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MYTH: Buying from "eco-conscious" or "sustainable" brands is the best way to reduce your fashion footprint
TRUTH: The best way to reduce your fashion footprint is to buy fewer things. Get the most out of your current wardrobe by mending or altering old garments, restyling tired pieces and trading items with friends or through clothing swaps (post-pandemic). If you must buy a new item, try to find it second-hand. Some companies even offer repair programs, like Patagonia's "Worn Wear," or help to resell worn items. Researching sustainable brands is helpful, but buying something new should be the last option, not the first.
MYTH: Luxury fashion is more sustainable than fast fashion
TRUTH: Spending money on luxury fashion does not guarantee sustainability. Some fashion houses, including Burberry, have staged "carbon-neutral" shows, and Gucci claims its operations are now entirely carbon-neutral. Stella McCartney has been working towards more greener practices for years and is one in a number of fashion brands to sign a UN charter for climate action, pledging to reduce collective carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. But the luxury fashion industry still has work to do. A report released earlier this year by Ordre, which specializes in online showrooms, reveals how unsustainable fashion weeks really are, for example. By measuring the carbon footprint of fashion buyers from 2,697 retail brands and 5,096 ready-to-wear designers attending international fashion weeks over a 12-month period, the report found that the 241,000 tonnes of CO2 (or equivalent greenhouse gases) emitted was the same as that of a small country, or enough energy to keep the lights on in 42,000 homes in a year.
MYTH: The more expensive the garment, the less likely workers have been exploited
TRUTH: Many mid-priced and premium labels actually produce in the same factories as discount and fast fashion brands. This means that everything from workers' rights to the conditions in which they work in, can be exploitative, regardless of price point. What's more, the price of a garment does not guarantee that workers were fairly paid, because the cost of labor only makes up a small fraction of total production costs.
MYTH: Donating old clothes is a sustainable way to clean out your closet
TRUTH: While charities and thrift stores do give away or sell a portion of the clothes they receive, your donated clothes are likely to end up being shipped overseas to resale markets in developing countries, which can negatively impact their local industries, or in a landfill. Only 10% of clothing given to thrift stores is actually sold. The US alone ships a billion pounds of used clothing per year to other countries. Africa receives 70% of global secondhand clothes.
A 2016 research project, entitled "Dead White Man's Clothes," found that in Kantamanto, the largest secondhand market in Ghana, 15 million items are unloaded each week. The team behind the report concluded that 40% of the clothing in each bale becomes waste, dumped into already overflowing landfills, the Gulf of Guinea, or burned in Accra's slums.