Blog: The effects of fast fashion
Most people know that over-consumption is problematic for the environment. Clothing is no exception, but we still buy loads of it. Suggesting that everyone stops buying new clothes is unrealistic, but we can make a big difference by being more conscious of how our actions affect the planet and by making better choices.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is an approach in the fashion industry that speeds up the design, creation and marketing of clothing, shoes and accessories – to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. The rate of new seasons and trends is so fast that it makes people feel “out of trend” quickly after purchase. Fast fashion retailers launch new “micro seasons” almost every week, instead of the traditional approach of two seasons per year: spring/summer and fall/winter. Their goal is to get consumers to buy as much as possible, as fast as possible. In addition, fast fashion is usually of lower quality and will therefore not last long, strengthening the need to buy more.
Fast fashion – the figures
According to EURATEX, the clothing and textile industry has the second biggest impact on the environment. Enormous amounts of water, energy and chemicals are used in the production of clothing, and it’s estimated by McKinsey that making 1 kg of fabric generates on average 23 kg of greenhouse gases. The EPA has found that 150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually, and Americans alone throw away 14 million tons of garments each year. That’s equivalent to over 36 kg per person.
Most of these items end up in the landfill or an incinerator, releasing harmful toxins and CO2 emissions as they break down or burn. A lot of the garments also never break down, adding to the great amounts of garbage already in landfills.
As a society, we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did only 20 years ago. Not only is our over-consumption destroying our planet, it’s also undermining the human rights of the people making our clothing. Millions of people are working in unsafe sweatshops, earning practically nothing – particularly in the fast-fashion industry, where clothing prices are kept low.
What can we do?
Recycling garments is an option; however, the mixture of fibers makes this difficult. Donating clothing is also better than throwing away – but since many charities receive too much clothing, a lot of what they receive is also sent to the landfills. The solution is therefore to buy better, buy less and reuse!
- Buy better: You can help the environment by buying higher quality clothing that will last several seasons. Choose garments made from fibers such as organic cotton and wool, and buy from sustainable brands such as Veja, Reformation, Matt & Nat, Birdsong and People Tree. Gather & See is an internet-based store that offers the very best from sustainable fashion around the world. It’s worth checking out.
- Buy less: Go through your closet, get a clear picture of what you have and use more of it. You probably have some hidden treasures in there that you totally forgot about. Stop buying items just because they are on sale. After you start buying higher quality clothes you’ll need to buy less anyway, because the few items you buy will last a lot longer.
- Reuse: Lastly, reuse old clothing. Can you sew a torn shirt or patch old jeans? Maybe you have some friends that would be up for a clothing swap, or you can check out your nearest second-hand store. You’ll not only save money, but you can also find some cool and unique items. If you are keen on not only saving money but earning a little too, you can sell your old clothes to someone who will appreciate them more. Try out apps like Poshmark, Depop and Tise, that make selling and buying used clothing really simple.
We definitely have a long way to go, but once we stop seeing clothing as something to be thrown away, we are one step in the right direction. The more we demand conscious clothing instead of fast fashion, the faster sustainability will become profitable and companies will follow.