We all love finding cute clothes or swimsuits at a super affordable price, but do you know what the trade off is for these cheap items?
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
Don’t get me wrong, I was always one to jump on a sale from FashionNova, until I learned what the fast fashion industry is really doing to us and our planet. Fast fashion is a term to describe brands that create “knock-off” high end fashion in massive quantities at very low prices. The whole point of fast fashion is to create and provide cute, trendy clothes for everyone to afford, and then toss once it’s “out of style,” then buy more - hence fast in the name. Not only does this create massive amounts of waste, but this also hurts other businesses, manufacturer workers, and our environment.
These brands have sped up the manufacturing process by not creating original designs, keeping materials on hand to produce items more quickly, only remaking what’s popular, and distributing as fast as possible. Which in hindsight seems great - get clothing you want at a cheap price and get it sooner rather than later. However, this sped up production is creating this need from designer brands to make products more quickly and at a reduced price. Along with this high-speed process, working conditionals are extremely poor causing manufacturers to work long hours, with low pay. Many high-end or eco-friendly brands are priced accordingly because it takes time to create a design, have it sampled until it’s perfect, have it created under safe working conditions, and then distributed properly.
Since fast fashion needs fabric at a low cost, they are usually made of polyester, nylon, rayon, ect; otherwise known as PLASTIC. There are two ways to make these types of fabric, with crude oil or by cutting down ancient trees or threatened forests. It typically takes 342 million barrels of oil per year to create synthetic fabrics. As for cutting down trees, only 30% of the pulp needed to make these fabrics is used; the other 70% is just thrown away. While these fabrics are being produced, greenhouse gases are being emitted which affects our ozone layer. About 706 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted per year from clothing, that’s more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Wasting water is another big issue. Even cotton, a well-known environmentally-friendly fabric, can require 10,330 liters of water to make a jacket. That’s equivalent to 24 years of drinking water for 1 person. Each year 5.9 trillion liters of water is used just for fabric dying alone. Not only do we use water to create these fabrics, we also pollute fresh water with the toxic chemicals used while creating, manufacturing, processing, and dyeing these fabrics. This toxic water waste usually ends up getting dumped in fresh rivers, which affect villages and wildlife.
“But I donate clothes I know longer want” - that’s great, if they actually get the chance to be re-worn. Average Americans throw out or donate 80 lbs of clothing per year. About 90% of donated clothes are sold off to textile recyclers, and of that 90%, around 87% ends up in landfills or are incinerated in developing countries. With the amount of clothes donated daily, many developing countries are pushing to ban clothing imports. Burning so many fabrics (aka plastics), greatly increases gases that are released. You can still donate, just make sure to do your research to find the best places and best ways to do it!
HOW THEY GET US TO BUY
Fast fashion brands don’t make it easy to say no. They constantly pump out trendy outfits, with low prices, and discounts; but that’s their whole strategy. Buy more, save more, get more discounts. They promote discounts and new items everyday and will then give you another code to use on your next order once you make a purchase. Offering these new items daily gives them an idea of what sells so they can go to their manufacturer and make tons more or create slightly different styles of those pieces. What doesn’t sell, usually ends up in stores like TJMaxx, goes to charity, or ends up in the landfill (the most likely spot).
They also do a thing called Greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company or person says or gives you the impression that they are environmentally friendly. They’ll use words like sustainable, reused, recyclable, green, eco-friendly, ethical, responsibly-made, and so on; making it hard for companies like us to actually show our efforts for truly sustainable products.
|FAST FASHION||TRULY ECO-FRIENDLY BRANDS|
|Plastic fabric||Reused or biodegradable fabrics|
|Cheap for what you get||More expensive, but affordable|
|Wastes tons (literally) of water||Reuses water to create more items|
|Emits more greenhouse gases||Reduces gases and treats them before released|
|Trendy for a few months||Usually made to wear for years|
|False sustainability claims||True sustainable practices|
WHAT WE CAN DO TO REDUCE, REUSE, & RECYCLE
The average American only keeps what they buy half as long, compared to previous years. Like I said earlier, we each donate or trash 80 lbs of clothing per year. There’s a few simple ways we can help reduce our waste.
1. The obvious, stop buying so many clothes. Yes, you want to look cute and fashionable, but how often will you wear that item? If it’s monthly, great, go ahead and buy it; but if it's a one-time or couple times a year thing - pass.
2. Wear your clothes longer. Wearing your clothes 9 months longer than intended reduces your carbon footprint by 30% per garment.
3. Shop at second hand stores, borrow clothes from friends, swap unwanted clothes, or take the hand-me-downs. If every person bought one used item, we would reduce CO2 emissions by 6 lbs, that’s equal to taking a ½ million cars off the road for a year.
4. Give unwanted clothes to friends or family, swap unwanted clothes, sell them, or repurpose them into new items. You can still try to donate them, but make sure they are actually worth donating - no stains, holes, or roughly worn items. Remember there’s a 90% chance it’s going to be burned in a landfill.
FAST FAHSION BRANDS TO AVOID
- Forever 21
- Pretty Little Thing
- Shop Priceless
- Nasty Gal
Now this is not all of them, and I’m sure there are tons of lists if you google them, but these are some of the top brands out there. I'm not saying you have to give up shopping or these brands completely, just be more conscious about what you buy and from who.