This is a new concept to me and it might be to some of you as well. Therefore, please take everything I say with a grain of salt, do your own research, and consult other resources (more resources linked throughout).
You should probably know, what is fast fashion: "inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends." Thanks, Google. Yup, that is the first thing that pops up when you Google this term.
Those trends you see all over social media and you might be following, they have a much larger impact than you could ever imagine.
So, what is so wrong with fast fashion?
The environmental impact:
Waste and emissions:
- The average American will throw out roughly 80 lbs (36 kg) of clothing per year and that number keeps going up. That equals roughly 26 BILLION lbs (12 billion kg) of clothing and other textiles ending up in landfills every year. Just from AMERICANS.
- The clothing industry is just second to oil when it comes to pollution
- 10% of global greenhouse emissions can be correlated to the fashion industry
- Importing our clothing from other countries creates a need for more oil and emissions to get the garments to the U.S., the leading importer of garments worldwide
- The point of fast fashion is for it to be fast; companies create"trendy" items that are only in trend for a few weeks. The materials are cheaply made, so they are manufactured to be thrown away
What can we do about the waste and emissions?
- Shop second hand and avoid buying brand new whenever possible
- Find a new home for your items: re-gift them to someone, trade, attend or host a clothing swap, advertise them on Facebook market place or another site to sell your items, or donate them to a thrift store (though this should be a last resort as thrift stores are also rather wasteful. More on that here)
- When buying brand new, look for U.S. based brands that use sustainable materials and are environmentally friendly
- Educate other and encourage others to quit fast fashion
- Wear your garments until they get their full use out of them, don't throw away perfectly good items. And once they're tarnished, mend them yourself or upcycle them before throwing away
- Colors are often achieved using harmful chemicals which end up in our waterways
- Precious water that could be used to grow food for starving people is instead used to grow the materials we wear and used to dye our clothing with harmful chemicals
- Micro-fibers from synthetic materials end up in our waterways and oceans and even in the water we drink ourselves
What can we do about the water?
- Again, chose brands that use sustainable materials and are environmentally friendly
- Make sure you are choosing natural and organic materials that have less of an impact on our water ways
- Chose naturally or non-dyed clothing items to prevent harmful chemicals from entering our waterways and use less water
- Chose materials that don't consume as much water as cotton
- Shop from U.S. based brands as much as possible to reduce on shipping emissions
The impact on the people:
If you think about it, there has to be a reason why that shirt you're buying is only costing you $5; it is probably made out of cheaply made synthetic materials and it is probably made in a sweatshop where workers are not getting paid fair wages or treated very well.
Here are some facts:
- It is estimated that 25 million people around the world are trapped in forced labor
- Most fast fashion industries employee people in developing and impoverished countries where people need to make money somehow. This allows the companies to treat their employees however they please
- As companies lower the costs of their products, they in turn have to lower the price in which they pay their employees
- There are far too many cases where the corporations are aware of the poor work qualities and allow their employees to get injured or sick.
- 85% of textile employees are women who often times have to bring their children to work and have to work long hours
- The harmful chemicals used to dye clothing effect the health of the employees
- Workers are often times voiceless and just have to deal with whatever the corporations throw at them
What can we do for the people?
- Vote with your dollar, don't support companies that allow these things to happen
- Speak up for the voiceless and educate others
While it is certainly most important that our lawmakers and CEOs of these corporations realize the impacts they have on the world, it is nearly as important for us to do the same. Think of it this way:
If I quit fast fashion and inspired 10 others to do the same, and those 10 inspired 10 more, and those 100 inspired 10 more, it goes on. See how fast our "small actions" can multiply? Your actions might seem small, but they are mighty.
It is important for each one of us to know and understand the actions and implications of our daily choices. We can chose to continue supporting fast fashion, or we can transition to slow fashion.
Thanks for reading. If you have anything to add, please let us know below.
"The smallest changes make the biggest impact when multiplied"