5 Reasons Fast Fashion is Even More Problematic Than You Think

Blog, Eco-Fashion, Men's Fashion, Sustainability, Sustainable Fashion, Women's Fashion

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The Permanent Effects of Temporary Trends

Fast fashion (n): inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends

It can be easy to get swept up in the latest trends, especially with the fast fashion industry enabling us to do so, bringing easy and cheap style options right to our fingertips anytime we want them. The thing about trends though, is that they are ever-changing and fleeting;  it doesn’t help that being exposed to a constant stream of the next best thing through social media makes it hard to love the clothes we have for very long.

Fast fashion provides a temporary fix, but leaves a permanent impact on the world we live in,  affecting everything from the people, to the water supply, to the earth itself. We know inherently  this is bad, but how bad exactly? Who and what is affected by fast fashion problems? Read on to find out how ruthless this growing industry is on the world.

1. Fast Fashion contaminates our waterways

Water is vital for all life on earth. We see the greatest impact on water quality in China, where the majority of the world’s apparel is made.  Over 70% of Chinese waterways are contaminated full of textile waste and dye due to the large global demand for the products they produce.

This terrible consequence is not limited just to China; it happens all over the world!  It takes 2720 liters of water to make just one t-shirt. That’s more water than one person needs to survive for a year. Is that novelty t-shirt from your recent vacation really worth it?

Microfibers from polyester, nylon, and acrylic end up in the ocean and in our drinking water as well.  When these fabrics are washed, the microfibers contain little pieces of plastic that go down the drain and end up in the ocean. These pieces of plastic then end up getting eaten by plankton, then by other aquatic life in the food chain, ultimately ending up in shellfish that are eaten by humans. According to the NRDC, poisonous finishing chemicals are also applied to make garments soft, which eventually makes its way into our landfills and water

2. Fast Fashion abuses its workers

Before the era of online shopping, new clothing was released by popular retailers every season. This slower pace allowed for much more humane work conditions and better hours. Now, fast fashion companies will release clothes  as quickly as every two weeks.

This doesn’t happen  happen without a cost. Companies such as H&M and Zara will choose the cheapest factory for their labor  and drop the factory at any time if the workers  can’t keep up with the pace they want. This forces factories to subject workers to completely inhumane conditions to keep their relationship with the retailer. These relationships are often short-lived, much like everything else in the fashion industry.

3. Fast fashion accelerates the decline of U.S. manufacturing

To understand how dramatically the decline of U.S. manufacturing has been in the last 60 years, take  a look at the statistics. 50 years ago, 95% of clothing bought in the U.S. was made in the U.S.  Now, less than 2% of all clothing bought in the U.S. is made  here. Even more shocking, 60 years ago, the average household spent the equivalent of $4000  per  year on clothes, and owned less than 25 garments.

Now, the average household spends roughly $1800 on over 70 garments per year. The sad truth is that labor is much cheaper in places like China, Bangladesh, Jordan, so by default, true American-made clothing is not as fast, nor as cheap.

4. Fast fashion fills up our growing landfills

On average, Americans send 12.8 million tons of clothing to the landfill each year. That is about 70 pounds of clothing for each person. To add to this, only 20% of clothing Americans buy is reused after it’s bought. With so many companies using non-biodegradable fabrics, almost all the clothing sitting in landfills continues to accumulate, and will sit for over 200 years.

5. Fast fashion does not support gender equality worldwide

Fast Fashion is extremely disempowering to women. 75 million people make up the clothing industry workforce today and of this entire  population, 80% of workers are women, mostly young women  ages 18-24. The reason big fashion brands are able to make their clothing so cheap isn’t because they are budgeting, it’s because they pay their  mainly female workforce unfair wages, often less than $3 per day. Let’s just say this is not helping the wealth disparity seen globally between men and women. Not only are these women grossly underpaid, but they are also working 14 hours per day on average, and often dealing with workplace harassment.

Conclusion

This planet is our home. Every action and every piece of clothing you buy really does make a difference. The most powerful voice you have is in your wallet; by supporting small businesses and retailers that protect the environment and respect humanity worldwide, you are actively creating a better future for all species who inhabit this earth. Shopping sustainably creates an indisputable ripple effect, how can you use your buying power to help yourself, help others, and ultimately help the planet? Check out recent: 9 Sustainable And Ethically-Sourced Fashion Brands For Summer 2019.

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About Author

Kristen Such

Kristen Such

Passionate about living consciously and inspiring others to do so in the process.

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