How much do you think about how your clothing choices impact the environment? Do you know the true extent of damage caused by fast fashion? If you knew would you change your fashion habits?
Today’s post will explore the environmental impacts of fast fashion and hopefully inspire you to be more conscious when making your purchases.
To know more about me, my story, and why you can trust me as a source for this kind of information you can check out my path to environmentalism here!
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What is Fast Fashion?
Fast Fashion involves retailers in the clothing industry frequently updating their available clothing products to respond to quickly changing fashion trends. This involves creating more clothing than necessary and many garments being discarded before the end of their life-span.
The clothing industry following the fast fashion trend leads to large environmental impacts. At every stage in the clothing’s lifecycle, there is a chance for environmental threat as the supply chain is long and complex.
It begins with the farming or producing of fibers and materials, manufacturing the garments, logistics, retail, and it becomes waste once it is discarded (if it not recycled, up-cycled, or donated).
What are the Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion?
The clothing industry consumes a lot of energy resulting in massive emissions: about 8-10% of global CO2 emissions annually.
The fashion industry produces over 92 million tonnes of waste per year and consumes 79 trillion liters of water. Garments that require animal products will also be harmful to the animals they impact and the resources needed to provide the life of that animal.
Consumption and emissions are only part of the problem. Chemicals used in different stages of the lifecycle create harsh pollutants for air, soil, and water. These chemicals are also dangerous for workers and consumers and should not be ignored.
The diagram below will explain what impacts we can find in different stages sourced below!
Examples of Material Consumption of Fast Fashion
To truly understand the impacts of fast fashion I have sourced what is consumed when creating a T-Shirt and Jeans. You will notice that a T-Shirt produces 2.6 kg of CO2 while jeans produce 11.5 kg of CO2 through the entire lifecycle of the piece.
This diagram provides great input into where the emissions come from and how much water and energy are consumed during production.
Hopefully, realizing how much goes into a simple shirt and jeans will make you think twice before purchasing clothes you do not need and purchasing from companies that are unsustainable.
The Environmental Impact of Different Materials
The diagram above reveals the environmental impact of several different popular materials found in clothing. Cotton, for example, consumes the most water while Wool emits the most carbon dioxide.
Cotton, Polyester, Polyamide, and Wool have major impacts in their own way. Non-cotton cellulosics is better than the previous four but still consumes significant energy.
Based on this data, Hemp is the best option when looking for materials with the least impact.
Why Should We Stop Supporting Fast Fashion?
The majority of fast fashion brands are major corporations that can afford to speed through trends and get them on the market as soon as possible. Although there are some larger brands that have sustainable processes, many sustainable fashion choices lie within smaller-scale or local businesses. Which we all should be supporting.
The information and data discussed in this post reveal the consumption, pollution, and emissions that come from fast fashion. If we steer away from this toxic trend and support sustainable practices we can protect the environment from the threats of the fashion industry.
Making this change will require continuous effort and support from individual consumers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and eventually large-scale companies.
Let’s start right now and make more environmentally conscious choices.
- Carbon footprint in denim manufacturing by T.Karthik & R.Murugan
- Life cycle assessment of clothing libraries: can collaborative consumption reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion? by Bahareh Zamani, Gustav Sandin, and Greg M.Peters
- The environmental price of fast fashion by Kirsi Niinimäki, Greg Peters, Helena Dahlbo, Patsy Perry, Timo Rissanen, and Alison Gwilt.