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What Is Fast Fashion?

What Is Fast Fashion?

What is fast fashion and why is it bad? This simple question has a complicated answer.

Personally, I had never even heard of the term “fast fashion” until a few years ago, but I was still part of the problem. If it’s not something you’re aware of, it’s easy mistake a low price for a good deal.

In this post, I’ll go over what fast fashion is, the problems it creates + amplifies and what you can do to avoid it.

Fast Fashion Is Everywhere

Fast fashion is a term that’s generally used to refer to cheap, trendy clothes, shoes, etc. that make it from the runway/celebrity sighting to the store rack super quickly. Think stores like Zara, Forever21 and H+M.

Source: Good On You

fast fashion

Easy access to trendy clothes at a cheap price sounds like a dream come true, especially to people who like to keep up with fashion trends but can’t/don’t want to spend a ton on their wardrobe.

But these clothes aren’t made to last. They wear out and/or fall apart after a few months and we go out and buy more cheaply made items. The cycle continues.

“The average consumer bought about 60% more apparel in 2014 compared to 2000, but kept it for about half as long.”


Why Is Fast Fashion Bad for the Environment?

The Manufacturing Process: Waste + Pollution

Because of the rise of fast fashion, we’re using more resources than ever for textile production. This amplifies already existing environmental harms of producing textiles like deforestation, carbon emissions, overuse of water and damage to water systems.

The pressure to get the next line out as quickly and cheaply as possible also increases the odds that producers will cut corners when it comes to pollution and environmental safety guidelines.

According to Business Insider, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of our total carbon emissions – and projections say they will continue to increase year after year.

fast fashion

The dyeing, processing and finishing of textiles and footwear involves around 8,000 synthetic chemicals. I’m not saying that all synthetic chemicals are bad, but many are toxic and none of them belong in natural water systems.

The Guardian has found that dye houses in India and China are notorious for both exhausting local water supplies, and dumping untreated wastewater into local streams and rivers.

The World Bank estimates that about 20% of water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment, according to Common Objective.

The UNEP estimates that it takes 2,000 gallons of water, on average, to make a pair of jeans. The average American drinks about fifty-eight gallons of water each year.

This sounds so crazy that I triple-checked my math: the amount of water it takes to make just one pair of jeans is equal to thirty-four people drinking water for a whole year OR one person drinking water for thirty-four years. There are so many people in the world who do not have clean drinking water, yet we’re prioritizing jeans?

The Effects After Manufacturing

This harm continues when we wash synthetic fibers that release microplastics back into our public water systems. It’s crazy to think that just by washing our clothes, we’re putting plastic into the ocean!

“Microplastics are estimated to compose up to 31% of plastic pollution in the ocean.”

Business Insider

Of course it doesn’t end here. Fast fashion garments are less likely to last long enough to be donated and used by others. This is due to their poor quality + fleeting trendiness.

According to The Balance, only 15% of new clothing bought is recycled or donated, even though most clothing/textiles are recyclable in some way.

This has led to 15 million+ tons of textile waste in the U.S., double what we were throwing out ten years ago. Synthetic fibers are used in 72% of our clothing and can take up to 200 years to decompose.

What Can I Do About Fast Fashion?

The best thing you can do is consume as little as possible – especially when it comes to brand new items. This can be tough if shopping is one of your favorite things to do. Don’t be too hard on yourself! The only way to truly build a sustainable lifestyle is to change your life in ways that feel manageable and somewhat easy for you.

When you do buy, opt for vintage, consignment and thrift shops. Explore your area to find some local stores that fit your style and budget. If this sounds exhausting, start with some online shopping. There are so many online vintage and used retailers these days that there really is something for everyone out there.

Of course you can’t buy every single thing used. When you do shop for new items, support ethical companies. There are plenty of brands out there that have been founded upon eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical principles.

By supporting these brands, you not only further the cause, but also send a signal out to others in the fashion industry that this is something consumers care about. That’s what motivates large corporations to adopt more environmentally friendly practices and products.

Good On You is a great resource to find out how ethical a brand is before you buy. You can enter just about any fashion brand into their search bar and learn about their practices.

When you’re done with your clothes, reuse them! You can donate old items to friends/family or charitable organizations, sell them to a local or online consignment shop, or re-purpose them for your own use.

What has been your experience with fast fashion? Do you have any creative ways to use old pieces of clothing? Send me a message or let me know in the comments 🙂

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