5 ways that our shopping habits are contributing to climate change
The fashion industry is one of the biggest industries in the world, but it is also a big contributor to climate change. Fast fashion is extremely prominent in our society. Fast fashion allows us to affordably keep up with the latest high-fashion trends and designs. The fashion industry mass-produces the latest trends for a low cost to be able to bring them to retail stores rapidly, while demand is at its highest. This makes the fashion industry tremendously profitable. However, this damages our planet.
How often do we think about how our purchases can damage the environment?
Fast fashion leads to waste
Today’s customers purchase 60% more clothing than they did 20 years ago. This can be because the price of clothing has dropped, and trends are always changing. Even though this can be a positive thing for consumers, this is extremely detrimental for the environment as companies will reduce textile quality which increases the environmental impact. For the fashion industry to keep up with the ever-changing fashion trends, they have increased their production pace which has led to them using cheaper materials. Ultimately, this shows that the fashion industry is overlooking their effect on the environment.
“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018, 11.3 million tons of textiles were sent to landfills.”
Once a new fashion trend arises then all other clothes are considered ‘old’ and then they are thrown out which increases the amount of waste in our environment. There have been many studies that suggest that during the production of clothing there has been a significant amount of waste being produced.
Fast fashion pollutes clean water
Many fashion companies outsource their work to developing counties which has less environmental guidelines due to cheaper labour costs. As a result of this, these companies contribute to pollution of water and air. It is extremely tough identifying the chemicals used by these companies because of the limited environment regulations the developing countries have. The chemicals used could be tremendously damaging to consumers as well as the environment.
“Many clothes are dyed with chemicals that run off into natural waterways, polluting drinking water and killing aquatic life.”
As human beings we all need clean water to keep us healthy and alive. If our water is being polluted, then this can lead to a poorer quality of life for all.
Fast fashion produces greenhouse gases
From farming or mining raw materials to exporting completed clothing around the world, practically every stage of manufacturing clothing emits greenhouse gases.
The Fashion industry emits more greenhouse gases into the environment in a year then France, Germany and the UK combined within a whole year.
“In total, the fashion industry is responsible for around 4% of greenhouse gas emissions each year.”
Outsourcing is a big contributing factor in these high greenhouse gas emissions. This is because developing countries have less environmental guidelines which means there is no regulations on pollution and the usage of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels is a huge provider to global climate change and can harm the population. If factories allow the use of fossil fuels, then fossil fuels will vent into the atmosphere, ultimately damaging the environment.
Fast fashion encourages abusive systems
Climate change has a direct link to poor working conditions. This is because developing countries which has poor working conditions are the countries which do not protect their raw materials. It endangers human life when these raw materials are not being protected as these materials supports human life. The fast fashion companies who exploit workers are prioritising profit over being responsible for the world around us.
“Although the textile industry employs 75 million people worldwide, it’s estimated that only 2% of these workers are paid a living wage.”
Fast fashion is made to be disposable
Fast fashion rapidly mass-produces clothing at a low cost to get the products to the retailers while demand is high. This results in high profit for the companies. This trend of fast fashion is never-ending as fashion trends come and go extremely quickly which means these companies are constantly brining out new clothing. This damages the environment as once new fashion trends arise then all other clothing is then considered ‘old’. These old clothing will then be thrown away. All the labour and energy used to create these clothes are being wasted as these clothing will inevitably become waste and then be buried or burned.
What can customers do?
Us, as customers, are unable to adjust how the fashion industry operates but we can reduce our own contribution to climate change. We can do this by shopping sustainably. There are many ways to shop sustainably, such as by recycling or giving away our old clothes as well as purchasing second-hand clothing. Climate change is a real problem and fast fashion is not helping us protect our planet.