The environmental impact of fast fashion and the benefits of sustainability
The Heavy Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion refers to the rapid mass production of inexpensive, poor quality garments in response to the latest fashion trends. While fast fashion makes clothing more accessible, this business model has heavy environmental and social impacts.
The Rise of Fast Fashion
In the past couple decades, clothing production has accelerated dramatically. Advances in manufacturing and distribution allow retailers to design inexpensive items and replenish inventory faster. Consumers have become accustomed to constant new styles at very low prices. The average person buys 60% more clothing compared to 15 years ago, but each garment is kept for only half as long.
Environmental Impact of Fashion Industry
Fashion is a highly polluting industry, generating over 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally. Fast fashion speeds up the pollution. More clothes are being manufactured at quicker rates, using resources inefficiently. It is estimated that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
The Drive for Ever-Cheaper Clothing
To make clothes faster and cheaper, fast fashion retailers cut corners when it comes to quality, working conditions, and environmental protections. Most garments are manufactured in developing countries where labor is cheap and regulations loose. The pressure to reduce costs means choosing the cheapest synthetic fabrics and construction methods which shed microplastics into waterways.
Embracing Sustainability in Fashion
Sustainable fashion aims to reduce the industry's environmental footprint and improve social impacts through better business practices:
- Select eco-friendly materials - Organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester
- Use energy and water efficient manufacturing
- Ensure fair labor conditions and wages
- Institute clothing collection programs to reuse and recycle
- Design quality, long-lasting garments
- Employ slow fashion production cycles
As consumers become more conscious, demand for ethical and eco-friendly clothing is growing. Brands embracing sustainability will help make fashion greener. It is possible to democratize fashion while respecting people and the planet.