Detrimental Effects of the Growing Fast Fashion Industry

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast Fashion (also known as disposable fashion) is categorized as quick catwalk-to-store clothing that is generally inexpensive and trendy. The industry boomed in the early 2000s as consumers flocked towards brands like Zara, TopShop, Mango and Forever 21 for contemporary and chic clothing. 

The hidden cost of this flourishing industry is the massive carbon footprint, water contamination and livestock damage it leaves in its wake.

Glenn Schlossberg: The Effect of Globalization on Fast Fashion | by Glenn  Schlossberg | Medium

Impacts of Fast Fashion

1. Overuse of toxic chemicals

The bright prints and fabrics that catch our eye on clothing racks are actually one of the biggest water pollutants on the planet as they make up roughly 20% of global water pollution (UN Environment program).

1.5 million tons of hazardous chemicals are used to make these garments each year, which are highly carcinogenic for animals and humans alike. 

Fast Fashion Brand Slammed for Toxic Dyes - peppermint magazine

3. Carbon footprint

In addition to its harmful impact on aquatic life, synthetic polyester emits around 3 times carbon dioxide than other fibers such as cotton, making the environmental impact go through the roof (Blabel).

A Spotlight on The Clothing Industry and Its Impact on Our Oceans - AltaSea

The ballooning demand for and consumption of fast fashion also gives way to mass production, which gives out fumes and causes air pollution like no other industry. It is predicted that if change is not brought about, the fashion industry would use up a quarter of the global carbon budget by 2050 (UN Environment program).

3. Dumping in Landfalls

To make room for new clothes that best fit into ongoing trends, customers regularly discard old clothes from your closet. The average American buys roughly 60 new pieces every year as the landfills and garbage dumps mount up with the old ones. 

The polyester ensures that these clothes do not degrade for around 200 years, and the microplastics it releases often plays a hand in polluting neighbouring areas. 

Fashion Kills: The Seamy Underpinnings of the Fast Fashion Industry

4. Treatment of Labour

While people are generally pleased with the swiftness with which clothing from the runways makes it to the stores (and with cheap prices no less!), the exploitation of workers behind this goes unnoticed. The fast fashion industry reeks of unfair labour practises with ridiculously long hours, child employment and unfair treatment of workers. 

Exploitation and sweatshops are at the core of fast fashion: It's time to  dismantle the system | Living
(Credit: A.M. AHAD/AP)

In order to take advantage of lower labour costs, companies outsource their production to foreign countries where the workers have to face brutal working conditions with no ventilation and unsafe buildings. The situation is so horrible that the European Parliament referred to the employees in the garment industry in Asia as “slave labour” (Sustain Your Style)

How Can I Fight Fast Fashion?

Buy less and buy better! Eco-friendly brands such as Thought Clothing, Everlane, H&M Conscious, Levi’s, Reformation,  Patagonia and People Tree are increasingly utilizing healthier and sustainable production methods. Even though you might be spending a bit more, it would not be at the cost of the planet. 

Following the 30-wear pledge is also an effective method; it’s simply carried out by asking yourself whether or not you will wear a piece of clothing 30 times before buying it. It was popularized by actress and activist Emma Watson.

Experts also urge buyers to investigate and invest time into studying the materials used in the clothes being bought. Generally, organic materials such as linen, hemp and cotton are a good bet while synthetic materials are a no-no. 

Lastly, buy second-hand! Shopping at vintage shops or charities is a great way to recycle old clothing. You could even participate in clothing swaps with friends and family!

How to Buy Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Clothing on a Budget



Feature Image: BBC Earth

Suhani Agrawal

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