Fast Fashion: What impact do our clothes have on the environment?
Updated: 4 days ago
Author: Charleen Hawra
Date of Publication: 10/05/2023
More and more people are trying to minimize their CO2 footprint by using public transportation or avoiding animal products. But at the same time, many people forget the impact our clothes can have on the environment.
Fast fashion is a term used to describe inexpensive, trendy clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers. Of course, this practice is in response to the quick turnover of fashion trends. Above all, the production and waste of fast fashion are contributing significantly to climate change.
Therefore, the following points show 5 negative impacts of fast fashion linked to climate change and what you can do to reduce your fashion footprint.
1. Consumption increases
Due to lower clothing prices, people tend to buy more. As production has increased, so has the demand for raw materials. This leads to more pollution and contributes to the exploitation of resources and workers. Today, 60% more garments are purchased than 20 years ago.
2. Quick Disposal
Fast fashion products usually have a short lifetime, as they are often cheap and of low quality. After a short time, they end up in landfill and thus contribute to environmental pollution. Even the production of clothing generates a lot of waste. For example, in 2018 the Environmental Protection Agency counted 11.3 million tons of textiles that were sent to landfills.
3. Environmental degradation
Because labor is cheaper in developing countries, many textile companies outsource their factories to countries with fewer environmental regulations. In fact, the fast fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental degradation. Actually, this includes pollution, deforestation, and the depletion of natural resources. Thus, it can have a significant impact on ecosystems, which can also be exploited and marginalized as a result.
Moreover, the production of clothing requires large amounts of fossil fuels and water, as well as the use of chemicals. For example, the production of synthetic fabrics such as polyester requires large amounts of energy. In particular, the production of cotton requires significant amounts of water and pesticides. So, many clothes are dyed with chemicals that can enter natural waters, polluting drinking water and killing aquatic life.
4. Produces greenhouse gasses
It has been shown that fast fashion contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the manufacturing process requires energy and involves the transportation of raw materials and products. Therefore, the disposal of clothing also contributes to the generation of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a greater effect than carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, clothing is often transported long distances before reaching the consumer, which increases its carbon footprint as well. The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions. In fact, it is the third largest polluting industry after the food and construction industry. If the trend continues, the industry's greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase by more than 50% by 2030.
5. Supports abusive systems
Fast fashion relies on cheap labor to keep prices low. In particular, workers in garment factories are often paid very low wages and work in poor conditions. In addition to this, they have little job security or rights. What’s more, this can include long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and even forced labor.
How can you reduce your fashion footprint?
There are several ways to reduce the negative impact of fast fashion on the environment and to become a more conscious consumer.
1. Buy second-hand clothing to reduce the demand for new garments and reduce the amount of textile waste in landfills.
2. Choose quality over quantity. Investing in high-quality clothing helps to save money in the longg run and helps to reduce the amount you buy.
3. Support sustainable and ethical brands. Look for brands that value sustainability and ethical working conditions. Research and choose companies that are transparent about their supply chains and production processes.
4. Repair and repurpose clothes instead of throwing them away.
5. Donate or recycle clothing if you have clothes that you no longer wear instead.