background image

How preloved fashion can save our planet

author image

By Priyanka Shahra

· 4 min read

Fashion is deeply personal, a silent statement that often speaks louder than words. Yet, what if our fashion choices unintentionally scream, "I don't care about our planet?" It hit me like a ton of bricks when I discovered that the fashion industry stands as the second-largest polluter worldwide.

From shopaholic to swapaholic

I used to be an unapologetic shopaholic, addicted to the weekly thrill of receiving a new online package at my doorstep. Each unboxing felt like a ceremony, a dance of anticipation, with every piece of clothing revealing itself as a treasure chest of fashion wonders. I wore my latest fashion hauls with pride as if they were badges of honour. Little did I know that these badges were slowly turning into symbols of dishonour as I delved deeper into the world of fashion.

Fashion's hidden environmental toll

Beneath the glamorous facade, I unearthed a disquieting truth. Despite its glitz and allure, the fashion industry was a significant contributor to environmental degradation, silently aiding the looming global warming crisis. It was a painful awakening to realize that my passion for fashion was complicit in this problem.

The environmental toll exacted by the fashion industry was nothing short of staggering, from production to disposal. In 2018 alone, it churned out a mind-boggling 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing the combined emissions of international flights and maritime shipping. Behind the glimmering façade lay a shadow of carbon emissions. Water, too, bore the brunt of fashion's reckless consumption, with the industry guzzling a staggering 20% of the world's wastewater, leaving behind a trail of polluted rivers and waterways. Fast fashion has turned our planet's lifeblood into an unfortunate casualty.

Fashion and climate change

Even as recently as 2021, shocking statistics continued to surface. The fashion industry bore responsibility for roughly 10% of global carbon emissions, establishing itself as a leading contributor to climate change. Furthermore, reports indicated that the industry consumed a staggering 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, enough to meet the needs of five million people for a lifetime.

Empowering change with preloved fashion

Driven by a fervent desire for change, I embarked on a transformative journey that ultimately gave birth to Swapaholic. It was more than just a business; it was a social enterprise with a mission to swap not just fashion, but mindsets towards conscious consumerism. Our goal is simple: to champion sustainable fashion by empowering individuals to swap, sell, and buy preloved fashion items.

The impact of preloved fashion

Over time, I observed the impressive influence of preloved fashion in encouraging the responsible sharing of resources instead of their reckless depletion, effectively challenging the fashion industry's tendency toward overproduction. In an industry marked by a staggering 52 microseasons, where rapid turnover is the norm, and with approximately 80% of textiles meeting their unfortunate fate in landfills, both the fashion industry and consumers bear responsibility for excessive consumption. Astonishingly, we utilize only a mere 10% of the clothing items we possess.

In fact, with each swap, the carbon footprint of each item is reduced by an astonishing 82%. It's not just about emissions; it's about conserving precious resources. By choosing secondhand clothing, we become stewards of water and warriors against textile waste.

A call to action for conscious consumerism

My personal journey, from shopaholic to a passionate advocate for sustainable fashion, underscores the power of awareness and action. I hope that anyone reading this can recognize that a small action, such as buying less or opting for preloved items instead of new ones, can empower us to be part of the solution. This ‘attitude swap’ extends well beyond the realm of fashion. Together, we can combat global warming one swap at a time.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.


  • Fashion Revolution -
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation -
  • WRAP UK -
  • Environmental Protection Agency -
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -
Did you enjoy this illuminem voice? Support us by sharing this article!
author photo

About the author

Priyanka Sachdev Shahra is a social entrepreneur committed to creating a positive impact on society and the environment through One With Earth (OWE). Priyanka champions women's advancement in her position as a board member of the Shirin Fozdar Programme. She also shares her passion through education and public speaking, inspiring others to drive change.

Other illuminem Voices

Related Posts

You cannot miss it!

Weekly. Free. Your Top 10 Sustainability & Energy Posts.

You can unsubscribe at any time (read our privacy policy)