There are substantial humanitarian and environmental costs that are hidden by an expensive price tag.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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Fashion is a trillion-dollar industry, and according to the United Nations, it is also the second biggest polluter.
Even in the average household, the Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates that the amount of clothing bought by one family in a year gives off the same amount of emissions as driving a car for 6.000 miles, and to make it takes enough water to fill 1.000 bathtubs.
Our love of clothes is also contributing to plastic pollution, with one wash load of polyester clothes sending up to 700.000 microplastic fibers back into the environment.
The influence of fast fashion spans continents. Clothing giant Zara is now worth 13 billion dollars with stores in over 93 countries.
Although these fast fashion companies have committed numerous human rights violations, let’s look at the environmental issues caused by the mass production of cheap clothes.
The phrase fast fashion is used as an umbrella term to describe the accelerated process of turning new design ideas into clothes on the retail floor. For example, in the case of a story like Zara, it takes a mere 14 to 21 days from the inception to the sale of a product, according to Our Changing Climate.
This ability to create new trends quickly combined with savvy marketing campaigns has meant that stores like H&M and Forever 21 can quickly change every item in their store to drum up hype about a new line of clothing, much like a fast-food chain that is constantly changing its menu items to stay relevant.
These fast fashion stores can introduce new clothes almost weekly, which means that older items quickly become irrelevant. This constant overconsumption has high environmental consequences.
Also read: Will Japan Lead a Green Future?
On the other hand, most clothing is now made of polyester material, a petroleum-based fiber that requires large amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture.
According to Forbes, that number has now reached up to 70 million barrels of oil a year.
The rise of fast fashion went hand-in-hand with an increase in polyester production. Polyester is a non-biodegradable substance, and it can take anywhere from 20 to 200 years to degrade depending on the conditions.
This material is also one of the leading causes of microplastics in oceans.
Fast fashion has also given rise to a host of post-consumption environmental problems, namely waste. The environmental harm caused by this new profit-centered industry is not at all reflected in the price tag. The fashion industry is now the eighth-most polluting industry globally in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. According to Our Changing Climate, it is responsible for 4% of the world’s annual solid waste.
Buying second hand or swapping clothes with friends and family could be an alternative to help to solve this issue. This way, you can stop participating in a system that destroys the environment.