The environmental impacts of fast fashion

Denzel Galang. 10/26/2021

The mass production of fast fashion, as shown here, can negatively affect the environment with its extreme use of nature’s resources. (Think Sustainability)

Our planet is already carrying a heavy burden ever since we started industrializing. Power plants burn fossil fuels, which have greatly contributed to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions along with mass deforestation to clear the way for buildings. Another great example would be the clothing industry, which has also played a role in destructing the environment by producing fast fashion clothing. Fast fashion is a practice used by some clothing retailers in an attempt to capitalize off the latest trends in fashion. They make a profit by mass-producing trendy outfits for a low price, but these clothes are made of low-quality materials such as polyester.

They are deliberately designed to be made of cheap fabrics so that they would wear out easily, making consumers return later on to buy more fast fashion clothes. The clothing’s ability to deteriorate quickly means consumers are throwing them out frequently, resulting in a massive increase in waste production. According to Think Sustainably, more than 100 billion garments are produced every year, and around $450 billion worth of textiles are thrown away. This is why fast fashion is such a harmful business to the environment. The excessive amount of resources that are put into producing fast fashion ultimately end up being thrown away, as fashion trends inevitably come and go. This is a quick and convenient way for large companies to make tons of money while simultaneously disregarding any concerns for what they have done to the environment.

Shortcuts in the clothing industry not only create ludicrous amounts of waste but also lead to widespread water pollution due to cheap, toxic, textile dyes used to produce fast fashion clothing. Textile dyeing is the second largest cause of water pollution, with the fashion industry being responsible for approximately 20 percent of industrial water pollution worldwide, according to Business Insider. This is another problem that could have been easily resolved if clothing retailers were not so greedy and instead spent a little more to make sure that their products were safe for both the consumers and the environment. Unfortunately, profit remains a top priority in these companies.

Fast fashion industries also dump these toxic textile dyes, along with microfibers, into waterways where they make their way into the wild, potentially harming entire ecosystems. Additionally, fashion that involves animal fur puts the well-being of these animals on the line. According to The Age, markets were caught selling beanies that claimed to be made from rabbits. However, when the beanies were sent for testing, it was discovered that the fur was from raccoons. As if the results were not shocking enough, undercover investigations were conducted that revealed that these raccoons were caged and treated poorly. The raccoons were killed through torturous methods, including skinning them alive, electrocuting them, or repeatedly striking them with a club until death. These practices are unacceptable (they amount to animal abuse) and are being perpetrated by the fast fashion industry. Inhumane treatment and killing of animals to gain some type of profit are downright disgusting. It is very saddening because many consumers do not know that some clothes that they purchase from fast fashion brands could be fur from abused animals. So, some of these brands are essentially scamming people by telling their consumers that they are selling products that have fur from one type of animal, when in reality it is from a completely different one, for the same reason as before: because it is cheaper and requires less effort to raise raccoons instead of rabbits, thus it is another example of a shortcut.

The fast fashion industry further tries to hide its wrongdoings to the environment by claiming to go green. According to good on you, some stores place bins where their customers can drop off unwanted items. Unfortunately, according to Newsweek, only 0.1 percent of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber. This shows how brands that produce fast fashion clothing make it seem like they want to do good when, in actuality, they do not care at all. These brands would have had more success converting donated clothes back into recycled textile fiber if they put more effort into it. Unfortunately, recycling clothes to help the environment is not a top priority, but money is. All in all, fast fashion has played a detrimental role when it comes to the environment, so it is best to avoid clothes that come from fast fashion brands. Clothes made from polyester are good indicators of fast fashion, as polyester is a relatively cheap material. While it may be hard to refrain from buying from fast fashion brands, it is important to note that these companies are destroying the environment. We only have one planet to live on, so it is vital that we take care of it.

Cover Photo: (RiverBlue)

Denzel Galang