Shopping for clothing can become addictive; shoppers easily become hooked on discovering and purchasing new styles and trends. Fast fashion brands provide consumers with thousands of low-cost garments each week that keep them up-to-date with fashion. Retailers like H&M, Shein and ASOS sell billions each year from these low-cost garments; unfortunately not all were meant to last, creating huge piles of waste in the process.

Estimates show that around 92 million tons of fast fashion clothing end up in landfills every year. This trash contributes to climate change, wastes resources, and burdens historically exploited countries with textile pollution in massive amounts. It also increases water pollution as just one t-shirt requires approximately 2,700 litres of water production.

Many sources attribute wasteful clothing production to fast fashion trends; designers and manufacturers race to bring those trends from runway shows into stores as soon as possible, often by using cheap materials not intended for long-term wear and tear; making this clothing can involve exploitative or abusive labor practices as part of this production process.

Fast fashion brands may tout their environmentally friendly practices and sustainable production, yet this can often amount to little more than greenwashing. Zara, for instance, is known for bringing runway knockoffs directly from design to store shelves within weeks due to their short supply chain and central control of design process. Yet they do not own their factories themselves and workers often earn less than fair wages.

Fashion is an industry ripe for disruption, and sustainable companies are working tirelessly to shift it away from a disposable mindset. Some retailers like Zara are now offering limited-release lines of organic cotton or eco-friendly fabrics – though these accounts for only a small portion of sales and don’t address Zara’s main apparel production practices.

Consumers hold the key to solving this problem. By shifting away from buying disposable, trend-driven clothing towards well-made and durable pieces instead, it will force the industry to prioritize quality over fleeting fashion trends and invest in sustainable production methods. But in an instantaneous world like ours, changing our buying habits won’t come easy.

Step one to creating a more sustainable closet is education yourself on fast fashion’s impact on the environment and on how to support brands that practice sustainable practices. Acquainting yourself with your favorite brands will help build better buying habits that lead you closer to achieving that goal.

Consider thrifting or repurposing clothing to reduce waste. Doing this extends their lifespan and prevents them from being sent to landfills or clothing resellers that cannot sell them for much. When building up a wardrobe base, shop sustainably-made labels.