Exploring the negative impacts the fashion industry has caused our environment.
Over the last few decades, the importance of looking good has never been greater. This will be due to several reasons, but without doubt, the quick and frighting rise of social media has played a big part in this. On platforms such as Instagram and TikTok it's vital to look good to impress your friends, family, or anyone else who might see your posts, not to mention keeping up with your favourite celebrity looks. This has meant fashion has become a big priority to many. Staying on trend is the difference between likes or no likes, life or death to some people.
So what happens when a fashion trend ends? Well, it’s a swift goodbye to the old clothes and a warm hello to the fresh new batch that most definitely won’t be thrown away in the next month…. Now I’ve certainly been guilty of this at times, and there’s nothing too wrong with that, however, I believe it’s now crucial to understand, on a major scale, the effects of constantly producing cheap “on-trend” clothes and constantly discarding our old clothes when they no longer have a home. This vicious cycle is called fast fashion, and it’s killing our environment.
What is fast fashion?
In short, fast fashion is a term used to describe a business model the fashion industry uses to quickly produce and sell massive quantities of cheap, on-trend clothing. The clothes produced are designed to be affordable and easily disposable to keep customers coming back for new styles. These new trends are so frequent that they can be produced and introduced within a couple of weeks, and due to the low selling prices of these products they are almost always selling out. The downside is the significant social and environmental costs that this process causes. The use of cheap and harmful materials, paired with exploitative labour and poor working conditions should be causing a much bigger uproar of dismay within society.
The environmental impacts fast fashion practices have on our climate
There are many harmful impacts of fast fashion, the most prevalent being:
1. Greenhouse gas emissions: The production of these clothes involves a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, after just a quick google search, the fashion industry is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions. The production, extraction of materials, manufacturing process, and exportation all contribute to these emissions on a huge scale. These gases trap heat in our atmosphere, which is slowly but surely increasing the heat of the planet, damaging our climate.
2. Chemical pollution: As the manufacturing of fast fashion clothes is so cheap, the production process involves chemicals that are harmful to the environment. These chemicals affect air pollution and water sources which will harm aquatic life.
3. Wastage: With the nature of fast fashion being rapid manufacture and changing trends leads to enormous waste generation. The discarded clothes end up in landfills where they can take years to decompose. Furthermore, as the clothing decomposes it releases methane, a hazardous air-polluting gas that causes 1 million premature deaths every year. Now imagine the sheer volume of discarded clothes that are decomposing as we speak.
These are just some of the effects that we as humans are forcing our environment to deal with. All in the name of looking trendy. The problem is, our environment can't handle it. Ecosystems are dying, the planet is getting hotter, and all the fashion industries care about is the next up-and-coming trend. This is something we need to stop, we must stop.
How can we reduce the effects of fast fashion?
Stopping fast fashion will require a collective effort from individuals and the fast fashion industry. Fortunately, there are many things that we can do.
As consumers, we can reduce clothing consumption by only buying clothes we need. Investing in higher quality clothing will mean that clothes last longer, and looking for second-hand options will reduce the amount of clothing that is wasted. Even if you buy just one item from a second-hand retailer, you will be helping the environment. In fact, major retailer Zara has already implemented a program called Closing the Loop which gives people the opportunity to drop off used items so that their clothes can gain a second life. This is a positive step in breaking the cycle of fast fashion and provides a sustainable model other fashion retailers should follow.
Another way to reduce the harsh impacts is by supporting sustainable fashion brands, with ethical production practices. This includes looking for eco-friendly materials and companies with low waste generation. This will put an end to the cheap and harmful production facilities that many fashion retailers use. Finally, we must come together and demand change from fashion companies, calling them out on any unsustainable production methods. This will force them to change. Look at what Zara has implemented, and demand others to follow in their footsteps. By taking these actions, we as individuals can come together collectively and do our bit to reduce fast fashion and help fight against climate change. Our environment has been screaming at us to change, and it’s time to listen.