Fast fashion has altered how individuals purchase and discard clothing as it offers affordable, widely accessible, and trendy items. Fast fashion has become a prominent business model by offering vast amounts of clothing at low prices, which has driven up consumption of clothing. You would think that sounds great, so what could be the problem?
There are many problems with fast fashion that many people are unaware of. When clothing prices fall, their quality deteriorates, creating ethical and sustainable problems. The most recent business model to exacerbate the effects of climate change is fast fashion. The fashion supply chain must be changed before it's too late as it is the third most polluting industry of the global economy.
The world's most well-known brand is currently Shein. Every day, they upload thousands of new styles to their website. They're one of the greatest causes of excessive clothes consumption and environmental waste. H&M is the second-largest clothing retailer with 3,500 stores and is considered one of fashion's biggest polluters. Along with being accused of greenwashing, H&M has had window displays with the words "climate crusader" and "eco-warrior" on them.
Say no to greenhouse gasses
It may surprise you that more greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the fast fashion industry than by international shipping and aviation put together.
The World Economic Forum ranked the fashion industry and its supply chain as the third-largest polluter in the world in 2021. 10% of the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions are released there, on average. The industry releases 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. The overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions is expected to rise by 50% by the year 2030.
Fast fashion contributes to climate change in part by producing waste garments and textiles. 57% of used, unwanted, and discarded clothing is disposed of in landfills, whether it is because it is out of fashion or because it no longer fits. As clothing degrades in landfills it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, three out of five fashion items end up in a landfill.
Waste not, want not
Water is the basis of all life, however the world's freshwater resources are depleting at an alarming rate. For its own survival, the fashion industry is extremely reliant on water.
Cotton production is one of the factors that contributes to the large water consumption. Almost 75% of clothing, including everything from t-shirts to socks, is made of cotton. Yet, the global production of cotton requires over 250 billion tonnes of water yearly, which is a significant water use. 2,700 litres of water—enough to supply a person with water for 2 1/2 years—are needed to make just one cotton shirt.
The water footprint of fashion can significantly be reduced by sourcing cotton from verified sustainable farming. According to a 2014 life cycle assessment of organic cotton fibre by Textile Exchange, organic cotton uses 91 percent less water than conventional cotton 13. Additionally, according to research by the Soil Association, switching all cotton growing to organic would result in a 98 percent reduction in pesticide use.
Closing the loop of fast fashion
Fashion produced by sustainable brands is made with the full consideration for both people and the environment, minimising its negative effects whenever possible. The ultimate objective is to create a system that functions without leaving traces behind.
Many companies such as eBay have created ways to sell clothes that consumes less water and energy. Buying and selling pre-loved clothing has significantly benefited the environment, and this is fortunately. growing in popularity - In the year leading up to June 2019, nearly 10,000 new sellers joined eBay with the sole purpose of reselling and recycling their used goods as supply and demand balance one another. Evidently, UK shoppers are much more determined to buy and sell more pre-owned fashion online compared to 5 years ago.
In order to contribute to sustainability, Pretty Little Thing have recently included a marketplace for their brand, so people can buy and sell pieces they no longer wear to minimise waste when it comes to how customers shop and consume clothes. They state that their aim is to make fashion more diverse, inclusive, and less wasteful. By 2030, they hope to achieve carbon reductions aligned by science-based targets equivalent to 52% reduction in emissions. They have also dedicated a section on their website that includes advice on sustainable fashion tips.
Let's Make a Change
Most of us tend to think that buying new clothes is the root to happiness. Perhaps we might want to reevaluate some of the tenets of our way of life. As more and more fashion brands consider the environmental impacts of their production, it is important that consumers also take this into account, and aim to reduce negative effects.
So how can we reduce our Fashion Environmental Impact?
- Buy from sustainable brands: The more we demand sustainable clothing, the more it will be available in the future.
- Think twice before throwing away clothes: donate to friends and family, sell them on Vinted or Depop, or recycle them. One person's waste is another person's treasure
- Upcycle clothing: you can work wonders and give life to an old piece of clothing with just a needle and thread.
Through our purchasing power and sustainable actions, the dynamics and direction of fast fashion are subject to our control. Let's make a change.