Sustainable consumption: Why values ​​and purchasing behavior are often in contradiction

Every year, fast fashion giants generate record sales, even though sustainable consumption is very important to the majority of people. We resolve the apparent contradiction and explain why purchasing decisions are often made contrary to one's own values

sustainable consumption

Author: House of Eden

The Fast fashion market According to the “Fast Fashion Global Report 2024” by Research and Markets this year compared to 2023 will increase from approximately 122 billion to approximately 142 billion US dollars. Quite a large sum when you consider that Greenpeace According to Germans, they pay attention to treating their clothing better and value the fact that it is produced ethically and sustainably. Despite this, retailers like H&M and Zara still bring a brand new collection into stores every two weeks. As you can see from the numbers, the cash registers are still ringing big. Although sustainable consumption is a priority for the majority of consumers, this has not yet been reflected in their purchasing behavior.

Why we buy clothes that don't match our values

“Many people are attracted to fast fashion because of trends and the impact of certain brands, even if this contradicts their values ​​of sustainability,” the platform writes The Sustainable Fashion Forum on Instagram. In doing so, she names one of the reasons why purchasing behavior and ethical principles often not in harmony. After all, clothing can create identification and give us a feeling of togetherness. This is how the philosopher Georg Simmel describes it in his work “Mode”. According to him, fashion can set boundaries and let us be part of something. Recognition for wearing a certain brand or a cool new trend item can have a big impact on how we are perceived in our social environment. This perception is completely independent of whether what we wear corresponds to our stance on sustainability.

Slow consumption instead of fast fashion

Due to digitalization, the purchasing process has increased in speed in recent years. Advertising or the opinion of an influencer is usually enough to persuade you to buy. We can't tell whether a fashion item has been produced ethically by its appearance or by the materials used or the price. Checking all of this requires effort. In addition, we are often misled by the manufacturers and have to be careful not to fall into them Greenwashing trap to tap. After all, sustainability claims from fast fashion giants are full of nice-sounding phrases. However, there is rarely any actual sustainable action behind this. The research required to determine the true sustainability factor of a product is difficult and time-consuming. Not everyone can afford the everyday resources to do detailed research before making a purchase. Sustainable consumption still takes too much time to really be practical for the majority.

Sustainable consumption requires easier availability

If you compare the number of fast fashion chains with the number of vintage shops and stores that specialize in sustainable fashion, you quickly realize that there is not just a general oversupply of clothing. Above all, there is an oversupply of brands and clothing items that do not do justice to ecological and social values. Fashion that is produced ethically should be just as easily accessible as that of the retail giants. Companies should be held responsible for their actions, not consumers for their purchasing decisions. Ultimately, the individual often feels left alone and helpless. Added to this is the feeling that you have no power to change on your own.

But there is hope: the first EU laws, such as the Supply Chain Act, are intended to regulate the fast fashion market and create more transparency for consumers. According to a report from the Onlinesecondhand platform ThreadUp The vintage and resale market is also growing fifteen times faster than that of retail. In 2030 it is expected to be around twice as big. These are good prospects for a future with more sustainable consumption!

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