Calling all UK students! 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever:

  • Scrolled through endless “TikTok hauls”, mesmerised by the latest microtrends.
  • Snagged a £5 dress only to see it fall apart after one wash.
  • Felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clothing choices 

If you answered yes, welcome to the fast fashion world! Yes, it can be affordable and convenient and offer variety, but let’s talk about this industry fueling our closets and raising eyebrows.

Confessions of a Fast Fashionista 

My first years of university days at Westminster were fueled by late-night study sessions and an insatiable hunger for new clothes. Every week after lectures, my friends and I would explore Oxford Circus with a need to stay on top of every new trend. A £5 corset top? Sign me up! A £15 co-ord set? Why not? However, the situation worsened with the advent of online shopping. Unboxing a new package from Pretty Little Thing, Shein or Zara felt like Christmas morning. Ripping open the plastic bag, that satisfying rustle of tissue paper, the first glimpse of the clothes – it was a dopamine rush. I’d immediately try everything on, snapping mirror selfies. 

The Dark Reality 

The quality, however, rarely matched the initial excitement. Seams came undone after one wash, fabrics pilled, and colours faded. The clothes I’d envisioned wearing on repeat ended up languishing in the back of my closet. As my online shopping habit escalated, the carefree clicks started feeling heavy with guilt. Being a nature girl, the thought of the mountains of packaging, the carbon footprint of express shipping, and the sheer volume of textile waste impacted the environment due to my addiction was heartbreaking. 

Threads of Disaster 

We, “Gen Z-ers”, top the list of fast fashion culprits, with a whopping 49% of 18-23-year-olds shopping more than once a week! Now, let’s delve into the most common detrimental effects we cause due to fast fashion:

1. Greenhouse gas emissions: Creating these clothes results in a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The fashion industry contributes to approximately “10% of global carbon emissions”. The entire cycle, from material extraction to manufacturing and exportation, plays a massive role in generating these emissions. These gases play a part in trapping heat in our atmosphere, gradually raising the Earth’s temperature and adversely “impacting our climate”.

2. Chemical pollution: The production of fast fashion clothing is so cost-effective that it often involves using environmentally “harmful chemicals”. These substances pollute the air and contaminate water sources, threatening aquatic life. “A study” found 80% of the animals had at least 12 different types of chemicals in their livers.

3. Throwaway culture: “Less than 1%” of clothes get recycled. After a rapid change of trends, the ‘wear it once, toss it’ mentality fuels textile waste, with mountains of discarded clothes ending up in landfills, where they can take years to decompose. Additionally, as our clothes break down, they release methane—a harmful gas contributing to a staggering “one million” premature deaths each year. 

What we can do to Break the Cycle:

It takes work. Ending the fast fashion habit felt like kicking a sugar addiction. But slowly, I started making changes.

Here are ten suggestions to foster positive change not only at uni but for a lifetime:

  • Unsubscribed from tempting email lists: Out of sight, out of mind, right? Lowering the moments of temptation, the whispers of ‘just one more’ when you scroll through a tempting online sale.
  • Set a monthly clothing budget: This forced me to be more intentional with my purchases. You can also use “budgeting apps” for students if you need a hand.
  • Embraced the world of thrifting and vintage: Embrace Charity shops, vintage stores, and “online platforms” like Depop or Vinted offer treasure troves of unique, sustainable finds for a fraction of the price.
  • Donate: Many UK charities such as Oxfam, the British Heart Foundation or the Red Cross will happily take your unwanted clothing items and put them to good use as long as they are still in good condition.
  • Invested in quality over quantity: Buying fewer but better-made pieces you could wear for years will become your new mantra and save you a fortune!
  • Slow fashion: Invest in quality pieces that will “last in fashion”, opting for timeless styles such as a trench coat or a well-fitted blazer over fleeting trends. 
  • DIY: Grab your scissors, tie-dye, lace, and whatever else you fancy – it’s time to get creative! Give old clothes a new lease on life by customising, repairing, or repurposing them. Grab your scissors, tie-dye, lace, and whatever else you fancy.
  • Upcycling: Don’t limit yourself to repurposing clothes for wearing! If you have a garment beyond rescue or without practical use, why not give it a new life as a cleaning rag?
  • Secondhand swaps: Organise clothing swaps with family and friends to refresh your wardrobes without contributing to the fast fashion cycle.
  • Support ethical brands:Research” UK ethical brands committed to fair labour practices and sustainable production. Seek eco-friendly energy resources with low carbon emissions, minimal water usage, and little to no reliance on pesticides and chemicals. Aim for processes that generate minimal excess and waste.

What are the benefits?

  • It cuts down on the volume of waste sent to landfills.
  • It lessens the demand for production relying on new or raw materials.
  • It proves environmentally friendly by decreasing air pollution, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It will save many aquatic animals’ lives.
  • It contributes to the growth of small local businesses.
  • It imparts a distinctive charm to your wardrobe with unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.

The Journey Continues:

My journey towards conscious fashion isn’t always perfect, and I don’t expect yours to be either. There are still moments of temptation. But the guilt is gone, replaced by a sense of empowerment. Every conscious choice you and I make, every sustainable swap, is a step towards a better future.


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