How Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism Could Shape the Fashion Industry

Who would ever have suspected that a teenager would become the face of one of the most important issues facing our society today? Perhaps in order to fight climate change, we all need a young voice to shake us from our complacency. It is younger generations, after all, who will be stuck dealing with the consequences of the choices we’ve made that have damaged our planet. One brave 16-year-old girl decided there was no more time to waste with world leaders debating whether to take any steps towards battling global warming. Greta Thunberg, a girl who has no qualms about speaking the truth (even in front of powerful world leaders), has stepped forward to be the voice of reason we should all be listening to.

greta climate activism

Thunberg’s activism has inspired many climate change strikes around the globe.

Greta Thunberg: The Most Powerful Voice in Climate Activism

Thunberg was born in Sweden in 2003, but did not wait long to get started using her voice to bring awareness to the issue of climate change. In August 2018, she started a school strike for the climate right outside Swedish Parliament. These protests then inspired over 100,000 children around the globe to lead strikes of their own through a burgeoning force called Fridays for Future. As people realised what an eloquent and moving speaker she was, Thunberg was invited to speak at climate rallies in Stockholm, Helsinki, Brussels and London. She also spoke at the United Nations COP24 in Poland, where she addressed the Secretary-General in a speech shared by millions. She even led the largest climate strike in history, which consisted of more than four million people across 161 countries. 

But perhaps her most famous moment thus far has been her appearance at the UN Climate Action Summit that took place in New York in September. Her impassioned speech shamed global leaders for not taking action while entire ecosystems are collapsing and people are dying because of climate change. Her fiery sermon went viral, and Thunberg was instantly classified as a worldwide inspirational warrior. Thunberg has advocated for huge changes to be made to carbon emissions programs around the world, citing that carbon emissions need to be significantly decreased if there’s any chance at reducing the damage these emissions have caused to our planet. Plus, Thunberg practises what she preaches by refusing to travel by plane. She has also brought attention to the massive dangers of global warming and the dire issues that come along with an overpopulated planet.

The Fashion Industry: Part of the Global Warming Problem?

The fashion industry has begun to take note of the climate change movement in recent years. Overall, despite small steps being made towards more eco-friendly practices by select companies, a great deal more change needs to be made. One of the most harmful aspects of the fashion industry is what’s called ‘fast fashion’. It got its name by providing consumers with cheap, trendy clothing that takes trends from the catwalk and brings them right to the customer at breakneck speed. Some examples of this practice are global brands like H&M, Zara and Forever 21. Due to an increased rate of production, the clothing that comes from these retailers is often of poor quality. Plus, in order to keep costs low, these items are frequently made in sweatshops under dangerous, dehumanising conditions.

The true environmental damage done by the fashion industry is only starting to come to the surface. Many of these fast fashion brands cause lots of pollution because of their use of toxic chemicals; dyes and synthetic fabrics can seep into water supplies in foreign countries where the clothes are produced, as well as at home where the clothing is washed. In the US, more than 11 million tonnes of clothing are thrown away every year, leaving garments full of lead, pesticides, and other chemicals to release toxic chemicals into the air. Basically, fast fashion’s carbon footprint is horrendous overall.

Of course, the industry gets away with these things because the market is still supporting these companies. So, where should the public be investing their money? Our best bet is to support companies that are open about their environmental impact and are willing to take significant steps to improve their carbon footprint. It turns out that fashion can go hand-in-hand with sustainability if we become more conscious of the brands we’re buying from and only give our money to companies that can promise they’re being green corporate citizens.

sustainable fashion

Try to steer clear of fast fashion brands and focus on green, sustainable companies instead.

Climate Activism and the Fashion Industry

If we want to enact real, long-lasting change in the fashion industry, we’ll need to borrow some of Thunberg’s passion. Her willingness to accept some hardships (no flying, vegan diet, etc.) means that we should all be capable of making changes to our lifestyles in order to ensure we’re not causing further irreparable harm to the planet. This calls for an attitude shift from buying what’s fastest and easiest to buying what’s best for society and our earth as a whole. 

So, where do we want to see fashion go? Far away from cheap jeans that fall apart after one wash or trendy items that we’ll only wear for one season and then ignore in our closet. We should all be pushing for fashion that’s high-quality; your items should be something you can buy for life (such as a womens waterproof parka that can work with the rest of your wardrobe for years to come). Our clothing should be timeless and versatile, with a minimalist style, that allows us to always feel fashionable while doing a lot more with a lot less.

Wondering how Greta Thunberg’s climate activism could shape the fashion industry? Her passion for saving the planet can help remind all of us (from fashion designers and fashion companies to everyday consumers) that we’re all responsible for the health of our planet. Any steps we can take – even if they’re a bit more expensive or not as convenient – can make a difference in slowing down the effects of climate change. And hopefully, teenagers in the future can focus on just being kids instead of worrying about convincing powerful adults to take responsibility and necessary action to save our planet.