Spring is here, and so is spring cleaning.
The annual purge of winter clothing, like that one sweater you thought you might wear but never did, is a staple of spring. But as we embark on this Marie Kondo-inspired clean up, it’s important to keep in mind sustainable alternatives to simply throwing out old clothes.
Fair Fashion is a nearly one-year-old club at the University of Georgia which educates its members about sustainability within their wardrobe and unethical labor within the fashion industry.
Founder and president Madeleine Howell is a junior fashion merchandising major who saw the need for an organization like Fair Fashion on campus.
“I saw a documentary about human trafficking and labor issues in fashion,” Howell said. “Once I found out about that, I found out about the issues of sustainability because these go hand in hand.”
Once Howell entered into her college career, she knew she had to be someone who fought for more sustainable processes in the industry she so greatly admired.
There’s also much about the fashion industry people don’t realize, Aaron Mcwhirter, treasurer and junior marketing and pre-law major, said.
“When you think of an environmentally bad industry, you may think of oil, coal or something like that, but the fashion industry is actually one of the most destructive industries in terms of environmental impact and unfair labor practices,” Mcwhirter said. We are trying to draw attention to that.”
This topic of sustainability has gained traction in the fashion world as people begin to realize the true cost of clothing — a cost that goes far beyond the price tag. In fact, about 16 million tons of municipal solid waste textiles were generated in 2015 alone, according to a United States Environmental Protection Agency report. Landfills received about 10.5 million tons.
Other drastic issues associated with modern fashion range from labor exploitation to droughts caused by overuse of water for cotton to the use of non-biodegradable fabrics like polyester. Because of this, sustainability has become an important conversation, and Fair Fashion is beginning to lead the dialogue on campus.
“Fair Fashion advocates for more sustainable and conscious choices with fashion, particularly targeted towards students,” Mcwhirter said. “When we were first getting started, it was a lot more education based, and now we are trying to move more towards an actionable stage where we can be on offense to raise awareness.”
The club often watches documentaries about the fashion industry or listens to presentations about the topic.
This year, the organization will host Fair Fashion Week in collaboration with Fashion Revolution Week the week of April 22-29. Fashion Revolution is a global movement that started in the United Kingdom to educate people about sustainability in fashion.
Fair Fashion will host a panel of experts, show the documentary “True Cost” and other events in hopes of raising awareness on campus.
Mcwhirter said sustainability is something that broadly touches every aspect of one’s life, be it the purchasing of groceries, furniture or what car a person drives.
“A lot of people think that sustainable fashion is prohibitively expensive with niche brands … but it really is not,” Mcwhirter said. “You can do a lot with fashion in a way that is both cost-effective and doesn’t cause all of these environmental problems.”