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The Effects of Fast Fashion and What We Can Do to Help


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Fast fashion is a new phenomenon that has surfaced over the past few decades. It is cheap, trendy clothing that samples from popular culture and is mass-produced by companies to meet consumer demand.


This is a product of our modern society needing to constantly be wearing the latest trends on social media and the catwalk. In recent years, fashion has also become a form of self-expression instead of a necessity. There is nothing wrong with experimenting with different styles of clothing; it allows someone to showcase their personality in a way that is unique to them. The problem emerges when companies cut corners to produce an enormous quantity of clothes, harming the environment in the process.


The pressure to reduce cost and speed up production is polluting the planet. There is a never-ending demand for the latest clothes but by the time they hit the shelves, they are already out of style. Society also promotes throwaway culture, this idea that we can only wear something once and never wear it again. The next problem is that consumers do not know how to properly dispose of the clothes they buy. According to Graham Ross from The Guardian, over 500 million kilos of unwanted clothing end up in landfills each year. In addition, most clothes nowadays are made of synthetic fibers and chemically altered textiles, so when they reach the landfill they will not be biodegradable because they have microfibers or small bits of plastic that make it impossible for them to break down. Synthetic materials are also generated from fossil fuels or natural gas formed by the remains of dead animals and plants. It essentially burns up the planet's resources and is one of the many causes of global warming.


These synthetic materials are also responsible for polluting our waterways. Polyester and cotton are the main culprits. The creation of polyester contributes to the burning of fossil fuels and shed microfibers into our oceans every time it is washed. According to Pebble Magazine, each wash of synthetically made clothing sheds around 700,000 microfibers into our waters. Although cotton is believed to be a natural textile, it takes enormous quantities of water to produce. Pebble Magazine claims it takes up to 200 tons of fresh water to dye and finish one ton of cotton. This harms both marine and land life because we are consuming and being exposed to toxic dyes and materials that can be detrimental to our health and are rapidly draining our planet’s natural resources.


The underlying issue is the speed at which fashion is being made and the societal pressure for people and companies to be relevant by following the latest trends. This article is not meant to make anyone feel bad for contributing to the production and consumption of fast fashion. It is meant to make people aware of an industry that is one of the largest polluters on our planet. We as consumers can counteract this by doing our part, no matter how small it might seem in the grand scheme of things.


The first step is being aware and being able to identify a fast fashion brand. These companies usually have low prices for their products, do not have the best material, and their products will be gone within a few weeks for the next trend. They also have their clothes imported from other countries where they are not ethically made and where workers are exploited to meet customer demand.


The second step is looking into brands that value sustainability and make their clothes ethically. These companies tend to be a bit more on the expensive side but are a result of doing everything possible not to harm the environment. An alternative option for this is slow fashion or making your own clothing. It does take a lot more time to produce because one must not only develop and nurture this skill but also have the time to execute it. If that is not your cup of tea, buying clothes secondhand is another great option. Donating and buying clothes from thrift stores is a great way to “dispose” of clothes so they do not contribute to landfills and, most importantly, fast fashion. This is a lifestyle choice, so do what is best for you because every choice counts!

 

References


Rauturier, Solene. “What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It so Bad?” Good On You, June 23, 2022. https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/.


Ross, Graham. “Australia Recycles Paper and Plastics. so Why Does Clothing End up in Landfill? | Graham Ross.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, August 27, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/27/australia-recycles-paper-and-plastics-so-why-does-clothing-end-up-in-landfill#:~:text=More%20than%20501m%20kg%20of,the%2094m%20kg%20exported%20overseas.


Schlossberg, Tatiana. “How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet.” The New York Times. The New York Times, September 3, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html.


Young, Phoebe. “What's Wrong with Fast Fashion?” pebble magazine, April 27, 2022. https://pebblemag.com/magazine/living/whats-wrong-with-fast-fashion.



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