Fast fashion brands have gained popularity because of their affordable and convenient collections: however, within the last few decades, a new sustainability-focused fashion line emerged with Gen Z’s efforts and environment-friendly approaches.
Gen Z is known for shedding light on all eco-friendly topics, including sustainable fashion. Unlike fast fashion, the vision behind sustainable fashion is to preserve the environment and help local communities.
Who is GEN Z?
Generation Z, also known as Gen Z is the generation born between 1997 and 2012. In the next thirty years, Generation Z will shape how the world looks and what values are promoted. In other words, how this younger generation responds to critical challenges such as climate change and global warming will determine our planet’s future.
Does Gen Z care about sustainability?
Gen Z is emerging as the sustainability generation: most of Generation Z prefer environmentally friendly brands and are willing to pay 10% more to buy sustainable items. In fact, 3 out of 4 Gen Z consumers care more about sustainability than brand names when shopping.
Mental Health and Sustainability: A Gen Z Perspective
The discussion of sustainability among Generation Z is not limited to environmental and ethical concerns; it extends into the realm of mental health. For Gen Z, the state of the planet is not just a future concern—it’s a current stressor. This generation is coming of age in a time of climate crises and global uncertainty, which understandably can take a toll on their mental well-being.
The Mental Health Impact of Climate Change
Climate anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent among young people. Witnessing extreme weather events, learning about the accelerating loss of biodiversity, and facing an uncertain ecological future can lead to feelings of helplessness and distress. The term “eco-anxiety” has been coined to describe the chronic fear of environmental doom that many young people experience.
Sustainable Living as a Coping Mechanism
For many in Gen Z, actively engaging in sustainable practices is a way to combat feelings of powerlessness. By taking control of their personal impact on the environment—whether through sustainable fashion choices, reducing waste, or advocating for green policies—they are finding a sense of agency. This proactive stance not only contributes positively to the environment but also provides psychological benefits by instilling a sense of purpose and hope.
The Role of Community and Collective Action
Generation Z is adept at using digital platforms to build communities that share their values and concerns. These communities often provide support and a space to discuss mental health openly. Collective action, whether in the form of climate marches, petitions, or social media campaigns, helps to alleviate individual anxieties by fostering a sense of solidarity and shared action towards a more sustainable future.
The Need for Systemic Support
However, individual actions and community support may not be enough to address the scale of climate-related mental health challenges. There is a growing call for systemic solutions that include mental health support as part of sustainability efforts. This includes educational programs that teach young people coping mechanisms, access to mental health professionals who understand climate anxiety, and incorporation of mental well-being into sustainability policy-making.
Fast fashion and consumerism
Fast fashion refers to clothing lines produced and sold cheaply by retailers corresponding to the latest trends worldwide. We might like the prices of fast fashion brands because of how affordable and cost-effective they are. However, many of today’s popular fast-fashion practices and production lines are harmful to both people and the environment.
Sweatshops and child labor are notorious features of fast fashion production in developing countries. Workers in this industry earn poverty wages, are forced to work in bad conditions, and have even been physically and emotionally abused to keep fast-fashion prices low.
Shopping from fast-fashion brands causes huge damage to the environment, animals, and climate. Half of the fast fashion’s damage to the planet is caused by getting and processing raw materials.
This industry consumes about 100 million tons of oil annually and emits more than 10% carbon dioxide: for example, growing enough cotton in order to produce a single t-shirt requires 400 gallons of water, which increases the water shortage in the world. Moreover, dangerous chemicals are put into the air we breathe when fabrics are dyed and printed.
In short, the garment fast-fashion industry takes a heavy toll on the environment and the people to keep their prices low.
The Psychological Impact of Fast Fashion
The conversation around fast fashion isn’t complete without considering its mental health implications. The pressure to keep up with constant new trends can lead to consumer fatigue and a disconnect from the true cost of our purchases — not just financially, but also in terms of our well-being and the environment. In this era of awareness, Gen Z is confronting the unseen mental load of unsustainable practices and advocating for a fashion industry that supports not only ecological balance but also mental and emotional health.
What is slow/sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is powered by Generation Z: unlike fast fashion, this movement ensures the whole process of producing clothes is sustainable. Gen Z cares more about the process of making the item rather than the price tag: therefore, sustainable fashion companies use recycled, natural, or biodegradable materials and follow ethical labor guidelines.
Fast fashion vs. Sustainable fashion
Slowly but surely, though, it looks like Gen Z is turning the tables on fast fashion: they’re raising awareness about fast fashion’s ethical and environmental harmful effects. Therefore, more people are empowered to shop at sustainable fashion brands, and thrift shopping is getting more popular. Gen Z also empowers sustainable movements, such as the “shop stop” and “no buy” movements.
According to statistics, 70% of adults between 18 and 34 say they are worried about global warming, while only 56% of individuals aged 55 and older say the same. Moreover, a study found that 90% of Gen Z members changed habits in their daily lives to live more sustainably.
One survey showed that 75% of Gen Z wanted to see brands prioritizing employee and consumer safety. In short, this younger generation is making the impossible and pushing the fashion industry to change its unsustainable habits.
How to make Gen Z your potential customer?
Generation Z makes up 20% of the US population and spends $143 billion in direct shopping. If you are still only focusing on millennials, now is the time to start paying attention to the new generation of consumers.
Here are five ways to get Gen Z customers’ attention:
- Make your brand transparent, authentic, and sustainable
- Authenticity is an important factor that influences 23% of Gen Z’s purchase decisions
- Provide high-quality, low-cost products
- In general, 62% of Gen Z consumers say affordability is important to their purchase decisions
- Make certain that your brand has a strong presence on social media platforms
Unlike any other generation, Gen Z purchases a lot of stuff through social media platforms and likes to engage with their favorite brands.
Show what your brand represents and supports
Gen Z is aware of and involved in politics and other controversial topics, and they want to buy from brands that share their way of thinking and values.
Provide Buy Now, Pay Later options
Gen Z customers care more about flexible payment methods: it’s important to offer BNPL options, like PayPal’s Pay in 4 or other methods with similar approaches.
We hope that the next time you add a new item to your closet, you buy it from a store that cares about our planet and humanity. If you can’t afford ethically made products, consider secondhand shopping or thrifting to shop more ethically and eco-friendly.
Mariam Simmons is a fashion trendsetter and Content Manager at Alpine Swiss. She is a sustainable living enthusiast and she often writes about sustainable fashion to help create real and positive changes in this industry.