The new decade has begun. We have made huge environmental improvements in 2019 from banning single use plastics, to NASA announcing that the planet is greener today than it was 20 years ago. But with all these efforts to help the environment, most people aren’t aware of an increasingly problematic issue: fast fashion. Fast fashion is the world’s second largest polluter following behind oil. The fast fashion industry creates around 5% of global emissions, 20% of wastewater, and is one of the world’s largest freshwater consumers.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion comes from a process where products are made fairly cheap so it can be mass produced at a fast rate to keep up with what’s in style. These fashion fads are constantly changing so fast fashion retailers can put out new styles to pull consumers back to buy more. With new shipments coming in almost daily you would be able to buy new items if you were to go to the store a couple different times in a single week. These fast fashion retailers promote the newest of the new with their high budget marketing creating a social norm for people to constantly shop and shop because it’s cheap. To make this happen 97% of fast fashion clothing is produced overseas where cheap labor is exploited. Depending on the location workers can get paid anywhere between a couple dimes an hour to a couple dollars an hour, working more than 12 hours a day. Over 80% of the workers are female, some of which are children.
What happens next?
In 2014 Greenpeace noted that the average person in North America bought 35 pounds of new clothes and global average of 11 pounds per person. At a steady rate people are buying new clothes, it is predicted that the global average will rise to 24- 35 pounds per person by 2030. That’s a lot of clothes a year being made, bought, and thrown away! Ideally even if we think that buying more clothes is fine as long as we donate our old clothes that will end up in a second home, that doesn’t always happen. Donations that don’t get accepted will go to third party sellers who picks out old clothing salvageable for rags then sends out everything else to developing countries where they also have a hard time trying to sell. 85% of our old clothes end up in a landfill, a percentage being non-synthetic clothing which emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
How can we become more sustainable?
There’s many different ways to approach this, but here’s a few main ones. We can support slow fashion brands! Slow fashion brands focus on quality over quantity so it’s ideally made to last longer. Unlike the fast fashion industry, slow fashion companies have fair wages, smaller carbon footprint, and little to none waste. Another solution is to buy less. Often times we get things because they are on sale/cheap or it looks pretty, but remember to think about if it is something you’d wear out and how often. A third way could be to buy used instead of new. If the demand for fast fashion decreases, fast fashion industries will have to stop producing large quantities in short time spans. Lastly try participating in clothing exchanges. I’ve found some great facebook groups that exchange or resell festival ware. This group is an example of one out of the many exchange groups out there. These are just a few tips that can make a huge impact to lower the damage on the environment. Let’s all hope the slow fashion movement catches on fast!
( info source: 7billionfor7seas, greenpeace, ksltv, nytimes)