Avoiding Fast Fashion
I would go clothes shopping all the time before the pandemic hit. Made worse with living and working in a city. You could almost call it a hobby. Buying inexpensive clothing to try to keep up with the ever-changing fashion trends.
I’d never heard of the term fast fashion until recently. And it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. With fast food you think McDonalds, quick and cheap. Well, unfortunately it’s the same for fashion...
What is fast fashion?
Its general definition is cheap and fashionable. Wearing the popular looks and styles of the moment. It’s clothing you’ll find in high street stores. Manufacturers speedily get trends into stores for customer consumption and then ditch them when styles change and customers lose interest. It’s this toxic cycle that has made fashion one of the biggest threats to the environment and the world.
It’s the Industrial Revolution that really changed the shape of fashion. Machinery made clothing easier and quicker to make. The 1960 -1980s became a moment in time where people used fashion as a way of expressing themselves; the birth of style and trend. In the 1990s you had the public availability of the Internet, where online shopping became available. Fast forward to today where you have the addition of social media.
What impact does fast fashion have on the environment?
The fashion industry produces far more greenhouse gas emissions than international travel on planes or posting an international package.
Polyester: This material contains polyethylene terephthalate (PET) , a common type of plastic. When washed this fabric sheds tiny microplastics which end up in the ocean. Microplastics have even been identified in human stomachs. The ocean is becoming so polluted with plastic that we are starting to consume it.
Cotton: This is sourced from a crop in India and sprayed with pesticides in order to control insects and diseases. These pesticides can seep into the ground; causing some crops to grow with pesticides in them. In some areas of India, Pesticides have been found in the water, therefore making communities extremely unwell.
Synthetic Dyes: Disperse, reactive, acid and azo dyes are used on fabrics and it takes a large amount of water to create them. Once used, this water is then returned to oceans and rivers, creating more waste. Large manufacturers get away with this because unfortunately, it is not regulated. This waste water full of chemicals causes so much harm to the environment and local people.
Waste and landfills: When a fashion trend ends the majority of manufacturers will throw unwanted clothing into landfills. Textiles make up around 5% of landfill space and they cannot biodegrade. To make matters worse, some companies apparently choose to incinerate their clothing rather than sell it at a discounted price; releasing toxic chemicals into the ground and the atmosphere.
Labour: Children and adults are working in cotton fields. They spin, create and dye the fabric. This exposes them to all sorts of chemicals and its impact on their life span. Many are working in bad conditions. Factory maintenance is often unregulated. Chemicals are floating about with no proper ventilation. Companies overwork employees to get a higher turnaround of products. The majority of workers don’t get a proper break; they face abuse, work long hours and are often underpaid.
These are just a few examples of how fast fashion is impacting the environment and human rights.
How can we be more aware of fast fashion brands? What should we be looking out for?
- What is the ethos of the company? Google them and find out. Look at where the clothing is made. Do they say if their workers are paid a fair wage? What materials do they use? How quickly do they advertise a new style?
- Shop less and when you do shop, try to support sustainable companies and choose more environmentally and ethically better materials such as linen and hemp.
- Buy secondhand clothing.
- Find sustainable clothing companies. Some can be expensive, but you are paying for quality.
- Research! Like me you’ll discover so many useful facts and information which will shock you.
- Buy a Guppyfriend bag. A special bag designed and scientifically proven to catch and prevent microfibers from being washed into pipes and therefore the ocean. You put all your microfiber clothing into the bag. Place it in your washing machine. When done, pick out the fibres and put them into the waste bin. Landfills now have to be lined, meaning those fibres can’t be absorbed into the ground.