Dreaming of sustainability in a material world
Nature News

Dreaming of sustainability in a material world

Not so long ago, fashion-savvy consumers shopped by the season, waiting for new collections to arrive before refreshing their closets. Now, retailers push cheap, trend-driven clothes all year round. Fast fashion means that consumers can buy heaps of clothes on impulse, then toss them out and buy some more.

One billion new items of clothing are produced every year, and every second, a garbage truck’s worth of textiles are put in landfills or burned. If things don’t change soon, fashion could drain a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

Kamea Chayne, author of Thrive: An Environmentally Conscious Lifestyle Guide to Better Health and True Wealth and the host of the Green Dreamer podcast, says she was once “addicted” to fast fashion. She struggled with depression during her first semester of college, and to cope, she turned to retail therapy—buying stuff to feel better.

“Retail therapy is this idea that every time we buy something new, we get a little burst of joy,” she says. “But it’s not really lasting. This really led me to question, what is it exactly that leads us to fulfillment, life satisfaction, and happiness?”

Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Chayne had traveled to 39 countries by the time she was 22, and she understood that to live and be well—to thrive—is a common aspiration within all communities and cultures. As she began to learn about the social and environmental injustices that keep people and nature from thriving, she made it her mission to be a more conscious consumer. “The [low] prices of fast fashion don’t reflect the true cost,” she says.

The fashion industry emits more greenhouse gases than ocean shipping and international airline flights combined. Those emissions stem mostly from big inputs like water usage for growing cotton and garment washing, and petroleum inputs for synthetic fibers.

“The amount of water needed to grow enough cotton for a single T-shirt is 2,700 liters, which is about three years’ worth of drinking water for one person,” Chayne says.

As she began to lear

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