We know one reason why you’re here is to shop more sustainably. Humans have a major impact on the planet through what we produce. Each year, the fashion industry makes 80 billion new pieces of clothing—four times the amount we consumed two decades ago. “Fast fashion” describes the process of mass-producing clothing based on trends in high fashion, at a low cost. It’s a highly profitable and exploitative business model, and as you probably know, it’s damaging not only to the environment, but the people involved in the industry.
In this blog we’ll share 4 reasons to avoid fast fashion to live more sustainably.
1. The manufacturing of materials is harmful.
Creating clothing comes at a cost. Almost half of clothing made today uses cotton, and over 90 percent of it is now genetically modified and uses large amounts of water and chemicals. The impact of these chemicals on our land and human health have gone untested but are now being questioned by industry workers. Cotton production is responsible for 18 percent of worldwide pesticide use and 25 percent of total insecticide use.
Leather production is linked to environmental and human health hazards. The amount of food, land, water, and fossil fuels used to raise livestock for leather production cause damage to the environment. The leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, with a 20 to 50 percent greater risk of cancer. The waste generated from the leather industry pollutes natural water sources, leading to increased disease.
The fast fashion industry relies on these materials; avoiding them is better for us and the environment.
2. The amount of textile waste produced by fast fashion is staggering.
Each year, 11 million tons of textiles are thrown into landfills in the US alone. The cheaply priced clothing provided by the fast fashion industry encourages consumers to dispose of them quickly. The average American discards 82 pounds of textile waste annually.
It may seem obvious, but buy what you need. Relying on fashion trends to dictate what you wear every day not only contributes to fast fashion, but compels you to buy more for less. The spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons led by international fashion weeks are just for show. Instead of subscribing to fast fashion, buy higher-quality clothing and fabrics that last longer and that you know you will wear time and time again. The term “slow fashion” is now used to describe this lifestyle.
You can find high quality clothing at second-hand or vintage stores, and many stores allow consumers to consign their gently used clothing for cash back, reducing involvement in the fast fashion cycle.
3. Better materials and options exist.
While the fashion industry has debated the statement that it is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development maintained this is because of the 93 billion cubic metres of water used by the industry annually along with half a million tons of microfibre dumped into the ocean every year—the equivalent of three million barrels of oil. The fashion industry is responsible for more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Azo dyes are still the most used synthetic dyes, despite being toxic. As mentioned in our previous blog, avoid conventional cotton, leather, polyester, nylon, acrylic, and rayon, which all take a toll on our earth’s resources. Try to buy more organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, flax, linen, and Tencel.
Innovations are growing in the plant-based leather sector among other animal-based fabrics, which shows promise for the reduction of harmful materials.
Ten percent of the world’s biggest fashion brands have committed to phasing out toxic substances through Greenpeace’s Detox programme. As consumers, we can demand better of brands so this number can increase.
4. Fast fashion harms workers.
While this has more to do with social sustainability, the deflated cost of clothing for consumers has put the supply chain under unprecedented pressure. Almost all clothing items are made outside of North America by the 40 million garment workers in the developing world, many of whom do not have the rights or protections workers in the West do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world, and roughly 85 percent are women. You do not need to do much research to discover the exploitation of cheap labor and violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world, including the 2012 factory fire that killed at least 117 workers in Bangladesh.
Buy from brands that not only make clothing with safer materials but also support fair trade practices.
Fast fashion is dangerous and unsustainable for the future of our planet and everyone that inhabits it. Besides reducing your role in fast fashion, keep putting pressure on your favorite brands to increase transparency and do better.