The fashion industry has been on the rise for a very long time. The term ‘fast fashion’ came into existence at the beginning of the 1990s. It has become increasingly popular in discussions about fashion, sustainability, and environmental awareness. Fast fashion refers to cheaply produced and priced items that replicate the latest catwalk styles and get pumped swiftly through retailers to increase on current trends.
The fast-fashion model gets its name because it involves quick design, production, distribution, and marketing. This allows fashion manufacturers to pull vast quantities of various products and provide consumers with more innovation and product differentiation at a low price. Examples of fast fashion brands include the following famous fashion players: Zara, H&M, UNIQLO, etc.
Negatives of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion persuades us to update our appearance continually because there is always a new trend to purchase. It appears to be satisfying and straightforward on the surface, but there is a high hidden cost to the process.
When it comes to fashion, numerous issues need to be addressed by brands, companies, and even us as consumers. Consumers also play an essential role. Consumers must consider their behaviors and understand the problems resulting from the growth of fast fashion, especially the impacts on the environment.
Reports prove that the fashion industry is the second-largest polluter globally, just after the oil industry. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Effects of Fast Fashion on Environment
While the impact of the fashion industry on the environment is a vast topic, but here are a few problems it creates for the environment:
Water Consumption and Water Pollution
The fashion industry is one of the largest consumers of water. It is the second largest industry that uses freshwater, and in-return pollutes water in the process. Some reports provide evidence that the fashion industry consumes around one-tenth of the water.
Around thousands of liters of water are used to produce cotton or cotton shirts by the fashion manufacturers, thus leading to cotton-based environmental impacts. The dyeing and the finishing process require large quantities of water. Moreover, textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water in the world. The dyeing wastewater is frequently discharged into ditches, streams, and rivers, thus polluting the freshwater there as well.
So, the fashion industry consumes fresh water in the first place. Then the waste from the fashion industry is dumped into rivers, oceans, and seas, thus polluting the remaining freshwater. Furthermore, this wastewater is highly toxic, and it is next to impossible to entirely filter out the harmful chemicals within this water and make it safe again.
Nearly every person will have clothes in their wardrobe that is, at least, partially made up of polyester. Fashion manufacturers use polyesters to reduce their production. It is one of the most affordable and widely used textiles in the fashion business. It is also harmful to the environment.
These synthetic materials, including nylon and acrylic as well, not only take a lot of fossil fuels in the production process, but they’re also impossible to get rid of because they don’t decompose as natural fibers do. Such threads require hundreds of years to biodegrade, and the pace at which the fashion industry is growing, such materials are being decomposed regularly. Thus, the rate of affecting the environment is far greater than the pace of solving these issues.
Plastic microfibers do not just end at polluting water but affect our health as well. It is a food chain passed from the water to aquatic life and aquatic to human life.
One of the biggest problems of the fashion industry is that the consumers chose to throw away their clothes after using them for a specific time rather than donating or recycling them. As discussed earlier, fast fashion is a means of producing at a quicker rate with lower production costs; it means that the quality of the garment will also reduce. Hence, the clothes will become rough quickly, and people will naturally move towards buying newer clothes while throwing away the older ones.
As consumers, we need to understand the impact it creates on the environment. The clothes we throw away are piled up and then moved to a specific place to burn them. This procedure poses many public health and environmental risks to individuals living in adjacent towns. It is because burning these clothes releases toxic gases into the air, thus polluting it and proving harmful for everyone.
Is It Too Late?
So, the question arises: Can we do anything to solve these issues, or is it too late? Yes, we cannot eradicate all the problems in just a click, but it is never too late. Here are a few things that fashion manufacturers and consumers can do to help the environment:
Organic and Natural Fibers
Clothing manufacturers can opt for organic and natural fibers which do not require chemicals for their production. It will reduce the toxic chemicals being released into the water and the air. Moreover, instead of using fibers that require a lot of water consumption, the fashion manufacturers can replace them with low water-consuming fibers, such as linen. Using recycled fibers and natural or semi-synthetic fibers is also a good option.
Fast to Slow Fashion
Changing our shopping habits is the most significant effect we can have as consumers. Fast fashion generates fast-moving trends. When we feel compelled to be at the forefront of a trend, we buy many new items, only to wear them for a short period.
It is all about slowing down if you want to be fashionable without harming the earth. It means taking your time to find truly unique secondhand items or purchasing high-quality, timeless clothing that you’ll never grow tired of. So, in other words, moving from a fast fashion to a slow fashion industry by slowing down the process. It is not necessary to buy more and more and more. What should matter is the quality of the clothes.
Customer loyalty is good, but it should only be shown to fashion brands with ethical behaviors. Thus, if you as a consumer loves a brand, you must research its process of producing the garments. If that process is harmful to the environment, you should show them by shifting your money to another brand.
Therefore, now that we know how harmful fast fashion is to the environment, we must change our consumer behaviors. That will ultimately affect these money-making fashion brands to change their production behaviors in the long run.