Updated: May 19, 2021
Have you ever heard of fast fashion? If you haven't you're not alone. I just recently learned about fast fashion and the impacts it's having on humans and the environment. These impacts were much bigger than expected. Besides, how can my t-shirt from Old Navy be wreaking such unhealthy havoc on the environment? I was in shock by what I found out and now I understand why fast fashion is bad.
So what is fast fashion exactly? Fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing made from low-quality materials that degrade quickly. These are your clothes that don't hold up in the laundry well. Your clothes that stretch out, loosen up or become unrivaled after only a few washes. So you don't wear them very long and then you toss them out to buy something new.
What a waste if you ask me. I like clothes that are going to last me a while especially if I'm going to spend my hard-earned money on them. Fast fashion does not support long-lasting. Fast fashion supports wastefulness.
The One Track Life Of Fast Fashion
Let's talk about the "life-cycle" of fast fashion or the lack thereof. Because in fast fashion there is no cycling. There is just one and done.
The first step is to harvest the materials that will make the clothing. Fast fashion clothing is usually made from polyester that is made from fossil fuels. Cotton is also used in fast fashion. Cotton is good material however, the way that it is made for these specific clothes is not good. There is a ton of water used and nasty pesticides.
After the material is harvested, it is shipped abroad and manufactured. This is because there are less labor and environmental laws. Essentially, these companies can do whatever they want. It doesn't matter the harm they cause. The toxins that are used because of these nonexistent laws harm the workers, water, and wildlife.
Once these toxic clothes are made, they are shipped again to these companies and sold cheaply.
Because these clothes are made cheaply and don't last very long they are worn 35% less than other clothes in a closet.
Then, the purging of the New Year happens. You haven't worn it in a while or don't like the way it fits because the material didn't hold up during your wash cycles. So it's tossed quickly and it ends up in a landfill. 85% of fast fashion clothing ends up in landfills!
Why Is Fast Fashion Bad For The Environment
Fast fashion, the way it is done, and the way people buy them are what contribute to a harmful environment.
Fast fashion is responsible for 10% of greenhouse gases. This is water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Greenhouse gases are contributing to the global warming of the entire planet. These gases are what trap heat and prevent it from going where it needs to go, which is out of here. This is why our planet is warming which is causing icebergs to melt which is a whole other problem.
It produces 35% of microplastics pollution in the ocean. If you are unfamiliar with microplastics, it's little pieces of plastic floating in the ocean that the human eye cannot see. Yes, bigger plastics are causing harm to wildlife but so are these tiny plastics. Marine life is ingesting these tiny plastics and it's harming them. Not to mention once plastic breaks down into microplastic, which takes 450 years, it cannot breakdown anymore. They never go away. Before you know it, our ocean isn't going to be full of healthy water, it's going to be full of toxic plastics. Gross.
It accounts for 7% of ground and drinking water losses and 20% of industrial water pollution. Water should be clean people. It's a natural resource coming from our beautiful Earth. Unfortunately, if this pattern continues our water is not going to be so clean. And the Earth may not be so giving. Especially since we just dump on her all the time.
The Real-Life Cycle Of Sustainable Clothing
Let's compare the life cycle of sustainable clothing to the "life cycle" of fast fashion. Now, sustainable clothing has a legit life cycle. You know, like the life cycle of a butterfly. The circle of life deal.
First, comes the harvest of real materials. Materials that are harvested for sustainable clothing are from low water crops and recycled fibers.
Once the material is harvested, it is driven domestically to be manufactured. Remember fast fashion is shipped abroad. Sustainable clothing is made domestically. This means there are safe labor and environmental laws. People are not harmed by toxins nor is the environment. Companies have standards and they are able to stick to them.
After the clothing is made, it is sold at fair prices and worn by amazing people like you!
Here's the massive difference... these clothes end up in landfills way less than your fast fashion which is at 85% right now.
Sustainable clothing is worn and once someone is done with it, it can be recycled because of the material used. It can also be resold once you've outgrown it because it is not damaged from the wash. It has upheld its shape and it just still looks so amazing. And if you still love the piece so much but it hasn't upheld its shape because it has been washed 1,000 times... it can be given back to the company because they will repair it and give it back as good as new.
This means longer-lasting clothes and money-saving for you!
What Can You Do
Write to companies who participate in fast fashion such as Old Navy. Old Navy has great clothes and it is affordable but it's damaging the environment. Tell them you love them and their products but you can't get on board with what they are doing. Tell them you want better options for you and the environment.
Here's what you can do. Buy fewer clothes but higher-quality clothes. These kinds of clothes will save you money because they last longer and you won't feel the need to have to constantly throw away or replace cheaper clothes.
You can also ask these companies to start offering recycling programs for your old clothes and to start offering repairs or upcycling. That way these clothes aren't going straight to the landfill, they are being reused or recycled.
Owner of SustainaBrain
Brain Health Coach