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How Fast Fashion Pollutes the Environment

How Fast Fashion Pollutes the Environment

by Emily Bell

A year ago

Fast Fashion Massively Pollutes the Environment

"Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want."

-Anne Lappe


The fashion industry bombards us with shiny objects that cannot be ignored. We are caught in a vicious cycle of buy, wear, trash, and repeat. It can be hard for fashion enthusiasts to take a step back and assess the situation we currently find ourselves in. Over the years fast fashion companies have been producing a tremendous amount of waste and we are now beginning to see the reality of what we have created. The universal demand for these products has skyrocketed over the years, but we need to rethink our consumption habits if we truly care about our future and the environment.

How is fast fashion ruining the environment?

To make synthetic fibers (think nylon, polyester, spandex, and acrylic) large amounts of crude oil are needed. Oil is not only used in production, but in the material itself. The process of burning these fossil fuels, as we all know, releases C02 into the environment. In the case of nylon, nitrous oxide is released. A greenhouse gas which is 300 times stronger than C02. To make matters worse, the production of these fabrics leads to air pollution linked to respiratory diseases and toxic waterways. Even having these fabrics rest on your skin may have potential health risks when you consider that our skin is our largest organ, potentially absorbing whatever it comes in contact with. Couple this with the fact that a lot of these fabrics are in athletic wear. When you workout you sweat. When you sweat, your skin becomes more porous and absorbent. You do the math. 

All this production leads to massive amounts of synthetic clothing that end up in landfills. These fibers can take hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to breakdown. This obviously creates an issue in terms of landfills around the world especially when you consider the fact that synthetic fibers release monomers into the environment leading to further environmental pollution. 



The Fast Spread of Fast Fashion Products 

Manufacturing fashion products from synthetic fibers is an easy process, and it does not cost the textile industry a lot in terms of resources. This leads to quick production, sometimes just a three-week turnaround, low prices, and quick sales. Fueling this intense demand are the fashion magazines that perpetuate a false need to have all the latest trends. God forbid we don't have the latest skinny jean and our self-esteem plummets as a result. The shame!

The fashion cycle used to occur twice a year; in Spring and then in Fall. We now consume 52 "micro-seasons" a year. That's roughly ONCE. A. WEEK. We are bred to consume quickly and discard to make room for the next trend. Textile waste makes up about 10% of all municipal waste and only a fraction of clothing is actually reused.  

Fast Fashion Exploits the Poor 

It's an all too familiar conversation. You compliment a friends shirt and they respond with something like, "Thanks! It was only $5!" What they should really be saying is, "Ya, I'm pretty sure it was made using exploited labor."

By now, we have all heard of the dark shadow that plagues the industry: sweatshops. Images of poorly treated people in terrible working conditions making the kind of money that essentially equates to slave labor. Again and again, we hear these stories come out only to forget about it the next week and are somehow able to turn the other cheek when faced with the reality of buying a really cute shirt. Just the one won't hurt, right?! Unfortunately, it does hurt those that produce these clothing items and will continue to exploit the poorest people until we can say, "NO MORE!".

What can I do?

The textile and fashion industries generate billions of dollars a year. A large chunk of that is synthetic fiber. The current way in which we consume is simply not sustainable. We really need to reevaluate our values. If we want to save the world it is going to take more than switching to energy saving light bulbs and hybrids. Here is a quick list of things you can do to save the world from fast fashion:

  • STOP Going to the mall
  • Shop vintage and secondhand, you find the coolest stuff!
  • Buy natural fibers - organic cotton, hemp, linen, silk, wool, Tencel
  • Never put unwanted clothing in the trash. You can donate or sell it using the growing number of second-hand apps available.
  • Buy American Made 

We have only just breached the surface of this immensely complex issue. Make sure to follow us @EMILVSBEAR on Instagram and join our email list to stay caught up on all the latest news that relates directly to us, the way we consume in everyday life, and how it affects all areas of our life. 



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