Trends and GHG Emissions: The Impact of the Fast Fashion Industry on the Environment
Updated: Jun 20
Fast fashion is fast becoming a household term. On the other hand, it might be a term you’ve never heard of but you’re actively involved in or maybe you have heard of it, but you’re not sure what it means.
SO, WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
According to Investopedia, Fast Fashion is a business model that is “used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to take advantage of trends.”
It is when clothes that are on trend, are manufactured en masse and shipped out to retail stores for low prices. The thing is, the manufacture of clothes is much higher than the world's current population. So the clothes that quickly go out of trend and become unsold are quickly disposed of.
So basically, FASHION but bring it FAST.
You might also wonder, ‘is this such a bad thing?’ Yes. Yes, it has proven to be.
WHY IS FAST FASHION AN ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD?
Here’s a fact for you, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the earth’s carbon emissions. It might not sound that scary to you, but it gets worse. According to research by The Eco Experts, the different aspects of the fashion industry each have a role to play in the industry's carbon footprint, from water consumption to manufacturing to even the distribution of these clothes.
The fashion industry is the 6th largest polluter in the world responsible for 2.1 billion tonnes of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions annually! GHG emissions happen to be what causes climate change. The use of cheap, toxic textile dyes in the fashion industry and fast fashion makes the industry one of the largest polluters of clean water globally, right up there with agriculture and one of largest producers of ghg emissions than both the aviation and shipping industries combined.
Beyond that, the industry has a larger environmental impact than both the aviation and shipping industries combined. Crazy right? To think that our wardrobes could have such a huge impact on our world.
Most of the industry's environmental impact stems from the use of raw materials;
cotton uses about 2.5% of the world's farmland
synthetic materials, like polyester, require an estimated 342 million barrels of oil every year
clothes production processes such as dying require 43 million tonnes of chemicals a year, just to name a few.
According to the BBC, the low cost of production of fast fashion favours cheap materials, harmful chemicals, and little to no anti-pollution measures (which increases profits), thus leading to excess waste.
Climate change is one global pandemic currently ravaging mother earth, so while we work towards climate knowledge and green health, eradicating fast fashion is one step towards an eco-friendly world.
The industry smokescreens you into believing that you are getting the in-vogue energy and spicing up your fashion game, but really, you are not only damaging your health, but the health of a million others.
Not only does fast fashion have a large impact on ghg emissions and the environment, the sketchy manufacturing of these clothes also affects human rights. To cut costs, many fashion companies are notorious for poor labour conditions and exploiting women and children in developing countries.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
In a recent Gen Z fast fashion report by ThredUp, 72% of university students have shopped for fast fashion this year. In a recent survey by the environmental charity Hubbub, it was found that more than two-fifths of 16-24-year-olds buy clothes online at least once a week.
As young people seeking to impact society, our little actions go a long way. One way you can help curb climate change and environmental degradation is by emptying that shopping cart and truly answering the BIG question, 'What is the real price of buying cheap clothes?'
1. Watch some of these documentaries about the fast fashion industry
2. Repurpose or upcycle your clothes!
We often throw away our clothes when they are out of trend but why don't you try flipping your clothes to fit your style?
3. Buy clothes from sustainable fashion brands.
Technically, no brand can be 100% sustainable, but till we can reach full sustainability in the fashion industry buy clothes (if you need to) from sustainable brands.
4. Purchase responsibly. You don't have to buy everything that's on trend. Before you click that 'pay' button
5. Buy second-hand clothes from thrift or charity shops
6. Rent clothes
7. Fix any torn clothes before resorting to throwing them away
8. Donate your clothes!
Donate your old clothes to Project Smira, organizatan ion that donates clothes to those in need.
3. Check out this list of fast fashion companies
4. Can Fashion Ever Be Sustainable? What do you think?
6. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Fast Fashion in 2022
WRITTEN BY Queen 'Kwyn' Ernest.
Queen 'Kwyn' Ernest is a writer, reader, serial volunteer, and a few more things in between. She is passionate about writing and speaking on social education, for children, teenagers, and young adults because she believes 'our psyche is our life'. She detests hurtful societal stereotypes and hopes to change them, ten words at a time. When she's neither writing, reading or volunteering she's trying to figure out life and living, overthinking, or speaking her messy Spanish and pretending that she's an actress.
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BY Chizulu Uwolloh.
'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. Zulu Uwolloh is a lawyer and international development professional. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs. She is passionate about showing young people that they can change the world with the smallest actions.
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