Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sustainable fashion and shopping alternatives

Exploring the shopping habits of younger generations and eco-friendly substitutes
Kalina Kornacki

With COVID-19 igniting an increase in online shopping, secondhand clothing resale apps such as Depop and Poshmark have seen an increase in usership. These platforms not only help steer people away from buying brand new clothing, but benefit the environment with a drive towards sustainability.

Thrifting became a popular hobby during this time as an urgency for the wellbeing of the environment consumed Gen Z. The rapid rise in fashion interest continued as creators established platforms on social media apps, such as TikTok, and various trends still seize the app daily – with some certainly influencing the fashion industry.

A trend that gained popularity were the enormous hauls of clothing from fast fashion brands like Shein. Shein mass-produces cheap clothing by using questionable practices which may cross the lines of child labor laws. Not only does the company bend moral ethics, but it blatantly ignores environmental standards. A Time Magazine article titled, “Shein Is the World’s Most Popular Fashion Brand—at a Huge Cost to Us All” expands on the true impact that Shein has on the environment. The article states that the brand leaves about “6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide a year in its trail,” author Astha Rajvanshi writes.

The Isenberg Sustainability Club, a fairly new organization on campus, is an outlet available to students that are interested in promoting sustainability within businesses. Club president Amritha Chivukula emphasized the importance of knowing the origin of your clothing and doing research on the businesses you’re buying from. Not many consumers of fast fashion research the brands they’re purchasing from, which can be detrimental to the integration of the practice of sustainability.

“Being aware of where and how your clothes and your jewelry came to be, or anything that you own, is key to developing awareness to all the other steps in the process [of achieving sustainability],” Chivukula said.

Secondhand clothing apps help to decrease the amount of people buying from those fast fashion businesses as they produce a more eco-friendly alternative. While some may be led to believe that the online aspect of these apps still contributes to the increase of emissions, Depop has done a notable amount of work to limit its emissions.

Depop’s newsroom states, “In 2023, as a House of Brands, Etsy Inc. reduced absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 12% while Scope 3 emissions decreased by 22% on an intensity basis … compared with a 2020 baseline.” Scope one and two emissions are those directly correlated to the company or facility where they are generated, while scope three emissions are indirect and occur from sources outside of the company’s control.

Students for Sustainable Fashion and Art (SSFA) is a student-led organization on campus, aiming to educate students on sustainable fashion and art while also providing them with accessible secondhand clothing and environmentally friendly alternatives to everyday items. Angelina Oliveira, head of marketing, expressed her thoughts on the overconsumption aided through fast fashion and the environmental benefits of buying secondhand.

“The effect that [Depop’s emissions] has on the environment isn’t nearly as much as a fast fashion site would put on the environment just on their shipping alone, and so I would say that the pros outweigh the cons,” Oliveira said.

Similarly to Depop, SSFA has created a large community filled with people who want to buy fashionable clothes while also helping the environment.

“The reason we started SSFA was because … we wanted to bridge the gap between artistic expression and environmental consciousness,” Oliveira said.

SSFA has made a large effort on campus to incorporate pop-up events to advertise secondhand clothing, giving students a nearby outlet to thrift. Especially in college, many students turn to online shopping due its accessibility. But if just so much as one student can turn their focus to a secondhand clothing app or even search for events on campus like pop-ups, they are helping to make a positive change.

“A lot of people don’t even realize the effects that fast fashion has on the environment and also just the poor working conditions that the factories put onto their employees,” Oliveira said. “I think that the more awareness we bring to how bad these companies are… it will draw more people to Depop and sites like that.”

The influence that one person can bring to a group of people creates a domino effect, and in turn, allows in a bigger population to these sustainable alternatives. As more and more people immerse themselves into the world of sustainable fashion, it’s important to know that even the small things can make a significant difference.

“If you’re buying it secondhand, that’s already better than buying it from the website because you’re taking it out of potentially being in a landfill and you’re giving it new life,” Oliveira said.

Secondhand fashion and thrifting will continue to grow in popularity, but those trends should not distract consumers from the fact that there should be sustainable alternatives.

“You have to do the work and educate yourself because we are the future,” Chivukula said. “Support local businesses!”

Amalie Harper can be reached at [email protected].

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