Wow, so I’m not even sure where to begin this article because there is an overwhelming amount of information regarding fast fashion already on the internet. The main conclusion: fast fashion uses tons of resources, results in extreme pollution, and produces tons of waste every single year. This post will cover specific facts to illustrate the impact of buying trendy clothes and also how you can make a difference.
Why is Fast Fashion Good?
There are perceived benefits to fast fashion, such as the cheap cost and visual appeal. You can purchase the cutest, newest clothes for less than a Chick-Fil-A meal from stores like Shein, Zaful, and Forever21. However, these are only benefits if you're comfortable with supporting the destruction of the earth and depriving millions of women (there are over 40 million reported employees in the industry) of a decent life. The reason your trendy clothes cost you less than a decent meal is that they are made from plastic and those making your clothes are working in sweatshops in countries across the world. As a result of the plastic fibers, the workers, who are 85% female, are exposed to over 3000 toxic chemicals for 16-hour workdays (Phadtare).
Now let's pretend you don't care about harming the planet or others, you only care about looking good and cheap clothes. But I pose the question, are your clothes really "cheap" if you're constantly buying new ones? What is the cost per wear of that new bathing suit you bought? Sure it may only be $10 now, but will you wear it next year? The idea of fast fashion and trendy clothes is really nothing but a marketing scam to get us to consume more, creating what is essentially throwaway fashion. Who decides what is in style and what's not? Those making the clothes, whether it's through fashion shows or paying TikTok influencers to advertise their products. I hope by the end of this article you start to question yourself, these companies, and the next piece of clothing you go to buy.
Fast Fashion Facts
Almost all of these stats will be sources from Business Insider, as they took the time to compile them all together and the results are… shocking. After reading all the problems these fashion companies create, I still do not know why we allow such damaging industries to not only exist but to thrive. How does fast fashion benefit you? I, personally, believe the consequences far outweigh the positives. Don’t worry, later I’ll discuss how I still keep up with trends and update my wardrobe.
Unfortunately, a larger societal shift is needed to combat fast fashion and that starts with you. Trendy clothes got to go and we all need to embrace the fact that we wear clothes over and over again. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to post an Instagram picture wearing the same dress, and we need to get rid of the whole mentality that we need to buy a new outfit for every occasion. For our mental health and the planet’s health, it needs to end.
Cue the supporting facts…
The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity's carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
That's more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.
The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
In Europe, fashion companies went from an average offering of two collections per year in 2000 to five in 2011. (Zara puts out 24 collections per year, while H&M offers between 12 and 16.)
Washing clothes, meanwhile, releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year — the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
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.
It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. That's more than enough for one person to drink eight cups per day for 10 years.
In Uzbekistan, for example, cotton farming used up so much water from the Aral Sea that it dried up after about 50 years.
Once one of the world's four largest lakes, the Aral Sea is now little more than desert and a few small ponds.
Textile dyeing is the world's second-largest polluter of water. The dyeing process uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year.
All in all, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide.
Lastly, child labor prevents the community from becoming literate and educated. The wages are not high enough for families to live comfortably.
How You Can End Fast Fashion
Want to stay trendy and Not to mention (usually) significantly cheaper than most stores! Want a unique piece only you have? Thrift shopping. Only like online shopping? There are multiple sites for online thrift shopping: Thredup, and even apps: Curtsy, Depop, Poshmark, and more. Walmart recently partnered with ThredUp, telling us that thrifting business is only going to get more competitive and advanced.
What if I don’t have a thrift shop near me? If you attend any type of school, start a thrifting club! This is the perfect way to collect clothes and then swap them, leading to my next suggestion.
My absolute favorite way to wear new clothes is to borrow them from my friends. Almost every time I want to wear a new dress for an occasion, I call up my BFFs. However, if you want to refresh your multiple pieces in your wardrobe, consider having a clothing swap with your friends or at your school. A clothing swap consists of everyone bringing clothes and then being able to take other items for free. It’s also a great way to hang out with your friends if you live in a town with nothing to do, like me. I would encourage you to scale this even more and get the whole community involved!
Turn your fabric or clothes into something new! Scrunchies are super easy and quick to make, so is cropping. By cropping an old shirt or sweater you instantly make it more trendy. The possibilities are endless and don’t worry if you don’t know how to sew; there are hundreds of youtube videos on how to DIY clothes without sewing.
Use your Voice
Vote with your $$$. Stop buying from brands that don’t care about the damage they’re causing. Instead, start supporting brands working toward making a positive impact. Earth Hero sells a variety of sustainable clothing brands, including Girlfriend Collective and Knickey, and you can use my link to order and code DRAGUN10 for a 10% discount. Don’t stop there, educate your friends and family on the consequences of buying new clothes, and encourage them to make a difference. Contact companies and let them know you’re angry, they cannot continue profiting off of the destruction and pollution of our planet. Lastly, voice your concerns to those in power.
How to Properly Dispose of Clothes
Yes, you read that right, recycle your old clothes. TerraCycle sells a clothing and fabric Zero Waste Box to ensure that none of your clothes get dumped into a landfill.
Sell them to a Thrift Shop
You could sell them and then recycle whatever they don’t accept. Although, if you choose to sell your clothes be aware they may eventually be thrown out.
Although research the organization to make sure that your clothes will actually be used. It is not guaranteed that all donated clothes will be put to use.