This month, Bermuda is Love is challenging the public to press pause on their spending habits and take the #NoNewClothes pledge. With the fashion industry accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater, the community organization hopes that islanders will reflect on their consumption habits during this time and better understand the role we all play in changing the course of clothing production going forward.
Bermuda is Love spoke to The Bermudian about the impacts of fast fashion, the launch of their most recent campaign, and how they hope to foster a society of ethically conscious shoppers.
BM: Firstly, can you provide a little background information about Bermuda is Love – what inspired you to start this community organization, and what do you hope to achieve?
BIL: Bermuda Is Love was formed in August 2020 by a group of friends who wanted to create change in Bermuda and the world. The founders of the group are Aaron Crichlow, Courtney Clay, Eron Woods, Eli Smith, Sharri Weldon, Deondre Trott, and Andira Crichlow. We hope to create a better Bermuda and world where everyone loves and cares for each other. We want to create an egalitarian society that is more intellectual, and human-rights driven. We organize various events and campaigns that promote the idea of the human rights to food, housing, clothing, healthcare, higher education, and a healthy environment. Our mission is to promote collaboration, education, activism, responsibility, and love for our community and the environment.
BM: What is the purpose of the #NoNewClothes campaign?
BIL: The purpose of #NoNewClothes is to highlight the problem of fast fashion. Fast fashion is the business model that uses cheap labor and materials to rapidly mass-produce cheap, low quality clothing. This abundance of clothing creates a disposable culture where we treat clothes as single use items, much like single use plastics, – which are made to be thrown away. The problem with this is that the more clothes produced, means the more that are purchased, and subsequently the more that are thrown away.
Further, the fashion industry is highly exploitative of garment workers who work in the global south in countries such as China, Bangladesh, and India. 1 in 6 workers in the world work in the fashion industry: Only 2% of these earn a living wage and 80% of all garment workers are women. The truth of the fashion industry is that the affordability and abundance of cheap clothing in the West is the product of exploitation in far off countries of people that we will never know or meet, which keeps them entrenched in poverty.
Altogether, the purpose of #NoNewClothes is to first highlight this problem and dive deep into the history of fast fashion and how it impacts the environment and human lives. The second purpose of the campaign is to provide the public with resources, events, information, and actionable steps in which we can stop this exploitation and destruction of people and the environment. We as consumers have a responsibility to ensure that the clothes we are wearing are not the product of injustice or exploitation. Part of the goal of Bermuda Is Love is to fight against all forms of injustice and create a better world for all.
- BM: What does it mean to take the #NoNewClothes pledge? Are there any lessons to be learnt by making the conscious decision to press pause on shopping habits?
BIL: Taking the #NoNewClothes pledge means committing to buying no new clothes for the month of September. This can mean not buying any clothes at all or it can mean only buying secondhand or from sustainable brands. The choice is up to you, as the consumer.
We hope that taking the conscious decision to stop shopping encourages us all to become more cognizant of where our clothes are coming from, who are making them, and what the effects of our unquenchable thirst for buying new clothes has on people and the planet.
The ultimate goal is that people realize that they do not need to buy as much as they do. And that it is quite easy to buy less clothing. It will save you money and it will save the planet and its people.
- BM: You have an incredible lineup of events occurring throughout the month – what impact do you hope they will have on the public?
BIL: The feedback so far has been resoundingly positive. We want people to get involved. Send us videos of them upcycling clothes or thrifting or buying sustainable brands and telling us that they have committed to buying no new clothes! That is the impact that we hope to see. We want to foster a community in Bermuda where we are all on the same page, all doing our best to fight against the impacts of fast fashion and hyper consumerism. We hope that #NoNewClothes is a good teaching lesson, highlighting the problem of something we think is very important.
- BM: Why is it important to shop ethically and sustainably?
BIL: The fast fashion industry encourages a throw away culture because the clothes are cheap and not built to last. The rapid production of new clothes and trends encourage consumers to stay on top of trends, creating a constant sense of need and ultimate dissatisfaction. Therefore, as consumers, we must be aware of the problem of fast fashion, and we must fight against the negative effects of fashion by changing the way we shop.
The way we spend our money can help to change the world. Every time we shop we’re voting with our wallet. When we buy from brands that have a positive impact it’s like voting for a better world. By carefully choosing what we buy, and looking behind the brands, we can choose products that have a positive impact on people, the planet, and animals. For example, by buying products that don’t contain cotton or polyester you’re helping to reduce the harmful social and environmental effects that the production of these products has on people and the environment. When you are part of a movement of people making similar positive choices we can start to have a big impact on the world around us.
- BM: What are the impacts of fast fashion in Bermuda?
BIL: The impact of fast fashion is mainly seen in our environment and can be seen on our roads and beaches where clothing is thrown away and littered. Clothing in this state can take more than 80 years to decompose. Also, every time we wash clothing made of synthetic fibers such as polyester; they shred. Up to 728,000 fibers can come off at once, spilling into waterways and contributing to the pollution of our ocean and the environment.
