What is fast fashion?
The term “fast fashion” has become synonymous with all the errors currently existing in the fashion industry. It refers to the design and manufacturing system, it values quantity over quality, low price over reasonable wages, and speed, trend, and profit over people and the environment. Fast fashion models allow clothing to be produced cheaply and quickly to reflect the evolving trends.
Over the past few decades, this has allowed mainstream consumers to buy popular clothing at affordable prices. According to reports, compared to 20 years ago, the number of garments we buy now has increased by 400% and all these have brought losses to the environment. Following housing, transportation, and food needs, the production and sale of clothing is the fourth most important pressure on natural resources.
So how is fast fashion actually affecting the environment?
Carbon dioxide emissions
It may not surprise you to learn that fashion is a huge divergent! It is estimated that clothing accounts for more than 5% of global CO2 emissions [common target]. In 2015, the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions reached 1.2 billion tons, more than all international flights and maritime transport combined.
A large amount of water is used for fiber growth, refining, and processing. Cotton is one of the most common non-food crops in the world, and it is a particularly resource-intensive crop. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the cotton required to produce a shirt requires approximately 2,700 liters of water (not to mention the land required to grow it!).
Most of this water comes from “blue” water sources-surface objects such as lakes and rivers. Over time, this may have a devastating effect on the water supply of local communities and even lead to the partial disappearance of the Aral Sea. Usually, in the textile industry [Fashion Revolution], up to 200 tons of water are used per ton of fabric-this is very necessary for finishing processes such as dyeing.
The fast fashion industry has also released many dangerous and polluting chemicals that endanger the health of farmers, factory workers, and the surrounding environment. Farmers all over the world rely on pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides to produce high-yield crops in demand.
Cotton is a good example-according to the British Pesticide Action Network, “[non-organic] cotton crops account for 2.4% of the world’s arable land, but use 6% of the world’s pesticides, more than any other single major crop.” (Textile Trade So). Excessive use of these chemicals threatens biodiversity (especially among pollinator species), ecological balance, and the health of nearby communities.
At various stages of the product life cycle, a large number of garments produced worldwide cause millions of tons of fabric waste. Currently, only 20% of textiles are recycled, and less than 10% of garments are made into new garments every year. It is estimated that the fashion industry produces about 13 kilograms of waste for everyone on the planet every year-equivalent to land larger than France!
Clothing is also the main cause of the little-known but equally worrying problem of microfiber pollution. After the synthetic fibers are washed, they release millions of hair-like strands that go directly into the sea through the wastewater treatment plant.
What can we do as individuals?
Consider quality better than quantity-buy less! It is best to buy less and better quality clothes! If the idea of a capsule wardrobe is too extreme, then next time you go to the store, try a test of 30 garments.