We all love a good shopping spree, don’t we? We love it even more when we find stylish clothes at wonderfully low prices. After all, who doesn’t love a good deal? But, is this love for quick, affordable fashion going to cost us dearly in the long run? Let’s find out.
What is fast fashion and how does it work?
The fast fashion industry is based on a system that aims to offer you the latest in fashion at very low prices, with an extremely fast turnaround rate. To put it simply, this means that the whole process of creating new designs and making them available at all the different store locations owned by the company can take place in a little over a week. To make this possible, the industry focuses on fast, easy and cheap manufacturing processes while often neglecting the social and environmental impact of these processes, thus contributing to environmental pollution in a big way.
Here’s 8 appalling facts that will help you understand the environmental and social impact of the fast fashion industry even better.
1. The textile industry is the second largest polluter of clean water, globally. After textiles are dyed, mills dump dyes and harmful chemicals into nearby freshwater sources. These chemicals pollute water, harm the ecosystem and cause large amounts of fish to die every year. Did you know that in China, an estimated 90% of the local groundwater is polluted and 72 toxic chemicals in the water supply are from textile dyeing!
2. When fashion is consumed that easily, it’s discarded pretty quickly as well. When you discard your old clothing, it ends up in landfills where it can take years and years for these fibers to decompose. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Until then, they settle in landfills and release harmful greenhouse gases and toxic substances into the atmosphere.
3. The fashion industry uses roughly 1.5-2.5 trillion gallons of water every year. To make one cotton t-shirt alone, it takes around 2700 liters of water, which is the amount of water that a person drinks in 3 years. From growing the cotton to the manufacturing process, there is huge amount of water wastage and water pollution.
4. Cotton farming uses more pesticides and insecticides than any other crop in the world. It takes almost 140 grams of fertilizer and pesticides to produce enough cotton for a single T-shirt. Unfortunately, 90% of the pesticides used actually end up in the air and water supply, affecting he health of humans and animals.
5. Farmers and textile workers are exposed to toxic chemicals and pesticides, that can cause serious health problems. The Netflix documentary, ‘The True Cost’ sheds light on this issue by showing us the birth defects in the children of Indian cotton farmers and other shocking examples.
6. Billions of animals are slaughtered and processed each year to produce fashionable garments made from leather, fur, wool, feathers/down, or silk. These animals suffer all kinds of atrocities – from mistreatment to forced farming and painful killing methods.
7. If you look at the labels on most of your clothes, you will see that they are made using a large percentage of Polyester. But did you know that polyester is basically a kind of plastic that is extremely harmful for both marine life and humans? How? When polyester clothing is washed in our washing machines, small microfibers are released. These microfibers are extremely tiny and non-biodegradable. Hence, they easily go through our wastewater treatment plants and enter water bodies, where they are consumed by marine animals, thus disrupting the food chain.
8. To keep up with increasing consumer demand while keeping production costs low, many large fashion houses engage in unfair labour practices. Workers receive meager wages and are exposed to hazardous working conditions due to lack of proper regulations. Child labour too is prevalent in the garment making industry.
How can we make better choices?
As a consumer, our choices can make a difference. Whether it’s opting to use eco-friendly fabrics, supporting sustainable businesses, recycling/donating old clothes instead of disposing them or even using the washing machine less frequently – there’s many ways in which we can contribute towards safeguarding the environment. All it takes is small, mindful choices. Leave a comment below telling us how you’re trying to lessen your environmental impact.