Girl Scout Juliette and Moorestown High School senior Laila Rehman has received the gold award for her project on fast fashion and the environment.
According to the Scout website, the award goes to a member who identifies and aims to solve a problem within her community, and all Girl Scouts must meet certain requirements to be considered.
“You have to write out a proposal, talking about what kind of issue you wanted to tackle, how we were going to tackle it and how it can be sustained beyond your involvement,” Rehman said. “So even when you’re finished with the project, it has to still exist.”
Rehman’s award project focused on raising awareness around fast fashion, which she describes as a broad term for the way consumers buy clothes.
“Americans consumed 60 percent more garments in 2014 than they did in the year 2000, but they only keep them for half as long,” Rehman explained. “The reason why we consume a lot more is, I think a lot of it has to do with online shopping.”
“Also, clothing racks in stores in real life are just being replaced at a much faster rate than they were before,” she continued. “The whole way that clothes are being made has drastically changed throughout the years.”
Rehman works with Cadette Troop No. 27406 in Moorestown and a youth group at a Cherry Hill mosque.
“I found that establishing close relationships with them and learning their names and teaching them was a really good way to foster awareness in young girls,” she said.
Rehman chose fast fashion because of its impact on the environment.
“We used to make clothes primarily with cotton, and now we make them with synthetic materials like polyester because it’s cheaper,” she explained.
Rehman explained that since polyester is made of plastic fibers, every time a piece of clothing is washed, its fibers are shed and get dragged into washing machine fluid, which eventually dumps into the ocean.
“… Because of that, polyester and synthetic fibers are actually the number one contributor to microplastics in our ocean,” she said.
Other issues include pollution in other countries, air and waste.
“A lot of clothes in the world are made in Bangladesh, and when they produce clothes and they use textile dyes and other factory-based manufacturing products and chemicals that dump into their waterways, then they don’t have clean drinking water,” Rehman noted.
“Ten percent of the global emissions comes from fast fashion,” she added. “So I think the number one contributor to carbon dioxide emissions (is) transportation, but right under transportation is literally the fashion industry contributing 10 percent of it.”
Rehman wants her project to inspire others.
“What I hope is that people just have a better idea of the impact that they’re making when they buy clothes … not just buying clothes but downloading online shopping apps … and following brands and making it easier for themselves,” she said.
“They’re making it easier for themselves to be a part of something that’s very unsustainable.”