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Podcast | Clothes and Climate: The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

I recently got into crocheting and sewing as a way of becoming more sustainable. I was inspired by how sustainable the approach to fashion was in the past, before modern industry.

Particularly that people would make their own clothes and mend them. People back then rarely purchased new clothes and if they did it was with the mindset that they would wear it until it was damaged and if they couldn't mend it, they would recreate it into other clothes or use them as rags.

Trends didn't change that often so people weren't buying clothes that were in season, only to later discard them or lose interest. They had a select amount of clothes and so there was barely any clothing waste.

It wasn't till I left my home in China (where I was teaching) with just a holiday bag, and couldn't return because of the pandemic, that I realized I actually didn't need that much stuff.

So ever since, I've been interested in downsizing my closet and keeping it that way, as well as finding more sustainable ways to make clothes.

The following podcast, from Sustainable World Radio, talks about The Environmental Cost of Fashion:

Learn how your clothing choices can change the world in this episode with writer Elizabeth Segran.

Elizabeth tells us the grim news first. Did you know that the fashion industry is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gases? That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. About 100 billion articles of clothing are manufactured yearly. Clothes that don't sell are often thrown in a landfill or burned at the end of a season. This massive overproduction has a detrimental effect on land, waterways, and workers.

With styles changing rapidly, the fashion industry must persuade fashion-conscious consumers to purchase the latest trends. Elizabeth shares some of her favorite ways to resist this push including maintaining a lean closet, thrift store shopping, renting clothes, and supporting companies that manufacture clothes responsibly.

We also talk about why Elizabeth believes that the fashion industry should be regulated and how countries should follow the example of France and have a "Minister of Fashion"!

Whether you’re a fashion follower or a thrift store shopper, you’ll learn a lot about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and how we can change our shopping habits.

Elizabeth Segran, PHD., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in The Atlantic, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs and The Nation. You can learn more about Elizabeth at her website: