Updated: Jul 7, 2021
When you think sustainability, the fashion industry is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. Fast fashion has become the norm with the latest trends produced in excess for us to quickly consume before a new trend takes over months later. The fashion industry is one of the largest sources of pollution. According to Business Insider, it’s responsible for producing 10% of the planet’s carbon emissions and is the second greatest user of the planet’s water supply.
By extension, those of us purchasing clothing from fast fashion companies encourage their wasteful production and further environmental destruction. As consumers, it is our responsibility to take a moment to consider the purchases we make and encourage fast fashion companies to reduce their environmental impact.
Fast fashion includes clothing from major brand names that is both trendy and affordable to the masses. Although it may appear to be the smart choice financially and a popular purchase among peers, the hidden consequences of fast fashion are far more severe than the benefits. With the quick transition from one trend to the next, the fashion apparel industry makes people believe clothes are disposable. Both the industry and our current social media culture encourage a deep-rooted desire to keep up with trends. It is this desire to stay up to date with the clothes seen on influencers, celebrities and even our friends that drives so many of us to buy more clothes than we could ever possibly need. The embarrassment of wearing an outfit more than once on your Instagram feed tends to outweigh the less immediate consequences of a new purchase on the ocean, carbon emissions, deforestation, etc.
We have created a culture where it's normal to buy clothes you wear a handful of times only to toss them six months later. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spends as much as $1,700 on clothes annually. With those numbers in mind, it’s safe to assume most of us are overindulging on clothing. Even without the financial incentive to reduce our rate of purchasing clothes, the larger issue is convincing the general public to care about the pollution, waste and destruction caused by the production of cheap, disposable clothes. Here at Seaside Sustainability, one of our largest concerns is spreading awareness of the damage done to our oceans. The synthetic materials used in as much as 60% of the clothing created worldwide are chosen because of their availability and affordability, but the washing and disposal of them contribute to nearly 35% of all the plastic that is polluting the oceans.
Though it may be hard to convince ourselves of this reality when faced with an amazing sale at our favorite store, no lifestyle, career or event requires a new wardrobe every 365 days. The current rate of consumption of clothing is unsustainable, and fast fashion makes it harder to draw the line between necessities and wants. While it may be affordable, popular, and seemingly harmless, our overconsumption of clothes we truly don’t need and the wasteful overproduction of fast fashion is a major contributor to environmental destruction.