Fast fashion: harmful to Earth

By: Portia Bharath, Columnist

Business Insider Retail Reporter Mary Hanbury wrote an article highlighting the wastefulness that lurks behind the curtains of the fashion industry. “Fast fashion” is a term used by textile retailers to describe trends that move quickly from runway to store mannequin, and cheaply so. The products are typically not high in quality and tend to show wear and tear relatively fast. On top of that, as we all know, the trends leave just as fast as they arrived, and companies like H&M and Forever 21 are struggling to keep up with the demands. The article claims that stores are now donating directly to charity organizations to get rid of unwanted styles that won’t sell after the ‘next thing’ has come along.

This increase in trend-driven spending isn’t only difficult for stores to sustain, but it also puts a huge strain on the environment. Hanbury states that it takes an average of 2,700 liters of water to produce one t-shirt, and 26 billion pounds of discarded textiles end up in landfills each year (it’s almost like dumping those 2,700 liters of water directly into a landfill). Most of the clothing sold in ‘fast fashion’ stores are either made of synthetic materials or are a blend of more than 90 percent synthetic material. This means the fabric will take a much longer time to biodegrade relative to an item of clothing that is 100 percent cotton or natural silk.

Inexpensive clothing is ideal for the shopper on a budget, and clothing companies compete with one another for the lowest price and highest trend turnout. The stores want to catch the attention of the mass customer and are focused on selling the latest styles for the lowest price – which means quantity over quality. Clothes are going out of style quicker and are not lasting as long, resulting in them being donated or simply thrown away at a much higher rate.  

With the minimalist lifestyle on the rise, more millennials are starting to take a closer look at the way they spend their money and what they buy. Several people on the internet have documented themselves cleaning out their closets, donating what they don’t use, and avoiding the impulse to buy what they don’t need. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. Donating personal items makes you feel good and solves the problem of an overstuffed closet full of last-season trends, but there is a much bigger issue at hand. We need to stop supporting fast fashion and support companies that sell higher quality, ethically-sourced products. 


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