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Reasons to Steer Clear from Fast Fashion

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a business model that focuses on the speedy production of inexpensive clothing to respond quickly to the latest trends. It also generates new trends by reproducing celebrity outfits. And they offer it super fast and cheap, hence Fast Fashion.

This business model causes different environmental and social issues like pollution and waste of resources, poor working conditions, use of harmful chemicals, etc.

Environmental impact of fast fashion

The fast fashion industry consumes massive amounts of water, energy and raw materials, depleting natural resources. To produce one kilogram of cotton requires several thousand litres of water. No wonder the fast fashion industry is one of the largest water consumers. And that is not considering the vast use of land. Then also fertilisers and pesticides. 

It also significantly contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. According to Greenpeace, the fast fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global CO2 emissions,  approximately 4-5 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. That is rather shocking.

Another concern is the excessive use of synthetic fibres, which contributes to plastic and microplastic pollution in our landfills and waterways. Microplastics were found in human blood! 

Fast fashion is also known to be linear and not circular. That means that most garments end up in landfill. Major parts cannot and will not be recycled. 

urban waste land with scyscrapper view one of fast fashion culprits

Chemical Usage and Toxicity Concerns

We are talking about using pesticides, herbicides, dyes and pigments, and various chemical substances that persist in the environment and are also a health concern.

Apart from the substances mentioned above, a regular cotton shirt might also hide Formaldehyde, heavy metals, flame retardants, Phthalates, Perfluorinated Compounds and who knows what else. 

Viscose production involves handling various chemicals and potentially dangerous substances: carbon disulfide, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide, ammonium sulfide, chloroform, acetone and so forth. 

Considering that cotton and viscose are considered natural fibres, that is a lot to take on. 

Ethical concerns

Let’s not forget that human labour is involved in every clothing item we own and buy. If it is cheap, chances are that workers making those clothes are exploited, work in dangerous conditions, are underpaid, maltreated, discriminated and else. There are also serious concerns about child and forced labour, especially in developing countries. Do we want to finance this type of production? 

On top of that, fast fashion is also frequently criticised for intellectual property infringement. That means that they copy designs from independent designers without their permission.

Fast Fashion and Waste Generation

The fast fashion industry produces low-quality garments with short lifespans, leading to a disposable clothing culture that maintains the need for frequent replacements.

The fast fashion industry also creates a demand by generating frequent new trends, making you feel inadequate and out of fashion. This creates a lot of overconsumption, and we feel forced to buy new things without actual need. That all leads to most of these items being thrown away in large amounts. 

fashion district overflowing recycling bin

Transportation Impact of Fast Fashion

As the fast fashion industry relies on complex global supply chains, it requires extensive transportation of raw materials, semi-finished products and goods. On top of that, fast shipping relies on a combination of air freight, truck and sea transport, creating a lot of carbon emissions, air and water pollution, traffic congestion and noise. 

The fast fashion industry is still heavily reliant on non-renewable energy, depleting natural resources and contributing to climate change. 

Greenwashing

By greenwashing, fast fashion companies create a false impression of being environmentally responsible. They will exaggerate or misrepresent their sustainability practices to showcase their products as “green” without giving substantial evidence to support these claims. The terminology they use is rather vague, like “eco-conscious”, “green”, “100% natural”, etc. However, there are no realistic standards or definitions. 

We should do our best to avoid falling into the trap of greenwashing. Environmentally responsible companies are transparent about their sustainability practices and can provide clear explanations and certifications. Certified organic clothing is a great way to start. Buy less, buy better and become more informed and intentional about the fashion industry.

Final Thoughts

The fast fashion industry is a cause of serious concern. It is responsible for vast amounts of CO2 emissions and pollution, but also from an ethical point of view: poor wages and working conditions. The best we can do to make a change is to steer clear of fast fashion and its short-lived fashion trends. So, instead of relying on trends, we should build our unique styles with high-quality, ethically made clothes that stand the test of time.

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