Carrie Yu and her partner Joe Harvey have created a zero-waste shop found in China, the Bulk House, where their customers are encouraged to buy items that will contribute to their sustainable lifestyle. Her store features items made with organic materials and allows her clientele to exchange unwanted clothing for a new piece.
China, which had already started to exceed the global average consumption of new clothes (5kg per person) in 2014, is a concern for the growth of waste and pollution associated with the textile and clothing industries. A 2017 study show that around 40 per cent made compulsive purchases more than once a week and about half of consumers buy more than they can afford.
Xenia Sidorenko, the founder of UseDem, a brand that reuses used jeans to create backpacks, says such shopping habits make eco-friendly fashion a tough sell and customers are worried about the use of second-hand clothing.
Fast fashion brand, H&M, has collected over 61,000 tonnes of garments globally for its clothing recycling programme with more than 2,200 tonnes of clothing collected in China.
H&M spokesman said that more and more Chine were joining the programme each year.
Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has also launched a recycling program and collected over 1.3 million pieces of clothing since. JD also donates clothes to local charities and collects donations from online shoppers’ home for free.
“We think participants’ passion and key motivation is to help people in poor areas, especially elderly people and children, but our customers on JD are paying more attention to sustainability than ever before.” Says Libo Ma, head of the corporate social responsibility department.
However, critics of giant retailers say the companies should be more discouraging of fast fashion and not only be green because it is fashionable to be.
The Shanghai-based non-profit organisation, Feimaye, has over 1.8million fans on WeChat and Weibo platforms which offer posts to inspire low-carbo habits.
“Although in China, it’s especially convenient to simply throw clothes away, we believe many people are willing to help others to the best of their ability,” says Li Xiuqing, a spokesman for the app.
Unfortunately, Feimayi founder believes it is unrealistic to think that we can fundamentally change the way people consume. However, he believes that it is possible to guide them to practise environmental protection.