We’ve all experienced the thrill of getting new clothes. The crisp feeling, the fresh smell, and the novelty of something new. How often do we pause to think about how that garment was made? How many chemicals were used? How much water was used? And where does it end up once we have no use for it?
These are all important questions, and when we look deeper, the detrimental effect fast fashion has on the environment becomes evident. Overconsumption of natural resources and marine pollution are just some of the lasting effects of fast fashion, which we need to create awareness around if we have any hope of changing our buying patterns and reducing landfill waste.
What is ‘Fast Fashion’?
As the name aptly suggests, fast fashion is clothing manufactured in large quantities at a fast rate to meet the demand of the trend-hungry masses. This happens in huge factories that emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Another dangerous byproduct is how workers are exploited for manual and child labour. The end product may appear cheap and cheerful, but it comes at a hefty price.
What are some of the effects of Fast Fashion on the environment?
High carbon emissions and water consumption:
Statistics show that the fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water resources and produces more carbon than maritime shipping and international air travel.
Landfills are filling up at an alarming rate:
Remember that feeling of getting your new clothes? Well, research shows that that feeling doesn’t last very long, since 85% of fabric and textiles end up in landfills each year. That is a frightening amount of fashion waste, especially since clothing takes hundreds of years to disintegrate. Worse yet is that even when they disintegrate, the polyblends used in most fast-fashion merely become microplastics that seep into the water system.
Fabric dyeing for fast fashion pollutes water sources, as leftovers are dumped or seep into rivers and streams. The washing of clothes releases tons of microfibres and microplastics into the ocean. Microplastics are believed to make up 31% of plastic pollution in the ocean. Raising awareness of marine pollution from textiles is sorely needed to curb this problem as the disconnect is huge.
So, do we stop buying clothes? That would be as unrealistic as any black and white solution for the many issues our planet faces. There are many ways we can however reduce and slow down the effects of clothing production on the environment.
How do I start changing my patterns and set an example for my friends and family?
Read and share articles and media to educate yourself and others, there is so much information out there and easily accessible. To change a habit, you need to understand your current patterns and what it means, as well as what the better alternatives look like for your lifestyle and budget.
Remember: Not every brand who advertise themselves as eco-friendly is truly earth conscious. Ask questions and take time with your purchases, you may find you don’t really need it at all.
With great exposure comes great responsibility and even if you only post for your family and friends, know that it contributes to the ripple effect. Style and post your favourite slow/local brands or show how you’re wearing and rewearing your favourite pieces in simple and creative ways.
Remember: Use popular hashtags to share your creativity globally, terms like #lowwasteliving, #zerowaste, #slowfashion or #plasticfreejourney. Challenge your friends to join your efforts!
Shop less, swop with friends and family and embrace second-hand clothing. Save the worn out fun patterns for squaring off spill clothes cloths, hand towels and wiping surfaces – it may be old-school but it’s pretty cool. Another very important way to contribute to the planet’s needs as well as your communities is donating your gently worn clothing to your local shelter, orphanage or salvation type stores.
Remember: Act with dignity in mind, only donate pieces that are wearable. Alternatively, donate the more run-down or tron bits and pieces to a sewing workshop in need of scraps or a small business that makes toys; these are just some ideas which will differ according to your area.
If you’d like more ideas or have an idea for an event or content, get in touch with any of us! We’d love to chat! As always and when COVID allows, join our beach clean up events at the Black River, you’ll see first hand the amount of textile waste we encounter.