How does fashion impact the environment?

What is “Fast Fashion”?

Fast fashion is a term used by people within the fashion industry to describe fashion moving from the catwalk quickly to consumer. Fast Fashion trends are taken from catwalk, to manufacture to store in the quickest possible time. Rather than having a major released such as summer and winter collection we now have multiple seasons. Mid-season sales are used to clear space for the next new releases in a very quick turnover time.

 

Impacts of fashion on the environment?

 

negative impact of fashion environment

There are multiple environmental impacts of quick, cheap and excessive clothes production. We live in the world of “disposable clothing”. We can buy a t-shirt for £2 and throw it out guilt free or leave it on holiday without a second thought. Globally we consume 80 billion new pieces of clothing annually. This is 400% more than twenty years ago. In the UK textile consumption increased 37% between 2001 and 2005 and it has continued to grow since. The environment cannot cope with this amount of production.

The environmental effects of mass production range from resources depleting due to the strain on raw materials, increased carbon dioxide emissions from production itself and the transportation nationally and internationally. This leads to local air pollution around the factories in poorer parts of our world as well as the increase of carbon dioxide contributing to the greenhouse effect.

The materials themselves during production can cause environmental harm. Over 90% of cotton has been genetically modified and treated with harmful chemicals. 18% of pesticide use and 25% of insecticide use is due to cotton production. Leather has also been linked to environmental and human health issues. Leather production takes a lot of resource such as land, food and water required to raise animals. The tanning process of leather is also extremely toxic and the waste produced from the process creates further pollution such as waste water entering our eco-systems. The water pollution from this process has been linked to increased disease in the surrounding area. Water pollution is not just in leather production but also chemicals used in textile production.

The environmental impact also continues at home. More and more of clothes are made of cheap polyester. Every time we wash our clothing more microfibers made of plastics make their way into our water systems.

polyester environment impact

A average UK wash load that contains 6KG of fabric can almost 500,000 fibres from polyester alone. You can read more about this and the impacts of other fabrics in a article by the BBC.

 

“The True Cost” (2015) documentary:

A documentary released in 2015, “The True Cost” highlights the huge issues of the fashion industry on an environmental, social and economic level.

The documentary is available on Netflix in the UK, I am unsure of other countries but you can learn more about The True Cost on their website.

Ethical issues of Fast Fashion?

Fast Fashion doesn’t just have environmental issues but ethical issues too. Workers in Bangladesh earn as little as $2 a day in horrendous working conditions. This was truly highlighted in 2013 when the Savar building collapsed due to structural failure that management was aware of. Workers had highlighted issues such as cracked walls in the weeks leading up to the disaster. In total 1,134 people died and a further 2,500 injured. Cheap production requires cost cutting and our demand for cheap clothing cost workers across the world their lives.

Savar Building collapse.jpg

How can we limit the impact of fashion on the environment?

I’m not trying to make you feel guilty about buying clothes, we can’t walk around like Adam & Eve in the modern day. But do we honestly need so much and still have “nothing to wear.”

  • Buy less clothing, save yourself some £££ too!
  • Buy better quality clothing.
  • Only wash clothing we it needs it.
  • Look after your clothing and use it as long as you can – even the cheap clothes.
  • Do you really need the fifth pair of white trainers?
  • Charity stores – Both donating and buying.
  • Do your research and buy ethically. Sustain Your Style have a list of ethical brands they approve of.

 

What One Change Now will you make? It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, just a one decision at a time to live smarter and more environmentally friendly.

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