Climate Change: The Basics Explained
Fast fashion & its dangers
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is the fashion we are surrounded by every day. It is the business model of replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs.
This is done by mass-production at the lowest possible costs and bringing these products to stores when demands are at their highest. These trends are rapidly changing, aided by social media.
What are the dangers of fast fashion? Why is it so bad?
- Poor quality of goods
In order to keep the prices of these goods low, they are made from cheap, synthetic materials. They have little structural integrity and will often not last longer than one season. After a few wears they tend to end up in landfills.
- The Social Impact
To keep production efficient and prices low, these goods are often produced in low-income countries, by individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.
The working conditions for these workers are extremely dangerous, where workers are forced to work long hours in cramped, poorly constructed areas. They are paid extremely low wages, especially when put in comparison with the large amounts of profit these multi-million corporations make.
In addition, they are afforded little job security, as there is such a large pool of unemployed individuals in low-income countries. Due to an incredibly globalised world, these products produced in countries such as Bangladesh and India are transported to high streets in London, New York, and Milan in a matter of hours.
According to a report by the US Department of Labor, there is evidence of forced and child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, and other countries.
The capitalistic need to provide rapid production for high consumption demands means that sales and profits are more important than human welfare.
A good example of this ignorance of human welfare is in the poor working conditions of fast fashion labourers. In 2013, an eight-floor factory building, where several garment factories were housed collapsed in Bangladesh.
This catastrophe killed 1134 workers and injured over 2500 individuals. Fast fashion corporations specifically target low-income, developing nations as areas to develop the garment industry because of the easy access to cheap labour, vast tax breaks, and lenient laws and regulations when it comes to human welfare.
- The environmental impact
Almost every aspect of the fast fashion industry is riddled with environmental complications.
The production process of fast fashion is incredibly energy intensive.
Water: The fast fashion industry uses 79 trillion litres of water annually, with numbers having skyrocketed within the last decade. In addition, the industry contributes to roughly 20% (⅕) of global industrial wastewater. Overall, the industry uses 4% of the total freshwater extraction worldwide.
At the same time, an estimated 26% (~¼) of the world’s population does not have access to fresh water. Water is used in nearly every aspect of the production process, from dying and printing to processing.
The industry requires approximately 700 gallons to produce one cotton t-shirt and 2000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans.
Textile dyeing, which is a crucial step in fast fashion, is the world’s second-largest polluter of water sources. This is because the water leftover from the dyeing processes is often dumped into ditches, streams, or rivers. The water in these sources then becomes dangerous to drink or use for most purposes.
Greenhouse Gases and Toxic Chemicals: The fashion industry comprises about 10% of total carbon emissions, as much as the European Union. Pesticides, for example, which are required in the production of cotton and other textiles are an increasing source of pollution in our environment.
Because these goods are produced so cheaply, consumption is one of the largest issues that face the fast fashion industry. People are able to purchase clothes without having to worry about the environmental repercussions it has.
Energy: The transportation of goods from the places they were produced into the retail stores results in the expenditure of lots of energy. Transporting the goods by aeroplane, one of the most common methods, is extremely polluting. Planes are the most carbon-intensive mode of transportation.
- Getting rid off
In the process of getting rid of, and using these products the pollution of our environment continues.
Microplastics: Fast fashion brands often use cheap fibers like polyester, nylon, and acrylic which take hundreds of years to biodegrade. The laundering of such synthetic textiles results in a large amount of pollution of microplastics in our oceans.
A 2017 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that 35% of all microplastics in the ocean come from the laundering of these very synthetic textiles.
Landfills: Not only is there a large amount of consumption in the fast fashion industry, but there is also a large amount of waste that results from this overconsumption. It is estimated that the average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste every year.
A large proportion of this waste ends up in landfills, polluting our environment. The burning of such waste releases toxic greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, which creates global warming.
The greenhouse gases released from this process are toxic mainly because these products are made largely from synthetic fibers, which have large amounts of plastic in them.
What is the solution? What can we do?
One obvious solution is to reduce our consumption demands for fast fashion products. It is important that we, as a society, shift our focus away from trends and cheap goods and invest in timeless, well-constructed pieces.
It is important to choose brands that are consciously using sustainable practices and prioritize the rights of their workers.
However, cutting out fast fashion consumption is not completely viable. In this case, buy pieces that seem durable, that will last you longer than one season, and that will bring you genuine satisfaction and joy.
In addition, seek pieces that are personalized or unique, as this will prevent you from discarding them quickly.