Issues With Fast Fashion & What We Can Do About It

What is Fast Fashion?

We've all fallen for the big sale sign and bought some cheap article of clothing from some chain store, fast fashion feeds into our hunger for more, new material items fast and at a low cost. After all, how can you resist that new shirt that was only five dollars! People are buying 60% more each year yet only keeping those items half as long before tossing them for newer collections[1].

Why is it an issue?

Growing Cotton

Let's start at the beginning; making clothes is a long process. The cotton that is used in fast fashion uses up an absurd amount of water, in fact, 2,700 liters of water is needed to grow enough cotton for just one t-shirt[2]. Additionally, the cotton used for fast fashion is genetically modified so that it will be resistant to pest, unfortunately this leads to more weeds which require more harmful pesticides because of resistant to standard weed killers, which are responsible to causing cancer in both humans and livestock[3].

Impact on the Ocean

The most popular material of choice, however, is polyester, which is a synthetic material, made up of coal, petroleum, air, and water[4]. The issue with this material is that is has a drastic effect on our ocean. When you wash these garments they shed something called microfibers, which are little tiny strings of plastic yarn. These strings are so fine that they easily pass through wastewater treatments and end up in our oceans where aquatic life such as plankton consume them witch works its way up the food chain to humans.

Toxic Chemicals

In order to get the bright and vibrant colors of the clothes you wear it takes an abundance of toxic chemicals to get that perfect hue of blue, you love so much. After agriculture, Textile dying is the second largest water polluter in the world. These substances build up in workers systems faster than their bodies can metabolize causing a slew of health effects including cancer[5]. In developing countries where environmental laws are not enforced, harmful dyes are disposed of in body’s of water, affecting the ecosystem. For example, China has polluted 70% of their rivers and lakes by dumping 2.5 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters [6].  

Slavery

How do companies get to sell you clothes for so cheap anyway? They use slavery! Because of the demand for fast collections for dirt cheap, companies go overseas to use cheap labor. Employees in these sweatshops work in unsafe, unsanitary conditions for less than a dollar a day; often working 16+ hours others don't even have the freedom to leave the factory where they eat, sleep and live and are subjected to mental and physical abuse- in some cases die from exhaustion, starvation, or abuse, not to mention the fact that they often use child labor[7].These are the lives people live all so the developed world can get a new top for $3. Here are just some companies that still use slave labor:

  •    Walmart
  •    Victoria's Secret
  •    H&M
  •    Forever 21
  •    Urban Outfitters
  •    Aldo
  •    GAP (Old Navy/ Banana Republic)  
  •    Adidas

The list goes on and on.

Tactical Waste

The last issue I wish to bring to light is the sheer (no pun intended) amount of tactical that are thrown into the landfills. According to the EPA, the U.S. throws away 21 billion pounds of textile waste a year[8]. If you donate your used clothes to organizations like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any of your local thrift stores that is great in theory… but to my horror I found out that only 15% of all used clothes in the U.S. actually ends up in those resale stores, leaving 85% to the landfills [9]. This is because our used clothing is coming in faster than they are being bought.

What can we do about it?

Depressing facts got you down? Don't worry; I’m not going to leave it off all negative. Fortunately, knowledge is power, now with this information you are able to make more informed consumer decisions about what you want your money to support and what clothes you want to strut! Here are ways to combat these issues:

 

  • Thrift It

It is significantly cheaper to buy second hand and you can sometimes snag some amazing finds! Some thrift clothes have never been worn before and you can find name brand items for a fraction of the cost.

  • Natural Fibers

If you do shop new look for natural fiber such as Wool, Silk, Linen, Hemp, organic cotton etc these will eventually break down back into the environment unlike synthetic fabrics.

  • Avoid Fast Fashion

The most obvious one is to avoid cheaply made fast fashion, acknowledge that you don't need that top just because it's only $5 even if it's on sale.You can resist, just because you can afford it doesn't mean you need it when you have a closet overflowing with perfectly good items. It will take some time to retrain your brain, but I know that you can do it!

  • Buy Fair Trade & Organic When you Can for new items

When there is something that you can't buy second hand (like underwear for example) or find there are a ton of sustainable clothing companies coming to the surface, it can be a bit more costly but well worth the investment! These items are made to last a long time, can be made from natural fibers (still do your research though) and ensure that the people making your clothes are provided a safe working environment and a fair living wage- no slave labor! Once you become accustomed to quality over quantity it changes the game, you will begin to feel how cheaply and poorly made fast fashion clothing.   

  • Capsule wardrobe

Thanks to the minimalist trend for bringing back capsule wardrobes! This refers to having small (minimal) amount of clothing made up of a few versatile, quality pieces that you LOVE to wear. This mindset helps to train your brain to avoid fast fashion because you only want a few QUALITY essentials that can be layered to create an abundance of different looks, most capsule wardrobes average about 37 items. It is definitely an interesting fun way to challenge yourself!  

 

Have any questions, tips, concerns? Lett us know in the comments below! As always good luck and best wishes!

 

[1] https://millennialmagazine.com/2017/07/27/fast-fashion-how-slavery-fuels-your-style/   

[2] https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt

[3] https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt

[4] http://www.craftechind.com/how-is-polyester-made/

[5] https://www.esquire.com/style/news/a50655/fast-fashion-environment/

[6] https://www.ecowatch.com/fast-fashion-riverblue-2318389169.html

[7] https://millennialmagazine.com/2017/07/27/fast-fashion-how-slavery-fuels-your-style/

[8] http://www.weardonaterecycle.org/images/textile-recycling-issues.png

[9] ://www.weardonaterecycle.org/images/textile-recycling-issues.png


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