The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Who (or what) are you wearing? It’s a question that most celebrities get asked a lot by reporters when they walk the red carpet of an event. But it is a question that everyone should be asking themselves. You should be considering the impact of your fashion choices on the environment because of how the materials are sourced and the processes they undergo to produce those items of clothing. Would you still make the same fashion choices if you knew all the facts?

Let’s dive into the environmental impact of fast fashion. It is one area that creates a dark cloud that looms over the fashion industry. And it is important to investigate it because the fashion industry is enormous – it accounts for nearly 2% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It also means that fashion is one of the most significant sources of pollution, specifically fast fashion. 

What is Fast Fashion?

While fast food is the unhealthy version of food, think of the same for fast fashion in the fashion industry. It refers to any clothing or fashion product that involves rapid production processes to ensure inexpensive and trendy items of clothing. 

It is called fast fashion because, like fast food, clothes are mass-produced and sold at low prices. These products can be delivered in quantity, even if it means sacrificing quality and sustainability. Fast fashion items are produced rapidly since they have to keep up with the ever-changing fashion trends. 

Fast fashion brands also frequently produce new collections to encourage consumers to buy new items and discard their old clothing. The entire cycle creates an unhealthy habit for the environment. It leads to excess waste and pollution. It is also further complicated by ethical issues, such as poor labor conditions among factory workers who manufacture these items of clothing. 

Chemical-intensive farming for fashion materials.

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

The process of manufacturing clothes alone is already resource-intensive. Natural resources are used and greenhouse gases are emitted. Therefore, it can contribute to climate change, among other impacts on the environment. Despite that, the World Bank claims that fashion and clothing sales will increase 65% by 2030.

But just how bad is fast fashion for the environment? And why do you need to stop supporting it if you want to protect the environment?

  1. Excessive Water Usage

The fashion industry uses excessive quantities of water to manufacture its products. The total water consumption is one-tenth of all water industry usage! To give you an idea, making one cotton shirt takes 3,000 liters of water. For a pair of jeans, it requires 10,000 liters of water and 600 liters of water for a pair of cotton socks. 

  1. Water Pollution

But aside from using water to manufacture clothes, textile dyeing can also damage the oceans. The toxic chemicals from textile dyes subsequently end up in oceans, resulting from the excess wastewater. 

The serious environmental impact of fast fashion industries has prompted many companies to move their production to countries with less stringent environmental regulations. However, allowing these toxic chemicals to end up in the oceans could have serious environmental consequences, especially for marine life.

  1. Plastic Microfiber Pollution

Synthetic materials used in fast fashion can lead to plastic microfibers entering and polluting the oceans. Several manufacturers use synthetic materials because they are cheaper than organic ones. However, they are low in quality and release more carbon emissions than organic materials. 

Plastic also takes more time to degrade, and by the time the plastic breaks down, it has become a toxic substance that harms the marine ecosystem. And when these toxins are consumed by aquatic life, humans could consume them too. A chain of adverse reactions is caused that affects the environment and humans.

Woman wearing sustainable clothing.
  1. Energy Consumption

Aside from water, the fast fashion industry also consumes excessive energy to process the materials and produce clothing. The fast fashion supply chain involves numerous processes that utilize energy and natural resources, from production to transportation. The more energy is used, the more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the environment. But that’s not the worst part of the environmental impact of fast fashion!

  1. Excess Consumption and Clothing Waste

Fast fashion refers to the rapid production of clothing to appeal to consumers who like to buy trendy products. As a result, more clothing is produced to meet the demand. 

Consumers who keep buying these fast fashion items also end up with a ton of items of clothing that they rarely wear. This leads to more clothing waste that could end up in landfill. 

To avoid contributing to the waste in landfills, it is best to donate your clothes instead of throwing them away. Unfortunately, fast fashion items are made of poor quality materials that end up unusable once the owner has grown out of them or the clothes are no longer in trend. 

Final Thoughts

Fast fashion is harming the environment. It is time to put the brakes on excessive clothing consumption to discourage the production of fast fashion items that contribute to environmental pollution and resource wastage. 

It’s a good sign that more clothing manufacturers have taken the sustainable and eco-friendly route by using recycled materials and packaging. Some businesses also employ manufacturing models that enable them to maximize the life cycle of items of clothing or to reuse existing clothing products. 

Consumers have a crucial role to play in this, as well. By making the sustainable choice, you encourage businesses and manufacturers to adopt changes that reduce environmental impact. 

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