Applied Technology High School, UAQ

A Shift To Thrift is needed

We are delighted to share a blog written by student Aisha, from Applied Technology High School, UAQ, who is part of a team delivering a Global Goals project for the 2021-22 GSL Global Goals Competition.

Their project is among over 957 social action projects currently running as part of the GSL movement and we are excited to be supporting them to design and lead positive social change in their community!

Our experience has been nothing short of an exciting journey filled with fun, knowledge, challenges to overcome and inspiration!

Project Summary

According to fast fashion waste statistics, the industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year. (Nature, CNN)

Fast fashion is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions annually and this number is only set to increase exponentially in the next few years. (The World Bank Group)

One of the arising issues that harm our environment right now is Fast Fashion. It is ‘fast’ in a number of senses: the changes in fashion are fast, the rate of production is fast; the customer’s decision to purchase is fast; delivery is fast, and garments are worn fast – usually only a few times before being discarded. The rise of fast fashion has had devastating consequences, from its reliance on plastic fabrics and its enormous carbon footprint to its erosion of workers’ rights. These numbers shown above are only a little segment of this global issue that really highlights its impact on our earth, and it shows how absolutely crucial it is that we make a change for the better.

To further explore Fast Fashion for our project and understand its impact, we tried to look at the numbers and conduct more research about it. There are many ways in which fast fashion affects us and our environment. Some of the impacts are such as the depletion of non-renewable sources, emission of greenhouse gases, and the use of massive amounts of water and energy. Moreover, this industry also poses societal problems, especially in developing economies. Where most of the companies’ methods of producing clothing are unethical as most workers work for long hours with minimal pay and are subjected to unsafe working conditions with no regard for their rights and well-being.

After learning more about this issue and realizing its prominence globally, we also looked at Fast Fashion in our community, in the UAE, where there is little to no awareness about Fast Fashion or its harmful impact on our environment. This particularly has then inspired our passion to start our own project “Shift to Thrift”, which is essentially a thrift store we’ve opened after collecting donations from our local community, such as gently used clothes and accessories. We also conducted workshops, surveys and discussion circles that helped raise awareness of Fast Fashion. Our aim with this project is to not only combat Fast Fashion and its environmental consequences but to also encourage and motivate people around us to make a shift to thrifting for all its benefits and adopt more eco-friendly and responsible consumption habits. Along with trying out methods like recycling and upcycling clothes for a more sustainable society! We hope to offer a service whereby fellow students and local citizens can recycle unwanted clothes or buy reused clothes.

The Journey

Throughout our journey so far, as part of the GSL Global Goals Competition, we as a team have had such an amazing experience, where we gained a lot of different skills and enriched our abilities. One of the most important qualities was collaboration and teamwork, our group is already a part of the Go Green club at our school and this project has been a great opportunity for us to work together as a team and start our initiative, as well as run it towards success and continuous improvement. We also learned other skills such as time management to submit our work and the ability to utilize each other’s skills as team members in order for us to be efficient.

Another important and really fun part of this initiative is learning how to start our thrift store, which required us to learn business skills and marketing methods that could really enhance our project and increase our impact. We had to also improve our designing and creating skills, where we created our own website, social media handles, a physical store at our school, logos and brand image. We also had so much fun raising funds for the project through a bake sale that we started in our school in return for donations (used clothes and items). Furthermore, what we have learned about ourselves is how we can be more responsible with our consumption habits. Mainly, because fast fashion brands have always been the main source throughout our lives, so letting go of these habits is not an easy task. However, with this project, we were able to push our limits to be more eco-friendly in different approaches, whether it’s buying fewer clothes or going for more sustainable brands, or even thrifting!

So far, our biggest challenge is how we can encourage people in the UAE to switch to thrifting and help them understand the effect of fast fashion. As there is a stigma and somewhat of a reluctance towards buying used clothing items here, even though it’s more common in other parts of the world. But, our objectives focus on this obstacle and how we can overcome it. This includes a workshop we have conducted in our school to several students, where we explained the issue we fight for and our project. As well as, emphasizing the quality control aspect that people may be concerned about. We also gave out virtual posters that communicate this message in an easy-going way, with help of visuals.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter ahead of us is exciting! After all our efforts so far, we believe there is always room for more. After receiving feedback from various people around and the project update report. We are now working towards implementing those helpful ideas and knowledge to make our project better. Some of our next steps include:

  • Growing our social media platforms and increasing our following to really spread awareness of what we’re doing.
  • Hosting other events that encourage people to thrift more like a fashion runway to showcase our products so far.
  • We also want to measure the impact of our project by conducting another survey similar to the one we did at the beginning of our project to collect more data.
  • Finalize our project by finishing some last steps to our thrift store, such as some website details and collecting more donations.

This, however, doesn’t mean that we plan on putting an end to our project. We believe in proceeding beyond what is in front of us and continuing our work so that we can further achieve more of our objectives and goals, as well as create new ones. All for which, to help make a change in the world we live in, regarding the Fast Fashion industry. We definitely encourage you to join us in this journey toward sustainability and help us save the environment around us with passion and determination as part of the youth!