What college student hasn’t shopped at Forever 21, Target, Old Navy or Charlotte Russe at least once? The clothing is cheap, and the styles stay up-to-date with the latest trends. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, brands like these are a part of a practice known as “fast fashion,” and they’re causing serious, harmful environmental impacts.
Fast fashion is the practice of making and selling cheaply priced clothing at a rapid pace to keep up with the current trends, and studies show that fast fashion has contributed to the trend of clothing becoming almost disposable.
According to research by McKinsey&Company, consumers keep their clothes nearly half the amount of time they did 15 years ago, and almost three-fifths of all clothing ends up in a landfill or an incinerator within a year of being produced. Considering that from 2000 through 2014 the average number of clothes purchased annually increased by 60 percent, the amount of clothing that ended up in landfills is significant.
Producing and transporting clothing uses a considerable amount of oil, chemicals and water. The fashion industry is one of the leading polluters in the world, comparable to the fossil fuel, meat and dairy, and automotive industries.
Additionally, fast fashion companies often offer their cheap sale tags by outsourcing production to developing countries, where factory workers are often underpaid and exposed to dangerous working conditions. Consumers must recognize that fast fashion practices can be unethical, too.
So how can we slow down fast fashion? One simple way is to cut back on new clothing purchases. Buying clothing second-hand is a great alternative. Not only is it cheap, but it also cuts down on demand for companies to produce new clothing. Mending damaged clothes and donating unwanted clothes to a local thrift store, instead of throwing them away, are other great options that help keep clothes out of landfills.
Most importantly, stop and think before you make a new clothing purchase. Stay informed about which brands make sustainable choices, and avoid making purchases from brands who use cheap, synthetic material and sweatshop labor.