We all love a new garment to renew our closets once in a while. Some of us – even more often than that. But before we head out into the sales for those irresistible deals and discounts, we should stop and think a little about how it affects the environment.
Clothing industry is at the forefront of environmental pollution, exploitation of people and low-wage pay. It is the second largest polluter in the world, coming second to oil. There are so many clothing collections presented every season, but not everyone knows how much toxic waste is being released to the nature due to distribution of the garments.
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
It is the mass-production of clothes, often inspired by recent trends seen on the runway or celebrities sold for an affordable price. The maximum number of times people wear clothes from fashion giants like Zara or H&M are roughly around 20, because the garments wear off fast due to quite poor quality and cheap fabrics. This is the reason a huge amount of clothing is thrown out and new clothes are bought to replace them. Due to social media influencers and fashion marketing it keeps growing and growing. Sadly, where is demand there will always be supply.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT OUR PLANET?
- About 70 million trees are cut off to produce such materials as viscose, modal fiber, and sorrel.
- The cotton growing farms consume the most of pesticides, not to mention water use and contamination.
- An average american throws out about 30kg of clothing per year.
- A quarter of the world’s chemicals is used in the textile industry.
One of the most popular fabrics used to make these clothes is polyester. It does not cost much and has wrinkle-free properties. At the same time it is a synthetic petroleum-based fiber, meaning it is made from non-renewable resource. When the garments get thrown out, it takes more than 200 years to decompose causing the growing of landfills.
Soone or later the toxic substances get into the water, also reaches the water that we drink, which means that we are slowly poisoning ourselves. Not to mention inevitably changing climate because of the contaminated coasts and oceans.
The other major problem is the amount of unsold clothing. In 2017 H&M was accused of burning 12 tonnes of garments. A lot of donations have gone to Africa, South America, and some countries in Asia. But in the last couple of years, some African countries, like Uganda and Kenya, have banned the importation of secondhand clothing. The reason for this is they are building their own textile industry and they cannot compete with the very low price of imported goods. Even if it would be for the good of their people.
IS FAST FASHION SLOWING DOWN?
Sustainable fashion has been growing these last few years. Many people get affected by pictures and articles they see online. They start buying long-lasting, in some cases a little bit more expensive clothes, which are made from recycled materials like for example discarded fishnets and other plastic waste found in the ocean, recycled rubber or organic cotton.
As people become aware of the issues, more brands have started to promise more eco-friendly business practices to keep their customers. Zara has been aiming to stop sending all unused and unsold textiles to landfills by 2020. They have also started using recycled materials and ecologically grown cotton. H&M Conscious (products made using recycled materials) collection takes only 5% of their products, but they are meaning to increase it to 100 percent sustainability by 2040.
In spite of progress being made by brands to minimise their impact on environment, it is still predicted that the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50% and the amount of waste it creates will grow till 148m tonnes by 2030.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Ethical brands believe that the biggest issue is the consumer: it is either their lack of awareness of the issues or unwillingness to pay for sustainable products. The most important thing is to start doing little changes in your everyday life.
Slow fashion clothing production processes are aimed at maximizing the durability and sustainability and stopping misusing of employees and paying them appropriate wages together with maintaining their dignity, rights and security.
https://www.businessleader.co.uk/hm-and-zara-the-sustainable-fashion-brands-killing-the-environment/56166/ (Barney Cotton. 28 November, 2018)
https://www.seattletimes.com/business/hm-a-fashion-giant-has-a-problem-4-3-billion-of-unsold-clothes/ (Elizabeth Paton. 27 Mars, 2018)
https://www.greenmatters.com/style/2018/08/28/ybXGX/fast-fashion-impacts-environment (Koty Neelis. 6 September, 2018)
http://theconversation.com/it-may-not-be-possible-to-slow-down-fast-fashion-so-can-the-industry-ever-be-sustainable-82168 (Mark Sumner. 21 September, 2017)
https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/h-m-accused-of-burning-12-tonnes-of-new-unsold-clothing-per-year/2017101726341 (Vivian Hendriksz. 17 Oktober, 2017)
https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/17/17852294/fashion-brands-burning-merchandise-burberry-nike-h-and-m (Chavie Lieber. 17 September, 2018)