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The Dark Side of Holiday Fashion: Unwrapping the Waste

by Oana-Maria Moldovan

The festive season brings joy, but hidden beneath the sparkle lies the environmental toll of our holiday fashion frenzy. And with the festive season comes Black Friday, which fuels our rush towards fast fashion, causing a surge in resource consumption and textile waste.


From Christmas to Hanukkah dinners to New Year’s Eve parties, the pressure to wear something new and stylish is palpable. The proximity of Black Friday to the holiday season intensifies our inclination toward fast fashion, with retailers promoting “irresistible” deals pushing us to refresh wardrobes for gatherings. 


But the true cost extends beyond discounts – heightened emissions, excessive waste, and a cycle of short-lived garments. This indulgence transforms the season of giving into taking from our planet.



The ritual of buying outfits for every event often results in a wardrobe misfit, leading to the disposal of barely worn clothes. This wasteful cycle contributes to the 5.8 million tonnes of discarded clothing in Europe annually, escalating during the post-holiday winter purge.


Returns, a common aftermath of impulsive purchases, add to the problem. In 2020 alone, the USA witnessed 2.63 million kilograms of landfill waste due to fast fashion returns, with Black Friday and the holiday season implicated in over half of these cases.


Beyond environmental repercussions, the human toll is undeniable. Exploitative labor practices prevail, with workers enduring harsh conditions to meet the demand for cheap, trendy clothes. Instances like those in Bangladesh, where big high street brands like Zara and H&M refuse to up people’s wages from 75 dollars a month, highlight the urgent need for fair wages.


Gift-giving further fuels the issue, as well-intentioned clothing purchases often miss the mark. Ugly Christmas sweaters, bought for a single season, contribute to the complexity of this discourse too. Amidst the blame game towards fashion giants, it's crucial to acknowledge our own role in perpetuating this social phenomenon.


While the desire for new holiday clothes is understandable, the impact on our environment is not. 


Opt for sustainable alternatives – thrift, swap, borrow, make, or invest in items with enduring appeal. Donate unwanted clothes to address the needs of others. You don’t have to hide from all Black Friday deals, but make thoughtful purchases rather than wasteful spontaneous buys. 


Let’s celebrate the holidays in style, but being mindful of our planet's well-being.

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