What Is Fast Fashion?

You’ve likely heard the phrase “fast-fashion” being tossed around quite a lot lately, but what does it really mean? Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends and consumer demand. It refers to clothing produced rapidly and at a lower price point. From a consumer’s perspective, fast fashion is cheap, trendy, and disposable, and therefore makes impulse purchases of clothing purchases easy and affordable. The irony with this is that the more you buy, the more you want, and the more you want, the more you waste.

Some parts of modern life are widely known to cause harm to the environment (i.e. using disposable plastic items or even driving to and from work, for example), but when it comes to our wardrobe, the impacts are less obvious.

Why Fast Fashion Is Harmful to the Environment

Although people purchased 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long, according to Business Insider. In fact, over 85% of all textiles are thrown out each year. This is significant because fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. 

Read below to learn more about some of the top environmental implications of the fast fashion industry.

1. Wastewater Pollution 

Untreated toxic wastewater from textile factories is dumped directly into the rivers in most countries in which garments are produced. This wastewater contains toxic chemicals including, mercury, lead, and arsenic, which are incredibly harmful to not only aquatic life, but to the health of the millions of people who reside near river banks. These chemicals also eventually reach the ocean where they damage ocean life and impact environments around the entire world. 

In addition to harmful chemicals, the use of fertilizers for the production of fabrics, like cotton, pollutes runoff water and evaporation water, sending fertilizers into our water systems. 

2. Water Consumption

The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. A significant amount of fresh water is used for the dyeing and finishing process for all of our clothes. Also, cotton is an extremely water-intensive plant, and is a component in so many garments. It takes about 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt. That’s enough water for one person to drink at least eight cups per day for three-and-a-half years!

3. Large Amounts of Waste

Because fast fashion has made clothing more disposable, more textile waste is being generated. In fact, a family in the western world throws away an average of 30 kg of clothing each year. Only 15% is recycled or donated, and the rest goes directly to the landfill or is incinerated. In addition to this simply being a huge waste of precious resources, the problem with this is that synthetic fibers, such as polyester, are plastic fibers (which are used in 72% of our clothing) are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose.

4. Significant Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Due to the energy used during its production, manufacturing, and transportation of the million garments purchased each year, the global fast fashion industry generates a lot of greenhouse gases. 

What Can You Do to Avoid Fast Fashion

So what can you do on an individual level to help combat this global issue? Below we’ve included several ways in which you can avoid fast fashion.

  1. Buy less. 
  2. Purchase higher quality pieces that will last you longer.
  3. Think twice before simply disposing of an item – either try to repair them or donate them to a local charity or shelter.
  4. Avoid buying new. Instead, Buy second-hand, swap clothing with friends, or rent your clothes. 
  5. Stay away from fast fashion brands (click here to familiarize yourself with some of these).
  6. Buy clothes from sustainable brands. Some of these include: 
    1. Patagonia  
    2. Kotn
    3. Boden
    4. Alternative Apparel
    5. Tradland  
    6. Able
  7. Choose clothing that consists of sustainable or recycled materials – nylon, polyester, cotton and wool. Also top of the list are organic materials, especially linen and hemp but also cotton.

Ditch Fast Fashion

Fast fashion encourages a “throw-away” attitude; hence why it’s also called disposable fashion. The clothing is cheaply made in a style that will change very quickly. As you learned above, the fast fashion industry has many negative implications for the environment and should be avoided. These are just a few ways that you can help combat this global issue and create a more sustainable future for our planet. Be sure to stay tuned on our blog to learn about other ways you can play your part for the environment.