THE EFFECTS OF FAST FASHION
Fast fashion has become an increasingly popular term over the past 10 years, basically meaning, cheap and trendy clothing that are made at an especially fast turn-around time. Most often they are big retail stores like Forever 21, Fashion Nova, Amazon, etc. They often carry similar mock designs as your favorite celebs wear.
Yes, many of these fast-fashion companies make cute "affordable" clothes, but at what cost? The effects this industry is having on our environment and our societies must be put to an end.
The societal impacts
Everyone knows that a vast majority of the fashion industry produces garments overseas. The labor is cheaper and the production time is much faster than the US. The problem is, a large portion of those factories are known to have inhumane working conditions/wages because of non-existent or limited worker’s rights. Clothing companies are always looking for the cheapest way to produce their designs and make a larger profit, to the point where they are taking advantage of poverty ridden populations who have no other choice than to work for any salary, even if it is well-below a reasonable paygrade.
Demanding hours: Many of these garment factory employees are working 10-14 hours, 7 days a week. With the demand of absurd quantities and unrealistic deadlines from clothing companies, workers often do over-time with no pay raise, in a job where they already get paid 1/5th a livable wage in their country.
Child labor: Along with these factories having a lack of basic human working rights, comes the amount of underage children working in these tough jobs and hazardous conditions. In many 3rd world countries where the garment/fashion manufacturing industry is most prevalent, instead of going to school, young girls are driven to join the workforce, in order to help provide for themselves and their family. It’s estimated that around 170 million children are
working in the garment industry.
Lack of safety laws in dangerous working Conditions; One of the most famously documented tragedies of the garment industry is that of Bangladesh’s Tazreen Fashion factory in 2012. Because of the absence of fire alarms or fire exits, 112 women seamstresses were engulfed in flames. Many countries just like Bangladesh, don’t have the bare minimum of safety laws to successfully operate such large-scale factories, subjecting their employees to extremely dangerous situations that often lead to injury, or even death.
Photo by Khaled Hasan
Photo by Andrew Biraj/Reuters
Fast fashion is the 2nd largest polluter of clean water globally
Wasted agricultural space and damaged soils
Textile waste. Too much clothes = bigger landfills
TEXTILES AND WATER POLLUTION
Polyester and Nylon: Produced from fossil fuels, these synthetic fabrics are non-biodegradable and contribute to global warming (which is why Mizuchi uses recycled nylon whenever we can). Polyester is the most widely produced fabric in the world, and is also a source of clean water contamination. When polyester is produced, the factory will use water to cool the fabric, the water then mixes with other chemicals and lubricants on the fabric, which in turn makes the water become chemical ridden and unusable.
Polyester also sheds microfibers in the washer, which ends up in our ocean (see how this all connects)
Cotton: Most of the worlds cotton is grown on farms in India and China, who use mass amounts of pesticides and fertilizers to grow all those cotton plants. These chemicals are so dangerous that they kill and injure workers every year. Even after the cotton is washed, combed, and spun into fabric, a lot of those chemicals still remain in the fibers. If the chemicals aren’t a big enough deterrent, maybe the water consumption will be. For every 1 cotton t-shirt produced, over 650 gallons of water was used to make it happen. When you think about how many cotton garments are produced each year, that amount of water consumption is insurmountable.
Agricultural damage and Pollution
The impact fast fashion has on our environment is significant. This industry is depleting non-renewable resources, using excessive amounts of energy, chemicals, water, and emmiting huge amounts of greenhouse gases. In many areas such as China and India, the pesticides used to grow the plants for certain fabrics (like cotton) have permanently damaged the land, making the soil basically useless. On big scales, that damage is detrimental to many locals needing that land for farming as a food source. Along with the damage of the land, these toxic pesticides also cause illness and even death to those farmers working closely with these crops.
On top of the irreversible damage that these clothes cause before they’re even actually produced, problems continue long after they’re not being used. As mentioned previously, the synthetic fibers in a lot of popular fabrics (acrylic, polyester, and nylon, etc.) can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade. With the U.S. alone tossing out 25 BILLION pounds of textile waste each year, we need to work together and create a more sustainable way to be fashionable.
The US alone produces more than 25 BILLION pounds of textile waste every year. 85% of those clothes end up in landfills. Because fast fashion companies pay so little for factory work, the clothes are poor quality and fall apart very quickly. Once a clothing item is torn, ripped, or the seams are falling out, the option to donate that item disappears, which is why so many clothes end up in the garbage. Fast fashion is a major contributor to our landfill overflow because there are simply just too many cheaply made clothes in America.
The easiest way to limit your fashion pollution footprint is to make slight changes to the way you shop. Learn how to be a conscious shopper!