While fast fashion is affordable, it comes at a cost many of us are unable to see. Since the clothes are cheap and trendy, they do not last long, and the garments that aren’t sold pile up in landfills. The production process itself is extremely damaging to the environment. Not to mention, the people making the clothing are often working in dangerous sweatshops for meager wages. Some examples of stores that participate in this clothing phenomenon are H&M, Zara, Forever21, Shein, and Urban Outfitters.
However, fast fashion is becoming a familiar topic, especially with Gen Z, many of whom have turned to TikTok. They have been using the platform to disseminate information about fast fashion as well as ways to participate in innovative and sustainable fashion that is environmentally friendly and ethically sound. Gen Z users have been sharing thrift shop locations to check out, upcycling ideas, and demonstrating how to make clothes from bed sheets. In other videos, creators challenge “perfection paralysis,” a phenomenon that makes people think they shouldn’t bother making any lifestyle adjustments since they can’t live 100% perfectly sustainable lives. While they also share useful tips, many have begun to target large corporations and companies that are responsible for the majority of climate change, including that caused by fast fashion.
Sustainable Development Goal 12 aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. One of the targets of the goal is to ensure that countries start consuming and producing more sustainably.
Since one of the targets of SDG 12 is for countries to transition to more sustainable consumption and production, the conversations happening via TikTok among Gen Z users is remarkable and important to acknowledge. While taking a deeper look at your own consumption and waste patterns and carbon footprint is critical, it will not make a huge difference if corporations are not held accountable. TikTok has also been crucial in calling out clothing companies that promote sustainability practices in theory but are still contributing significantly to climate change, a marketing ploy also known as “greenwashing.”
For example, the clothing brand, Reformation, has been Carbon Neutral since 2015, doesn’t use plastic packaging, has 65% of manufacturing done locally in LA, and pays 95% of their workers a living wage, with a goal of 100% of their team to be paid fairly. They include how much water and CO2 were saved on their clothing tags, but they don’t list how many resources were used to make the product. Also, the majority of their clothes are “dry-clean only,” this further contributes to environmental degradation, since the process uses a toxic chemical. While any changes towards sustainability are generally good, there is still more that can be done with climate change worsening.
On a similar note, fast fashion companies such as Zara and H&M have released clothing lines that are marketed as “more sustainable,” but give little information about these lines. Not to mention, they make up a very small portion of their available products. Numerous TikTok users have turned to this platform to call them out. Since the videos are up to 60 seconds long, creators make them succinct and easy to understand without difficult jargon, allowing the information to reach a larger audience.
Meeting SDG 12, while taking fast fashion into consideration, is still an attainable goal. The TikTok Trend also highlights that all responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of consumers. While people should adapt their lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly, corporations and companies, which contribute the most to climate change, need to be held accountable: they must move to as fully sustainable production models as possible. Using platforms such as TikTok is a great way to share this message and promote change and advocacy. Reach out to your representatives and local governments to affect change and stop the global footprint from further rising so we can all meet SDG 12.