Black Friday is almost here, and you may be watching the sales advertisements and planning what to spend your hard-earned dollars on. We understand—stocking up on new wardrobe pieces when they’re on sale is tempting.
With thousands of retailers dangling discounts to spur holiday shopping, the bargain hunter/fashionista in you wants to snag every clothing deal come Black Friday. Good thing, your more enlightened self gently reminds you of your last season’s haul – their labels still intact, and not one has been worn. Here’s why you shouldn’t buy into the hype that fuels fast fashion’s throw-away culture, and what you can do to make a difference.
Originating in the US in the 1950s and gathering marketing steam in the ‘80s, Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping periods of the year. This bargain bonanza comes with an unignorable cost to the planet.
Rabid overconsumption results in a surge in carbon emissions – and unimaginable waste. Products have to be manufactured, packaged, and transported. And in the UK alone, this year’s event is expected to produce 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions just from deliveries.
A staggering number of online purchases are returned and, once we realize that cheap item was discounted for a reason, the vast majority end up in landfill. In fact, a Green Alliance report claims up to 80% of Black Friday purchases are tossed after as little as one use!
The high cost of cheap fashion
Indeed, while Black Friday’s big discounts are hard to resist, the environmental impact of this pre-holiday shopping craze is difficult to ignore. Up to 80% of items, including their plastic packaging, end up in landfill, incineration, or low-quality recycling.
The same goes for clothing. Based on UNEP’s report, tons of clothes enough to fill one garbage truck are burned or dumped in a landfill every second. Even worse, it takes 200 years for these to biodegrade. And when they do, they’re as toxic as discarded tires or plastic materials.
Fast fashion has a human toll – cheap clothing come at a steep price for the millions of garment factory workers being paid low wages while working in appalling conditions.
Our lust for mass quantities of inexpensive clothing directly contributes to these horrible conditions. We must buy less.
Fast fashion and the environment
Buying new clothes – particularly fast fashion or affordable, trendy pieces – puts tremendous stress on our environment. For instance, one cotton shirt takes about 2,700 liters of water to produce; equivalent to 2 ½ years of drinking water for one person.
For fabric dying alone, the world uses 5 trillion liters of water each year enough to fill 2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
On top of this, almost 60% of all materials used by the fashion industry are made from plastic called polyester which, when produced, releases more carbon emissions than cotton.
It’s no wonder that the fashion industry accounts for 8 – 10% of the world’s total carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Global clothing sales doubled between 2000 and 2015. And during the same period, we started wearing those clothes 40% fewer times before getting rid of them.
As a society, we’ve learned to assuage our guilt about overconsumption by giving away unwanted clothing with the idea that they’ll get a new life elsewhere. But the truth is that most of those discarded garments end up in landfills.
Not only that, but they’re shipped from more affluent countries to developing nations all over the world—widening their carbon footprint even further and burdening populations of people that did not generate this waste.
Frequent shopping complicates your life
There is a reason Marie Kondo rose to fame with her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. She spoke to a generation of people who have grown up being able to acquire things much more inexpensively than their parents.
The result of this cornucopia of cheap—and cheaply made—goods is that we are all drowning in stuff. That is why purging and organization have become an industry in themselves, one that Kondo capitalized on.
If we didn’t have so much stuff, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time managing it and keeping it organized.
If you buy four new tops on Black Friday because they’re on sale, that’s four new things you have to take care of and find space for, and your closet is likely already pretty full. That means you’ll need to spend time deciding what to get rid of, and then figuring out where to dispose of it.
Multiply the time you spend managing your closet by the number of shopping sprees you indulge in every year and it adds up to time be better spent on pursuits that actually enrich your life.
What’s a fashion-conscious girl to do?
The average Singaporean buys 34 pieces of new clothing per year, and disposes 27 of it within 12 months.
While “sustainable fashion” is a buzzword these days, the truth is that the most sustainable way to clothe yourself is to stop buying so many new garments. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with fashion. We just have to do it more sustainably.
Can a fashion-conscious shopper like you make a difference? The answer is YES. Now that you’re aware of the environmental impact of the clothes you buy from production to disposal, don’t buy into the hype that fuels fashion’s throw-away culture.
Walk away from hyper-consumerism and help put an end to wasteful business practices. Choose an environmentally-friendlier way to stay on trend: don’t buy new clothes. Instead, rent the clothes you want.
Since Style Theory was founded in 2017, we’ve facilitated more than 2.3 million rentals, saving over 600,000 preloved designer items from prematurely entering landfills.
In fact, a 2020 study found that renting a single garment results in a 24% decrease in water usage, a 6% reduction in energy usage, and a 3% reduction in CO2 emissions, when compared with buying a new garment instead.
Buying second-hand clothing naturally has similar benefits, since you’re reusing a garment rather than purchasing a brand-new one.
When you rent, you reduce the need to produce new ones, thus, helping end the cycle of overproduction, waste and pollution. Renting also extends the lifecycle of a garment as the same garment is shared by others week after week, thus increasing product usage.
For you, the fashionista/bargain hunter, you get to enjoy wearing fancy threads that would otherwise have been too expensive to purchase. It also gives you access to sustainable fashion brands without paying a high price.
In the age of social media, when the need to stay on trend is important, renting clothes lets you try out new styles without creating additional waste.
You’ll be spoilt for choice (without spoiling the planet!) with a Style Theory membership, giving you access to over 72,000 designer outfits. Now that’s a lot of money saved!
Save your money and save the planet
When you abstain from meaningless purchases, you save money and also help reduce water and energy consumption which saves the earth from tons of pollution. Just imagine: when you rent a shirt, you save 4.5 kilograms of CO2 emissions and 2.4 months of drinking water per person.
Rent your favorite designer bag and you save 19.6 kilograms of CO2 while offsetting 1 kilogram of chemicals from leaching into the soil during production. Scale that up to a global community of fashion renters and you help the earth breathe easier with a significant decrease in pollution and fashion waste.
So instead of running after deals and discounts on Black Friday, take a closer look at rental clothing platforms instead. By renting the clothes you love, you help reduce the pressure on the earth’s resources while looking like a million bucks in your designer duds. Saving the planet never looked so good!
So instead of shopping this Black Friday, we challenge you to:
- Wear what you already have have
- Rent clothing when you need something for a season or a special occasion
- Buy preloved when you need something that will get a lot of use
A greener fashion future starts with you. And with Style Theory, dressing sustainably and stylishly is easy—all year round. Give your wardrobe a makeover by renting instead.
After all, fashion can be fleeting—but we only have one planet.