The next time one goes to purchase a new clothing item to replace an older one, they should consider this: textile production accounts for about 10% of the carbon emissions in the world, more than double that of international aviation and shipping combined. This is the harsh reality of fast fashion.
Fast fashion, a term first used in the late twentieth century, refers to the marketing of clothing that emphasizes making each fashion trend quickly and cheaply available to consumers. It’s effect on the Earth is vast; from the expulsion of greenhouse gases in production to the mass amounts of waste that are not being recycled, the fast fashion industry is destroying the environment.
The life cycle of each garment produced starts with the material itself. Cotton, widely used to create t-shirts, dresses, and pants, sucks up thousands of gallons of water per clothing item. This water is not recycled, making it incredibly wasteful, and harmful to animals and plants in the surrounding habitats. Other garments use synthetic fibers and plastics as materials in clothing. Polyester and nylon are two such materials, and although water is not a necessity to create them, fossil fuels are. Synthetic materials are not any more sustainable than cotton is, as they use natural resources and emit toxins into the air.
Luckily, possible solutions that will help stop excessive buying and littering are ready to be put into motion, but only if people, as a collective, are as well. Instead of throwing away old t-shirts and sweatshirts, turn them into rags, or even toys for pets! Old clothing can also be used as insulation in new buildings, not only avoiding a build up of litter, but also stopping over production of materials. Buying from small businesses that provide made to order clothing helps to stop overproduction and the overuse of machines in factories. Sticking to the idea of quality over quantity will stop the mindset of “BUY BUY BUY”, and remind one to cherish each clothing piece created.
Not only is the use and production of materials for clothing harming the environment, but the disposing of used clothing is harmful too. Synthetic materials will not biodegrade in the consumer’s lifetime. Once created, they take over hundreds of years to fully decompose, if they ever really do. As that old, frayed, and discolored pair of jeans is thrown into the trash, synthetic fibers are landing into ecosystems everywhere. Landfills are filling up, but so are the oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world.
Sustainability is at the fingertips of every consumer, but only by making a conscious effort will the issue of fast fashion be put to rest.