So, on my decluttering journey, I realized that I owned a heck of a lot of clothes, half the items I never really wore and kept because I didn’t want to admit that I wasted many. As I continued with my journey, I wondered what happens to the clothes we donate, discard or don’t buy.
The fashion industry is putting too much product out there, millions of ton of clothes end up in landfill every year—it’s one of the fastest-growing categories of consumption in our society. Termed, “fast fashion” allows consumers to purchase extra, but consumers are wearing these fashion pieces less often and disposing of them at an abnormal rate. How can the fashion industry proceed to produce while not approaching the environmental requirement for people to purchase fewer clothes?
If you don’t believe me, here are some facts:
- In 2015, the world produced roughly 155,000 square miles of fabric (about the size of California)
- 80 billion items are manufactured every year
- Globally, sorting plants like this only deal with around 25% of discarded clothes
- On average only 20% of clothes are worn on a regular basis
- Every year, we send about 85% of the textiles we purchase to landfill
- The artificial fibers often preferred by fast fashion brands, such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic, are primarily plastic made from petroleum. This indicates that your discarded clothes could take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.
- Fast fashion accounts for 10% of the planet’s greenhouse production
- Each year 1.3 trillion gallons of water is used for fabric dyeing alone
- Fast fashion is in second place as the dirtiest and most pollutant industry after oil
- The US consumes about 1.2 million tons of clothing waste which is equal to 15 percent of the clothing sales in the country
- On average, the global water footprint US is enough to fill over 1,200 bathtubs per household
- The number of garments produced globally exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014
- Over 50% of workers within the fashion industry are not paid the minimum wage in countries like India and the Philippines. Most workers are slaves or work in sweatshops and have very little human rights
- Approximately 300 million people who produce cotton are still living in poverty
There is so much out there the support that fast fashion is horrible for the environment, yet we pretend that it isn’t a real problem. What can we do to help lessen the burden on the environment? It’s straightforward, here is what I suggest below:
- Recycle or repurpose your old clothing
- Choose quality over quantity—avoid cheap garments made from synthetic fabrics
- Participate in clothes swap events, or exchange old clothing with friends and family
- Spread the word about Fast Fashion impact on the environment
- Simply do not buy from brands that participate in harming the environment or human rights
- There is nothing wrong with thrifting for clothes, and you will save money too!
I hope you found this article insightful. If you have any suggestions or facts to add, please add them to the comments below.
References and Resources:
Fast fashion: How to make clothes last longer and save the planet (https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-47292087)
Fast Fas is harming the earth, MPs say (https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45745242)
What Is Fast Fashion? (https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion)
Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis (https://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/09/old-clothes-fashion-waste-crisis-494824.html)
By the Numbers: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts of “Fast Fashion” (https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/01/numbers-economic-social-and-environmental-impacts-fast-fashion)
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