The Environmental Cost of Fast Fashion

Carbon Emissions

Producing all of those clothes isn’t easy. It takes a lot of electricity to do so, and many of the countries in which our clothing is produced rely upon coal power. Given that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions globally.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/jzehnder

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/jzehnder

Costly Materials

Cotton is found in nearly 40% of our clothes but is incredibly costly to produce. The creation of one shirt, for instance, can require up to 710 gallons of water.

Further, cotton is the largest pesticide consumer on the planet. Its production is wreaking havoc on both water and soil, and, each year, millions of farmers are hospitalized for exposure to pesticides.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Stockninja

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Stockninja

Chemical Waste

Fast fashion garments, even those made from cotton and other natural fibers, aren’t natural. They’ve been dyed, bleached, and scrubbed in chemical baths. When our old clothing gets ditched and sent off to landfills, the dyes and chemicals used to produce it can leach into groundwater.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Kopiersperre

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Kopiersperre

And it’s not just the disposal of textiles that takes its toll on the environment. Nearly every step of creating a garment is damaging. Dyes often contain harmful chemicals, which are, unfortunately, often haphazardly disposed of into rivers, devastating aquatic life. The production of synthetic fibers, like polyester and nylon, releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times stronger than carbon dioxide. When these fabrics degrade (even through a standard wash cycle in your washing machine), they release microfibers that end up in our oceans, being consumed by marine animals.

So What Can We Do?

1. Choose quality over quantity.

If you’re on a budget, it may feel like your only option is to buy into the churn-and-burn culture of fast fashion. However, if you pay attention to sales, it’s possible to get higher quality clothes for the same price. Even if you have to spend more on a higher-quality item, in the long run, investing in fewer pieces that you really like saves you money because you’ll have to replace items less often.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/maicasaa

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/maicasaa

Further, when you’re more conscious of your purchases, you’re less likely to have buyer’s remorse. Because let’s face it: who hasn’t bought a piece of clothing that they weren’t in love with or for aspirational purposes (“This isn’t my size, but someday I’ll fit into it), simply because they were in love with the price point? We all have. Typically, those clothes sit in your closet, occupying space and leaving you feeling like you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear.

“Next” for more more ways you can make more ethical purchases!

L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.
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