas on how to tackle the issue (both individually and collectively). This is an issue that may be of great interest to the youth and young adults in your community.
Season of Creation and Feast of St Francis: Your CCT may also wish to spend some time planning for both the Season of Creation (including the World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1st) and the Feast of St. Francis (Oct. 4th). Resources for celebrating the Season of Creation can be found here. Pre-register to receive the Feast of St. Francis educational program here. Remember that the program may be used on October 4th, or on any day that is convenient to your community.
Finally, check out this Catholic Energies project at Immaculate Conception Parishin Hampton, Va. Want to follow their example? Contact Catholic Energies to see how your parish, school, or religious community can also go solar!
How will you take action?
On your clothing is the life-blood of the innocent…” (Jeremiah 2:34)
“Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Israel,* and now four—I will not take it back—Because they hand over the just for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals” (Amos 2:6)
The Old Testament context chiding our treatment of the poor and innocent for our clothes is at its core a chiding of how we are complicit in abuses to those who make our clothes. When we buy an inexpensive outfit, it may come at great cost to another living person created in the image of God and to God’s creation.
Think about how many pieces of clothing you have bought in the last 6 months. How much money did you spend? Where did you get it from? Where and how was it manufactured? How much clothing did you send to the landfill? Are there ways for you to be more conscious of your consumer habits when it comes to clothing? Does our clothing have the life-blood of the innocent? Does creation suffer due to our clothing choices and habits?
1) Watch these two short videos to learn more about fast fashion and its impact on the environment and workers:
a) Rome Reports: Ethical Clothing Advocate Insists “Fast-Fashion Does Not Uphold Human Dignity”. Video story focuses on Lizzie Rich, an ethical clothing advocate.
b) Is Fast Fashion Destroying Our Environment?
2) Register for Post-Laudato Si’ conference webinar: Join us to learn what happened at the Laudato Si’ Conference at Creighton University and the next steps for Catholic action.
1) Watch this 20-minute video with your Creation Care Team:
Applying Laudato Si (Care for Creation) to Fast Fashion by Lanni Lantto
2) Discuss what you can do as a community to tackle the issue of fast fashion. Perhaps choose one of these projects for your community:
A) Upcycle project; Only 1/5 of the clothing that gets donated gets re-used or even sold, so instead of taking a bag to the donation center, use unwanted clothes to create new items.
- Braided Rugs
- Use old T-shirts to make items that can be re-used. Check out the T-shirt to shopping bag project!
- Keep old clothes out of the landfill! Check these ideas.
B) Or host a screening of True Cost, a documentary about the impacts of clothing on the world.
C) Your Creation Care Team can make a commitment (and get others in your community) to:
- Buy less. Even the greenest garment uses resources for production and transport to your home, creating some environmental impact.
- Buy second hand, swap, & rent clothing.
- Buy clothes from sustainable BRANDS.
- Buy better quality that will last longer.
- Think twice before throwing out your clothes (donate or upcycle)
1) CRS has excellent resources to begin the exploration of ethical and fair-trade clothing advocacy. See:
- How Becoming a Fair-Trade Advocate Led Me Back to Faith
- There Is A Life…Behind Our Clothing
- The Price of Fashion on Our Planet and 3 Ways You Can Help
2) Some Back-to-School Clothes Aren't Good for the Planet. Here’s a Better Option
3) Fast Fashion: Good for Business, Bad for the Planet. What Can You Do?
4) Eco-chic: Clothing with Conscience, The Arlington Catholic Herald.
5) UN Helps Fashion Industry Shift to Low Carbon
6) U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking: June 2017 Monthly Reflection on fast fashion.