Bermuda has no recycling infrastructure for any kind of clothing. Therefore, in Bermuda, any clothes thrown away are sent to Tyne’s Bay incinerator and burned for energy, contributing further to carbon dioxide pollution. While this facility uses our waste to produce energy, it is not a sustainable way in which we should manage our waste.
The goal of Bermuda should be to foster an environment where businesses are encouraged to bring in sustainable brands that can be recycled and to create a circular economy within Bermuda; and for the Bermuda public to be made aware of the damage fast fashion does to people and the planet, and to not throw away clothes but upcycle, repair, and take care of their clothes so that they have a longer lifespan and do not end up being burned after one use.
BM: Living on an island with limited stores can make it challenging to resist the temptation of ordering clothes online. What are some tips, if any, that you can share to help others break this habit?
- Participate in #NoNewClothes: Pledge that you will not buy any new clothes for the month of September.
- Buy less: Reduce your consumption by buying only what you truly need and what you know you will wear.
- Treat your clothes with care to extend their life: Wash your clothing less and according to the label. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but washing your clothes less will also make them last longer.
- Repair old clothes: Take your clothes to a tailor to repair a broken button or zipper.
- Upcycle your clothes: Repurpose your clothes to extend their life so that they are not thrown away quickly.
- Organize a clothing swap: Exchange clothes between friends and family.
- Rent clothes: This is a great option, especially for clothes that you will not wear for a long time or often (baby or pregnancy clothes, party dresses…)
- Buy ethically and sustainably: Buy from local small brands that focus on creating a culture of sustainability by producing/selling less from the onset. Bermudian stores include The Tuck Shop and Cassine Shop.
- Buy secondhand or from thrift stores/donate whatever you do not wear: Secondhand stores in Bermuda include Orange Bay Company, The Barn, Bermuda Red Cross Thrift Shop, Second Look Thrift Shop, Restart Thrift Store, PALS Thrift Shop, Twice Treasured Thrift Shop, Salvation Army Thrift Store, Bargain Box Bermuda, Thrifty Saturdays, Designer Vintage Bermuda, Second Hand Rose, etc.
- Buy better quality clothes: Buy clothes that will last longer which is good for your wallet and the environment.
BM: Do you believe there are enough sustainable alternatives on island for locals looking to cultivate a more thoughtful/greener wardrobe?
BIL: We are aware of two Bermudian stores (The Tuck Shop & Cassine Shop) that actively sell sustainable clothing, meaning clothing made of materials that can be recycled. Sustainable clothing is clothing that is made in factories that respect workers’ rights and pay decent salaries which means: no child labour, no forced labour, safe & healthy working places, reasonable working hours, no union restriction. And often companies try to greenwash their brand by framing certain products as sustainable when they are not.
However, the problem of fast fashion is not a problem of not enough options, but rather that we need to change our consumption habits in the first place. In order to fully change our consumption habits, we must change our relationship with our clothing. The purpose of #NoNewClothes is to have people really recognize that their consumption habits are unsustainable and unethical, and that this age of consumption is relatively recent, and that we do not need to buy new clothes every week.
The solution to this, therefore, is to view clothing as an investment. We must consume clothes that are of better quality and sustainable, and therefore meaning more expensive. While a $215 dress is not something most people are likely to buy on impulse, that is really the point. Clothing is not meant to be something you wear only once or twice and that’s it. But when you think about your clothing as an investment, you pay a little more, and you are actually careful about what you select.
BM: Lastly, what is one message you wish to share with our readers about their responsibility surrounding fast fashion and consumerism?
BIL: As consumers our role is in demanding that our clothes be ethically and sustainably made. While any kind of change may seem impossible in an industry that has continuously proliferated off the exploitation of the most vulnerable populations simply for profit throughout the course of history, there are ways we can demand change by changing our own habits of consumption. We as consumers have power; we can demand change by boycotting products that violate human rights, that destroy the planet, and we can let these big brands know that we will not support or buy products that have been produced by exploiting garment workers in the Global South.
#NoNewClothes represents Bermuda Is Love’s manifesto that we will not condone any kind of consumption unless it is sustainable and ethical. We all have a responsibility to uphold human rights and ensure that others are treated with respect. And we must recognize that it is the exploitation of foreign workers in the Global South that allow those in the West to buy cheap clothes in the first place. Our ease of life is provided by the exploitation of others. This is not right. We should not be living off the backs of others or think that because exploitation exists in some far-off country that our responsibility is somehow limited. If we have the power to act and demand change then we must do so. We are all citizens of earth, and we all deserve to be treated as such.
To stay up to date with campaigns led by Bermuda is Love, or to volunteer with them, follow their Instagram by clicking here, or email email@example.com.