The Impact Of Fast Fashion : Why Sustainable Shopping is The Way To Go In 2021
Giant "Fast fashion" clothing retailers like Zara, Mango, and Guess make cheap and fashionable clothing, but real environmental and humanitarian costs come at a very high price. Based on a recent study, the UN Environment Programme named the fashion industry as the second-biggest consumer of water as well as responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions. To put this number into perspective, it's more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Almost everyone knows the meaning of fast fashion, however, most simply don't associate it with big house names like Gymshark River Island, Forever 21, and Topshop. Indeed, all of these brands (and thousands more) are falling into the unsustainable fashion category. The industry is filled with cheap, massed produced clothing that has no durability or quality to them. So, why people feel so compelled to buy them? The sole purpose of the fast fashion industry is to offer as many "trendy" styles as possible for people to use and throw away within a year. Most of the time they come with super affordable price tags, while other times brands like Guess, Fashion Nova, and Massimo Dutti put up a "high quality" front thanks to their overpriced collections.
The term "fast fashion" was first used at the beginning of the 1990s, when Zara launched their first store in New York. The phrase “Fast fashion” was assigned by the New York Times to describe Zara’s mission to "take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores."
Why is Fast Fashion Bad?
Fast fashion contributes to “legal” child laborThomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images
Who actually made our clothes? This question has made thousands of people turn their lives around and adopt an eco-lifestyle. Still, after more than 20 years, the fast-fashion craze has resulted in large corporations and retailers seeking alternative methods in an effort to keep production costs low and to increase the rate of production too.
In 2021, women make up for over 80 percent of textile workers globally, many of whom work extremely long hours overtime for close to no money. Child labor is also present with workers under the age of 18 constituting 60 percent of those who labor in the global fashion industry. In most cases, the sewers work up to 20 hours per day for 1€ in countries like China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
A serious lack of regulation exposes millions of workers to hazardous work environments where we frequently see death and injuries happen.
“Between 70 to 80 kids in every village, such as Punjab, they found severe mental retardation and physical handicaps. And mothers and families are patiently waiting for their children to die, as they cannot afford a treatment either.” Barbara Briggs, director of the Institute for Labor Rights, explains during her interview in The True Cost documentary.
Fast fashion chemicals
Clothes are, more often than not, sprayed with formaldehyde to prevent wrinkling during shipping. Extensive exposure to this chemical can cause severe allergic reactions along with numerous skin irritations. Each piece of clothing made from synthetic materials is produced using toxic chemicals. Although fast fashion consumers are constantly around these dangerous chemicals, textile workers are the most exposed to them, thus they are actively effecting their health. Extended contact with these toxins over a period of time can cause cancer.
Water consumption, earth pollution & landfields
According to klow.co "On average, 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced each year and a pair takes up to 7,000 liters of water to be made. It takes up to 2,700 liters of water to make a single shirt. Over 1.5 million tons of hazardous chemicals, which permanently impact the environment, are used in the production of these clothing. Chemicals such as azo dyes, NPEs, and toxic perfluorinated substances are carcinogenic to animals and humans. In total, up to 20 percent of global water pollution can be attributed to the clothing industry."
- We purchase over 80 billion pieces of new clothing each year.
- We buy a 400% more than two decades ago.
- Only Americans throw the rubbish 82 pounds of textile waste each year. Massive amount regarding that 11 million each year of textile waste is from the U.S.A only.
- Most of this waste is non-biodegradable sitting in the landfill for 200 years or more, releasing harmful gases into the air.
The fashion industry has already produced double the amount of clothing we need to dress every single person on earth, therefore we surely don't need any new ones. Constantly buying clothes will only harm the environment even more, not to mention the waste of resources. In the US alone, clothing landfills occupy more than 125 million cubic yards each year and the worst part is that most of these clothes are made from non-biodegradable materials.
How to avoid fast fashion?
The World Resources Institute suggests that companies need to design, test, and invest in business models that reuse clothes and maximize their useful life. The UN has launched the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion to address the damages caused by fast fashion. It is seeking to ‘halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion’.
There is no need to only buy, you can always sell your clothes as well. That's a great way to make more money for your future second-hand purchases and more room in your closet. Surely there is a piece of clothing gathering dust right now in one of your drawers. That design might be exactly what another person is looking for.
The best way to effectively reducing your consumption of fast fashion is by buying from secondhand sellers like ThredUp Inc. Depop, and Poshmark. Another great solution is renting clothes, sites like Rent the Runway and Gwynnie Bee have been offering the option to keep, swapped or returned your rented clothes.
Slow fashion & Sustainable fashion
With slower production schedules, small-batch collections, and zero waste designs, slow fashion brands aim to reduce the textile waste clogging our landfills. Instead of chasing trends, these brands utilize enduring styles with layering options and create classic and versatile pieces.
The word ‘Sustainability in the context of fashion most prominently refers to the environmental impacts of making (raw material creation, processing, and manufacture), wearing and caring for (use), and the disposal of clothing (end of use).
Choosing clothing that has been produced locally is also a fantastic way to help the environment and minimize your carbon footprint! Garment transport puts out a huge amount of C02, which can be reduced by minimizing the distances during production.
At Summer Saints, we aspire to make the world a better place, by replacing fast and unethical fashion with sustainable and ethical fashion, by producing eco-friendly products on demand. We work exclusively with printing partners that use the latest high-quality printing technologies which creates almost no wastewater and uses much less energy than traditional printing techniques.
We will consider ourselves successful when all the brands out there have adopted our way of producing sustainable and ethical fashion. In order to achieve this we need your help to spread the word. Together, we will be paving the way for other brands to follow in our footsteps.
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