We all know the impacts of fossil fuel and disposable plastic bags on the earth’s atmosphere. The environmental cost of fast fashion, on the other hand, is less obvious.
What harm could your innocent wardrobe pose to the planet?
You would be surprised to know that the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of global water waste and 10% of global carbon emissions. That’s more than all the international flights and maritime shipping combined!
The textile waste ends up in a landfill. Since more than 60% of fabric fibers are synthetic, they don’t decay but keep growing over. On the other hand, manufacturing and washing synthetic fabrics add to water pollution.
It’s like the fate of humanity is in the hand of the fashion industry and it’s playing ball with that!
In this article, we will discuss the environmental cost of fast fashion and seven ways to reduce your fashion footprint without compromising style!
What is Fast Fashion?
The term fast fashion is used to define a very profitable business model. It’s based on bringing inexpensive and trendy wearables inspired by catwalks and designer clothes. Fast fashion is focused on making fashion trends quickly, easily, and cheaply available to the masses.
The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion
It’s awesome to know that you can purchase an expensive trendy design from a retail store at a reasonable price. That’s only until you realize the environmental cost of fast fashion!
Did you know?
Over 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. An average of 21 Billion tons of textile easter, enough to fill the Sydney harbor annually.
However, waste is not the only environmental cost of fast fashion. From its agricultural impacts to mass production and textile waste, fast fashion is contributing largely to climate change. And not in a good way!
The process of how clothes are made is complex. Let’s take a look at the environmental impacts of fast fashion and how each step adds to global warming.
Water is the world’s most valuable resource. We can’t survive without water. Now, every major country in the world is inching towards day zero unless we substantially decrease our water use.
You must be thinking why are we talking about water instead of fashion? Here’s why!
About 70% of the freshwater goes into the agricultural industry (in most regions). To create garments, we need cotton, which requires massive amounts of water to grow. Each cotton shirt that you wear takes about 27,000 liters of water.
Cotton production consumes about 1.5 trillion of water and contributes to 0.3% to 1% of global warming. With the rise of fast fashion, we need to grow more crops leading to more water usage. All that for something we won’t use more than a few times!
According to Goldman Sachs, water will be the petroleum of the next century. We need to realize the impact of fast fashion on our earth before it’s too late.
Next comes the mass production of garments.
We all like trendy clothes, and when it’s available at a reasonable price. Who doesn’t buy? But the clothes go out of style within a few weeks.
The textile industry producing mass clothing also produces bulks of waste. Chemicals used in dyes contribute to elevated discharge resulting in water pollution.
On the other hand, polyester production releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton. Polyester is one of the most popular textiles. It doesn’t break down and also contributes to plastic pollution in the oceans.
Take a moment and think,
Where do the clothes go when you dump them?
Trends change fast and we end up clearing out last season’s clothing from the wardrobe. Most of the textile waste ends up in landfills. On average, the textile industry creates 92 million tonnes of waste annually.
With increased consumption, there is more and more pressure on brands to release new clothing lines. Zara puts out 24 collections per year. Seasonal sales are common and regular too. People keep updating their wardrobes without realizing the fast fashion environmental impacts.
So far, we’ve mostly discussed the production side of the textile industry. The impact of doing laundry on the environment is just as crucial.
Washing clothes has a significant environmental impact. An average American household does nearly 400 loads of laundry, consuming almost 60,000 gallons of water, annually! That was only water usage.
Next comes the microfibers that are released into the water system when we do laundry.
Did you know?
Washing clothes releases millions of microfibers into the water system and ultimately oceans. Microfibers are tiny shreds of plastic from synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, and rayon. Each year, 500,000 tons of microfibers are released into the ocean through the laundry.
And let’s not forget the energy needed to heat the washing machine and run the dry cycle.
What is Bad About Fast Fashion?
In a nutshell, what’s bad about fast fashion is that it brings temporary joy and permanent damage. From the manufacturing process to washing clothes, the whole process is causing harm to the planet.
In the fast mantra, the environmental and social impacts are often ignored. Fast fashion pollution is adding to global warming and climate change. However, it’s not too late to make some lifestyle changes and turn the whole thing around! The question is how?
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow fashion is the opposite and a reaction to fast fashion. It focuses on designing, creating, and purchasing clothes with quality and longevity in mind.
The word slow describes taking a slower approach to fashion while ensuring fair wages, lower carbon footprint, slower production rates, and (ideally) zero waste.
Slow Fashion Movement
Before the industrial revolution in the 1700s, garments were produced locally. People used to buy clothing that was durable and reflected the culture of the place. With the rise of fast fashion, individuals started going for trendy instead of durable.
The modern slow fashion movement aims to bring back the good old ways. It emphasizes the art of making clothes and taking time to ensure everything is fair and eco-friendly.
