The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion
When you go shopping, what do you look for? Personally, there are a few things I want out of my purchase. For starters, I want to make sure I like the clothing I’m buying. I want it to look nice and fit well. I’m pretty into comfort, so that’s definitely important too. But for me, one of the strongest selling points can be found on the price tag. If I can get a good value out of something, I usually end up bringing it home.
However, I’ve recently started reconsidering the strategy I use when shopping for clothes. Why? Because the clothes I perceive to be a value, as it turns out, may not be all that great for the environment, or, in the long run, my wallet.
Many of the brands we turn to for value are known as “fast fashion” brands. This term refers to stores known for producing inexpensive yet fashion-forward clothing. It sounds like the perfect solution for all of your clothing needs, but the truth is that the quality of these clothes is severely lacking. And that’s part of their business plan.
By creating a low-quality product, these businesses are ensuring return customers. Typically, these clothes wear out before the season is over, thus forcing consumers to purchase replacement items. So, while you may think those jeans from Forever 21 are a great deal, when they only last a couple months, were they actually a bargain?
It’s not just the quality of clothes that keeps demand high. There was a time when there were only two seasons for fashion: spring/summer and fall/winter. However, if you look at the current fashion landscape, stores are offering new trends weekly, turning 2 seasons into 52 “micro-seasons.” So, not only are the clothes of poor quality, the style of clothing is designed to lose appeal quickly.
And if you think we’re off the hook because a lot of these stores participate in clothing take-back programs, offering to recycle our old garments, think again. The vast majority of those clothes don’t actually wind up being recycled. According to Newsweek, “only 0.1 percent of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber.”
If the idea of getting scammed by alleged bargain buys isn’t enough to make you rethink your shopping habits, let’s look at the environmental impact of fast fashion.
Volume of Textiles in Landfills
It may surprise you to learn that fashion is the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. According to a 2013 report, nearly 150 billion garments were produced in 2010. What’s worse is that each year 12.8 million tons of clothing is being sent to landfills. This already staggering number is projected to increase to 2.8 billion tons by 2030. And if you think those garments are decomposing, think again. Polyester, for instance, is the most commonly used fabric in clothing, and it takes more than 200 years to decompose.