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World Environment Day: Does social media help or hinder the sustainable fashion movement?

by Onome Umukoro

We can all agree social media has served as a unison voice for some time now. With platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, we get a wide variety of news, trends and even day-to-day tips and tricks for our everyday lives. But the question on our lips, does social media increase our sustainability or hurt it? 

With a greater ability to share information and the rise of rental apps who gained popularity online, it can be easy to assume that sustainability is a topic we globally know more about than ever.

However, is the ever-changing trends of niche aesthetics increasing our consumerism undoing all that work?

The general idea of sustainability has to do with using resources responsibly, in a manner that allows us to use these resources repeatedly whilst avoiding depletion of the natural resources so that these materials are available in the future.

Sustainability in the fashion industry relies more on the consumers rather than the suppliers. Although, that’s not to say that companies, especially fast fashion companies like Shein, do not play a big role in environmental pollution, but changes only take place if the consumers take a stand in dictating what they deem acceptable. 

There are a number of steps companies can take to ensure sustainable production. This includes using renewable resources, ensuring fair labour practices, promoting circularity, managing the production of waste levels as well as more out-of-the-box ideas like renting.  

Despite these options, the true power lies in the consumers. Being the target audience sets the tone for what is being produced and how it’s being produced - at the end of the day, they’re selling to us. 

For example, with the growth in awareness of environmental activism we now see a rise in the number of companies advocating for a “greener future and environment”. More production companies highlight the fact they have ethically sourced materials or the fact they have partnered with yet another NGO to plant a tree for every tree they cut down etc. 

This new and carefully thought-out strategy is put into play because they recognise consumers give priority to sustainably produced products and goods, and the same could be applied to the fashion industry as consumers could prioritise the sustainable options available.

This brings in the issue of rental apps. Rental apps, in theory, provide an alternative and arguably a more sustainable option to consumers.

Instead of mass producing a number of different clothing, consumers can simply rent out the items they prefer for the time and then return it, avoiding it ending up in the landfill and making it available for the next consumer to use (after being properly and thoroughly cleaned of course).

Fashion is a form of self-expression, this means that a number of people with different ideas of individuality would like to be catered to, from indie sleaze to the Bridgeton aesthetics. 

The ever growing and ever-changing niche culture slightly negates the theoretical effect of or the idea of suitability and the effect of rental services as there is still a constant need to produce more hence increasing consumerism, although in practicality production can take multiple steps to ensure sustainable products are being produced.

In conclusion, social media acts as a two-sided sword in this case. Whilst promoting and raising awareness of issues surrounding sustainability and climate change, social media simultaneously promotes consumerism through clothing hauls and ever-changing trends. It’s down to us to be responsible and evaluate our fashion choices. 

Edited by Emily Duff

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