Fast Fashion and Consumerism Perpetuate Climate Change
Fast fashion is the mass production of low-quality clothing at a low cost made for continuous consumption. This leads to more purchasing and more waste. These garments are made using fabrics such as polyester and synthetic cotton and processes which pollute watersheds and release toxic gasses into the air. But it does not stop there: the cost to human health is even more detrimental. Those who work in garment factories are often subject to sub-par labor laws as companies outsource manufacturing to countries such as Bangladesh, China and Vietnam. The health effects on both the workers and consumers from these synthetic dyes and fabrics are long-term and can lead to severe illness. So why is fast fashion so popular?
It is difficult to combat due to three main reasons. First and foremost, its popularity with consumers is hard to beat. Fast fashion is cheap and trendy, and in a society that revolves around mass consumption, these are huge drivers of popularity. Over the course of the 21st century, the fashion industry has gone from being driven by creativity and quality to profit and trendiness. Where previous generations would purchase a few quality pieces or make their own garments, collectively we now buy over 80 billion items of clothing per year, 40% of which ends up in landfills. The second hurdle to eradicating fast fashion is government policy, both in wealthier countries that import garments and poorer ones that do most of the clothing manufacturing. The US and other wealthy governments turn a blind eye to shoddy labor laws and manufacturing standards on clothing imports, offer little incentive for companies to keep manufacturing at home, and ignore the human and environmental costs of outsourced production in favor of cheap goods. The third hurdle is the companies and brands that produce fast fashion. Like governments, they ignore the detrimental implications of fast fashion, instead opting for policies like greenwashing, the practice of making clothing seem sustainable by highlighting the use of recycled materials, such as by adding a green label. So, how do we work to combat fast fashion?
Switching from fast fashion to sustainable alternatives is one of the easiest and most impactful ways to combat the negative effects of fast fashion,so next time you go shopping for clothing do some research on sustainable brands. Although it can be hard to shop sustainably due to higher prices or limited availability, buying a few good quality pieces which will last years instead of doing a “haul” of cheap fast-fashion will be better long-term. You can use websites like Ecothes and the Green Consumer Project to make sure you aren’t falling victim to greenwashing. Thrifting is also a fantastic solution on a budget. As for advocacy, encourage your policymakers to advocate for better manufacturing, labor laws, and environmental regulations. Additionally, educate your friends and family on the harmful effects of mass consumerism and fast fashion, because this is a trend that can be stopped by conscious consumers like you.