The Christmas holiday season is around the corner and gifts are on most people’s minds. Top of the list for many is new clothes. Most of us no longer have to scrimp and save for a new wardrobe. Affordable clothing brands like H&M, Zara and ASOS paved the way. Now, ultra-fast fashion brands like Shein and AliExpress are popular. This makes shopping for a new outfit a financial breeze.  Or does it?

Couriers are making it convenient for our fashion enthusiast to stay on trend. But there is a cost! The fashions are cheap and the quality cheaper. Sustainability advocates tell us to spend a bit more on what will last longer and give us a better return on our sartorial investment. Many, however, are lured by the convenience and variety of fast fashion and ignore the social and environmental costs. 

Labour exploitation, including children, poor wages, long hours and unsafe working conditions are some of the human rights violations of the fast fashion industry. And it gets worse if we consider the environmental issues: air pollution, deforestation, soil depletion from raw material mining, freshwater contamination and overuse, marine habitat destruction from waste and biodiversity loss. These all add to climate decline, and should be enough to give us pause.

Once, when something was cheap we would ask, “What’s wrong with it?” Wisdom was that it must be defective in some way to be discounted. Perhaps we should go back to questioning our good fortune when it comes to cheap fashion. Our lives and the health of the planet depend on us choosing sustainability.

How can we do better? Check websites that rate brands on sustainability (Google it) to educate ourselves about brands and find alternatives. Follow sustainability advocates on social media to stay abreast of the issue. Buy less, buy quality. Swap clothing with friends to refresh your wardrobe without spending a penny. Spread the word on the impact of fast fashion. Each of us can make a difference.

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