February 20, 2019

Ending my Addiction to Fast Fashion

Overall the years, I've given up a lot of things in pursuit of a more ethical lifestyle that would also reduce my carbon footprint.

First, I gave up meat. Technically, I first gave up beef and pork. Then, over a year later, I finally gave up poultry as well. I had discovered the true cruelties of the meat industry, the terrible impact of meat on your physical health, and of course, came to terms with what I'd known my entire life as something that felt "wrong" to me. At first, giving these up seemed a little daunting but I soon realized that there were, in fact, pretty easy to do. My fear and comfort zone held me back more than anything. And making the changes made me feel better than ever -- physically, mentally, spiritually.

Next, I gave up all of the beauty and household products I had even known. I went from loving Clinique and pretty much everything that P&G sold to understanding the horrors of animal testing and just how dangerous many of the ingredients in those products are thanks to the US's super lax standards. I of course, replaced these items with brands that were cruelty-free and eco-friendly (including favorites like Dropps and Grove).

Then, I started parting with money by regularly donating to organizations that I believe are pursing worthwhile causes to support ethical endeavors around the word. This too felt good.

After that, the universe started to impress upon me the importance of sustainable and ethical fashion. It began when Adam randomly played "The True Cost" on Netflix one day. That led me to feeling reaaaaal crappy about my fashion choices and out of guilt, following a few key people in the sustainable fashion movement like Livia Firth online. But then --- Old Navy, GAP, and Target hit up my e-mail y'all and I bet you can guess what they offered me:

Cute clothes
Real cheap
Decent(ish) quality
Credit card that offers in-store rewards
And I bit. Hook, line, sinker. I continued supporting the fast fashion industry. Of course, I'd still get frustrated when a top fell apart after a first (or fifth) washing but I'd roll my eyes and think, "At least I didn't spend THAT much on it."

Then Marie Kondo told me to clean up my act. Not once. But twice. First with her book back in 2017. Then again with her Netflix special in 2019. Both times I threw out copious amounts of cheap clothing that I either never loved, no longer loved, never fit properly, no longer fit properly after washings, or that was worn out completely. Both times I vowed -- "Nope. Not again. Not me. I shall break my fast fashion habit."

Narrator: "She did not break the habit..."

I had good intentions. I did. I always DO. But I've been groomed my entire life to not only expect a bargain but to practically crave them. Each time I hit "Buy Now" my brain is flooded with feel good chemicals that softly whisper, "Sssh.. it's okay if it isn't exactly what you want or need. It will do for now. And you got such a great deal on it. Don't worry. You'll love it!" This is reinforced when tracking information is sent. Oh, I get a high from a watching a tracking number that is somewhat embarrassing to discuss. And don't get me started on the joy I feel opening the boxes that arrive on my front porch. It is... so freaking satisfying. It's a treat to myself from myself that, at least temporarily, makes me feel good about myself.

But like any addict - I know that my high is always temporary. And soon, I'll have to search for another promo code, another deal, another item to ship and track and open. The cycle repeats and as the highs fade I'm left with closet full of things I don't necessarily love.

Using the skills I've recently learned by reading The Power of Habit, I want to CHANGE when those feel good feelings flood my brain and what message they relay. And I'm proud to say, for the first time ever, I think I'm taking some concrete steps to override my addiction to fast fashion.

What's the plan now?

Well... first I raided my "sales" e-mail account. You know, that e-mail account you keep solely to provide to sales clerks when they ask if you are on e-mail lists or that you type in when you get to a website to get an initial promo code. Yup. That one. I raided it. It received, on average, roughly 60 messages a day from my favorite fast fashion retailers -- Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Kohls, J. Crew Factory -- and I did the unthinkable to each e-mail: I opened them and I unsubscribed.

Then I went to my Instagram account and did something just as hard: I unfollowed nearly every single blogger in the feed that pushes products from these places (I will admit -- I left one or two on the follow list but only because I really like them a lot outside of them peddling cheap, fast fashion).

Next, I went on a mission to replace these things with quality, sustainable brands and ambassadors. If bloggers and promotions e-mails were fueling my fast fashion habit, then perhaps the best way to build a love for sustainable and ethical fashion was to find brands and influencers I loved. As online analytics picked up what I was doing, I was pushed ads for ethical, sustainable brands I'd never heard of before. I started to look forward to logging online and scrolling through Instagram just to see which new brand would advertise to me. By doing this, I also discovered tools like Good on You (supported by Emma Watson) that would further help me explore better options for clothing.

Then, I picked up Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion from my local library. I'm still reading it, but with each page that I turn I become more and more resolved to finally overcome my fast fashion addiction. I'm making plans... Plans that, in years past, would have raised my blood pressure.

Plans to cut up in-store credit cards altogether (Ek!)
Plans to stop looking at Target's clothing each visit (Gasp!)
Plans to never step foot into Old Navy again (*RIP Kate*)

Plans to, after YEARS to lip service, finally curate a sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical wardrobe that is versatile, somewhat compact, and that meets all my needs. 
Plans to treat each and every piece of my wardrobe as an "investment piece".

This is hard. And yes, I realize that these choices I'm making are heavily influenced by my economical privilege. People can't treat every item of clothing they buy as an investment piece if they are worried about putting dinner on the table. But regardless of where you fall on the disposal income scale, you can make choices that will reduce your reliance on fast fashion. The best thing to do is to thrift -- give old pieces new life. Another great idea is swapping. Instead of trashing old duds, get together with friends and trade them. And if you have to venture into H&M for a piece of clothing, engage in some basic quality tests to see if it might (at least somewhat) stand the test of time.

Out of all the habits I've broken to reduce my carbon footprint on this planet, ending my love affair with fast fashion has to be the hardest yet. But I'm determined this time to see it through and I feel confident that I've already made more progress than in any of my prior attempts. I plan to keep updating here including sharing many of the brands, influencers, and resources I've discovered.

So tell me.. have you reduced your reliance on fast fashion?
What are your favorite sustainable brands and influencers?   

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