The fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries: 8-10% of the worldwide carbon emissions can be attributed to the production of clothes, which also consumes 79 billion liters of water. In the Netherlands, the amount of discarded clothes doubled from 125 kilotons in 1993 to 260.000 kilotons in 2017, and the trend is still rising. One of the causes for this steep rise is the so-called fast fashion phenomenon: cheap clothing, often made of inferior quality, that is designed to wear for a short time. The problem has, among others, its origins in the production of clothes (e.g. type and quality of materials),  the way clothes are discarded, and the massive consumption of these clothes. In this project, the lectorate Psychology for Sustainable Cities (PSC) of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) mainly focuses on the consumer site of fast fashion. 

With the municipality of Almere and two small businesses from Almere, PSC wants to repel the trend of fast fashion. Together, we developed interventions to raise consciousness about sustainable clothing and promote more sustainable clothing choices (e.g. buying less clothes, buy more vintage clothing, etc.) among young people in Almere. 

The current GoCI-project aims to: 

  1. Evaluate the interventions in terms of usability and effectiveness; and
  2. Develop a broader network of like-minded businesses, municipalities, research institutions, and social organizations (especially within the metropolitan region of Amsterdam) to collaborate in future projects. 

For the first aim, we collaborate with UNRAVELAU and Van Loof. With UNRAVELAU (a sustainable fashion designer that also develops school programs about sustainable fashion) we developed a school program. The aim of the program is to teach students about the environmental and societal impact of the production of clothes and help them to develop strategies to make more sustainable clothing choices. With Van Loof (an advice and campaign agency aimed at sustainable projects), we developed a 30-day challenge for youth in Almere to withhold from buying new clothes. For both interventions, PSC provided a general outline of the interventions and the psychological insights and methods to improve the effectiveness of the interventions (based on the literature on sustainable clothing behavior and research conducted by PSC). Financed by the municipality of Almere, UNRAVELAU and Van Loof further developed these broad outlines into concrete and well-designed interventions (based on their knowledge of youth culture, attractive design and effective youth communication). Throughout the process there was a lot of communication between UNRAVELAU, Van Loof and PSC about the correct implementation of the psychological insights and methods in the interventions. This fall we will evaluate the effectiveness (and perceived attractiveness) of both interventions. For UNRAVELAU and Van Loof the collaboration is a good opportunity to make the interventions more evidence-based. Also, we will learn how successful our collaboration with UNRAVELAU and Van Loof was. More specifically, we will learn how successful we were in integrating the skills and knowledge of PSC about effective psychological interventions with the skills and knowledge of UNRAVELAU and Van Loof in creating (online) environments that encourage participation of young people in Almere. 

"Only when all these ‘threads’ are connected, can the fashion industry become truly sustainable."

For the second aim of the project we are currently co-organizing an event at AUAS with CIRCOLLAB where important stakeholders of sustainable fashion are invited to discuss the most important issues concerning sustainable clothing behavior with us. Furthermore, from our own network and that of the municipality of Almere we invite like-minded businesses or experts (from research institutes, foundations and government agencies)  to discuss with us the future of sustainable clothing behavior and what questions they are interested in. We will bring these questions together in a final meeting for all participants of our discussions/ interviews. Also, we will make an overview of existing initiatives within the metropolitan region of Amsterdam that promote sustainable clothing behavior. This could potentially lead to future collaborations on research proposals on sustainable clothing behavior. In this final meeting, we will also disseminate our evaluation of the interventions we co-developed with UNRAVELAU and Van Loof. 

In our investigation of like-minded organizations we so far have noticed that the topic of sustainable clothing creates a lot of enthusiasm among stakeholders. Although many stakeholders do not focus (specifically) on behavioral change, most of them are very much aware of the importance of people's behavior to diminish the environmental impact of clothing. Therefore, we are optimistic about future collaborations in which the different steps of the clothing life cycle (production, consumption, use, reuse/recycling) are addressed. Only when all these ‘threads’ are connected, can the fashion industry become truly sustainable.