3 Ways to Fight Fast Fashion | Modern life has brought with it many conveniences, computers, smartphones, the internet, and even online shopping; but at what expense?
Humanity has come a long way since the end of the last Ice Age when it is believed that humans first
began wearing clothing. Humans covered themselves with natural products ranging from animal skins,
fur, grass, leaves, and other vegetation to protect themselves from the heat, cold, and rain.
Today we can replace our wardrobe while never leaving the comfort of our couch or bed and have it
delivered to our home, in a matter of days and in some cases hours.
The global fashion industry continues to rapidly grow as consumers spend more time, and more money,
while looking for the next hot item or sale. As companies rush to fill consumer demands for cheap and
often trendy goods, our environment suffers serious, often not considered, consequences.
80 billion articles of clothing are manufactured and sold each year worldwide.
As a result of the demand for cheap apparel the global fashion industry is pumping out greenhouse
gases at an alarming rate and is believed to be currently responsible for 10% of all of humanity’s carbon
Greenhouse gases are produced during the production of raw materials, the manufacturing process, and the transportation of apparel goods worldwide. Scientists attribute greenhouse gases that
are trapped within our atmosphere as being the leading cause of global warming and climate change.
2000 gallons of water are used to make one pair of jeans.
The process of creating cheap apparel is very water-intensive. From the production of raw materials,
extruding materials into thread, weaving thread into the material, dyeing materials, and washing, it all
requires some amount of water.
Such water-intensive processes have caused the global fashion industry to become the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply.
Textile production consumes more than 93 billion cubic meters of water annually. That’s enough water to fill nearly 1.2 trillion average bathtubs. Entire water systems like the Aral Sea located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have all but dried up as a result of the fashion industry’s immense thirst.
25 trillion macro and 51 trillion microplastics litter our oceans.
Fast fashion is openly polluting our waterways with microplastics and other toxins. Microplastics and
microfibers are released from apparel during production and even when we launder the items in our
It is estimated that US and Canadian households are responsible for the release of more than
960 tons of microplastics annually due to laundry alone. Microplastics are now abundant in our oceans,
coastal waters, the ocean bed, the ocean surface, freshwater lakes, streams, rivers, and even in
It is literally everywhere. Humans even ingest microplastics in the water we drink, the food we eat, and even the air we breathe. The effects of microplastics on human health and ecosystems are yet to be determined.
3 Ways to Fight Fast Fashion
When possible, make the most sustainable choice by purchasing second-hand. Purchasing second hand
helps alleviate unnecessary textile waste by giving clothing a new life and prevents wearable clothing
from ending up in a landfill or being burned.
Every second the equivalent of one garbage truckload of apparel items are dumped in a landfill or burned.
The average American throws away 70 pounds of unwanted clothing and other textiles each year. The
EPA estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile
waste annually. This only accounts for roughly 15% of all post-consumer textile waste, which leaves 85%
of the total waste ending up in a landfill or being burned.
Related: 30 Days to Zero Waste (Day 19: Opt for Secondhand)
Purchasing second-hand is the best way to recycle clothing as it keeps wearable clothing in the process
stream and helps save precious resources that would otherwise be used in the creation of new products.
It can also save you money.
There are many options for scoring a good deal on second-hand apparel. Take a trip to your local thrift
or consignment store. Spend a morning or afternoon going to garage and yard sales with a friend. Try a
website or app like ThreadUp, Poshmark, or Reruns. Or even checkout what you can find on Facebook
Marketplace or local buy/sell groups.
Wear it Until it Wears Out
Everything in life has an end life, including the clothes we wear. Given the number of resources that go
into the production of any one article of clothing, we should make a conscious effort to extend the life
of our clothing as long as possible. There are several things we can easily do to help prolong the life of
Related: 21 Genius Ways to Repurpose Old Clothing
Invest in a front-load washing machine. A front-loading washing machine is far gentler on clothing in
comparison to a top-loading washing machine with an agitator. A front-loading washing machine uses
the weight of the clothing and gravity to tumble the clothing in water. Whereas a top-loading machine
with an agitator can grip and pull your clothes while moving water around them.
Launder clothing only when necessary and handwash when possible. Washing clothes puts extra wear
on our clothing and can drastically reduce the time we get to spend wearing our favorite shirt or pair of
jeans. Washing our clothes also releases dye and microplastics (most modern clothing material contains
plastic) which pollutes our waterways.
Use cold water. Using hot water wears fabrics out more quickly. Using cold water will keep your clothing
looking like new for a longer period of time as hot water causes dyes to bleed and fade quicker.
Air dry. Dryer heat causes damage to fabrics, shrinkage, color fading, and weakens material fibers. Air
drying will prolong the life of your clothes, keep them looking newer longer, and limit the unnecessary
waste of precious resources lost due to running a gas or electric dryer. If it isn’t possible to air dry your
clothing, use the lowest heat setting on your dryer possible.
Repair ripped or torn items. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being handy with a needle and
thrifty with your wallet. Don’t be afraid of making clothing repairs personal and artsy, be creative!
Purchase with Purpose
Purchase only what you need, when you need it. Steer clear of so-called sales or other sales gimmicks.
Your pocketbook and the environment will thank you.
The fashion industry profits around 3 trillion dollars annually.
Humanity’s infatuation with consumption and keeping up with the Jone’s have driven the growth of the
fast fashion industry to where it is today. However, substantial profits are not worth the destruction of
our environment and the livelihoods of people around the world.
The social issues surrounding fast fashion and its workers are abundant. These issues typically involve unfair labor practices. Such as unsafe working conditions, long hours, and unlivable wages, as well as cases of physical, mental, and sexual abuse. All in the name of creating cheaper goods and driving more consumption and larger profits.
Instead of purchasing what is cheap while contributing negatively to social-economic issues, we should
spend our dollars to positively benefit ourselves and others.
Purchase quality products, that are manufactured with quality standards, using quality materials.
Purchase products from companies that value sustainability, the environment, and their workers.
This article was featured on Twinkl as part of their Sustainability Week campaign.