Bedales students join fight against fast fashion

Posted on 04th October 2019

Bedales students have been challenged to ‘make do and mend’ in the lead up to Christmas in a bid to help tackle the environmental impact of fast fashion.

The challenge follows the launch of an on-site clothes swap shop – the Bedales Clothes Shop – which enables students, staff and parents to donate items of clothing they no longer want or need, as well as pick up ‘new’ clothes for free.

Every item of clothing in the shop, which operates from the school’s Sports Centre on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, has been pre-owned, pre-worn and pre-loved, and now awaits a new lease of life.

The initiative was set up by Bedales parent Lucy Ogilvie-Grant, who was motivated to launch a project to address the environmental impact of so-called ‘fast’ fashion, which sees mass-market retailers rapidly produce inexpensive clothing in response to the latest trends.

Speaking recently to Block 3 (Year 9) students about the project, Lucy explained that more than two tonnes of brand new clothing are bought every minute in the UK, yet the throwaway culture fuelled by fast fashion sees 11 million garments end up in landfill every week.

Recent research published by Oxfam revealed that buying just one new white cotton shirt produces the same emissions as driving a car for 35 miles – and the emissions from all the new clothes bought in the UK each month are greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times.

Fast fashion is also accused of exacerbating exploitative working conditions for cotton farmers and garment workers. In India, the promised success of genetically modified cotton turned to failure following severe pest attacks and a subsequent rise in production costs, leading to huge debts for small-scale cotton growers – and over 7,000 cotton farmer suicides between 2006 and 2011. Elsewhere, in Xintang in China’s Guangdong province, around a quarter of a million poorly paid garment workers produce a third of the world’s denim – a staggering 300 million items every year – to the detriment of their health, with industrial pollution in the town among the worst in the world.

Bedales students have now been challenged to ‘make do and mend’ and avoid buying brand new items of clothing, with three end points: half term on 23 October, the Whole School Dance on 28 November, and Christmas Day. Instead, they have been encouraged to pick up second-hand items of clothing at the Bedales Clothes Shop or charity shops in Petersfield.

This week also sees delivery of three refurbished Elephant bikes to provide a new environmentally friendly transport for Bedales students and staff. Elephant bikes are old Royal Mail postal bikes which have been professionally restored. For every Elephant bike sold in the UK, a second bike will be donated to its social enterprise based in Malawi, where owning a bike means individuals can secure work, generate an income and access an education.

Head of Bedales Magnus Bashaarat said: “Given our students choose what to wear to school, the Bedales Clothes Shop is particularly apt. These new initiatives will raise the profile of sustainable living. I hope they will encourage everyone at the school to question their own impact on the planet and how they can respond to the environmental challenges we all face.”