The slow fashion movement has gained increasing support in the last decade. Consumers are becoming aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion, and moving towards a sustainable lifestyle.
Eco-fashion or eco-friendly fashion is the new black!
This brings us to slow fashion brands. If you’re wondering what clothing brands are sustainable, then here are a few great slow fashion brands to start:
- Lucy and Yak
- House of Sunny
- SZ Blockprints
- Bare Closet
- We are we wear
- Frank’s London
PS. that’s only a few slow fashion brands. There are so many other options when you explore the market.
Being fashionable shouldn’t be hard on the environment.
Slow Fashion Vs. Fast Fashion
7 Ways to Reduce Your Fashion Footprint
Now, you must be thinking of ways to reduce your fashion footprint. An excellent idea indeed and not very difficult!
Here are seven ways to reduce your fashion footprint without compromising style!
1. Buy Clothes from Sustainable Clothing Brands
In the last decade, more and more fashion brands are considering fast fashion alternatives. With the expanding market, it’s easier than ever to opt for sustainable clothing brands.
Before buying anything, take a few minutes to look up the brand online. Most people shop online, so it’s even easier. Just pop a new tab and search the history and ethics of the brand.
The question here is,
What is an ethical company?
An ethical company is one that pays fair wages to its workers and tries to manage its eco-footprint. To put it simply, you’re looking for transparency. The more transparent the business is, the better!
We know that it’s easier to buy cheaper, but remember, it’s better to leave this planet a better place than to buy more clothes!
Fast fashion prompts unfair working conditions and wages. By choosing sustainable clothes, you’re not only contributing to the environment but also helping the people.
2. Buy Better Quality Clothes
Most trendy clothes are not exactly made to last. They’re not comfortable, nor practical. Clothes are so cheap now, that we no longer care about the quality. It’s easier to buy new dresses than to maintain the old ones.
Buying better quality clothes will save you the disappointment a couple of months later. An inexpensive piece of clothing will tear up easily, fade, or have holes. Whereas, quality fabric has a long life.
When we stop buying low-quality garments, brands will start putting quality over quantity. Don’t forget, the brands need us. We don’t need them!
3. Donate Clothes
If you’re done with your wardrobe, then why not donate it? This way, you’re doing something nice for the less fortunate, while reducing your fashion footprint.
More than half the clothes we throw away can be worn again. Wearing your old outfits can make someone very happy and more beautiful.
So, find a charity near your place and give your old outfits a new home.
Some great charities for donating clothes are:
- Salvation Army
- St Vincent de Paul
- Project G.L.A.M
- Room to grow
- The Arc
4. Buy Second-Hand Clothes
Buying second-hand stuff is not a new concept. You can find physical and online stores everywhere around the world. These stores sell second-hand items including clothes at a reasonable price. You can find anything from the cheapest to branded clothes.
Buying second-hand not only reduces your fashion footprint but also gets you a great deal!
5. Rent Clothes
If you need multiple dresses and thinking about how to avoid fast fashion, then try renting instead of buying!
Renting clothes is gaining popularity very fast. With people photographing everything, you need a lot of clothes. And the best place to get that is a cloth rental.
Renting clothing is a great option, especially ones that you won’t be wearing for long like party wear, pregnancy clothing, and baby clothes.
Some companies also offer a monthly fee to renew your wardrobe. You can swap clothes, find new trendy outfits, and stay in touch with fashion. All that without leaving a massive fashion footprint!
6. Air Dry Clothes
We know that doing laundry is adding to water pollution but how about running dryers? Most people prefer to run a dry cycle in the washing machine instead of air drying.
Air drying the clothes reduces the amount of heat used to do the laundry. It also gives your clothes a fresh, clean smell and increases their life cycle. This way you can avoid the wear and tear in the dryer, and your outfits look newer for a long time.
Yes, it takes a little longer to air dry, but considering the environmental impacts, it’s really not that bad!
7. Buy Less
The simplest fast fashion solution is to buy fewer clothes and reduce your carbon footprint. Even the most eco-friendly and green brands use resources that impact the environment. And let’s not forget the costs of production and transportation.
The issue here is that we’re used to buying more clothes. It makes us happier, but if something is ruining our homes, then it’s time to get rid of it!
The Solution to Fast Fashion
Reducing your fashion footprint is not a one-time thing. Rather, it’s a life-long struggle of keeping things in check to preserve the environment.
Everyone loves style, but you don’t need to follow trends to be stylish! According to Lauren Hutton:
Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers; style is what you choose! – Lauren Hutton
Let’s favor style and sustainability, over fashion! Look for fast fashion alternatives and look classic in your chic attire. It’s possible to avoid fast fashion and still be glamorous!
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