Your favorite pair of jeans, shoes, sweater and shirt are most likely made by child labor, but that’s not your fault. It’s fast fashion’s.
Fast fashion is clothing that’s made to keep up with trends, whether that’s from celebrities, influences, or the runway. Fast fashion stores browse the media for all the hot trends, make limited quantities of that item, and sell it for sale prices we all wish for.
Sounds like a dream come true for most people, but how can clothing be made so frequently and for so cheap?
Fast fashion utilizes child labor, and the industry pays them very little for their work. Children work in awful and dangerous conditions, often inhaling harsh chemicals, fibers and dust, and they have very few rights. They’re overworked to make the clothing that we then purchase for a couple dollars. It’s unsustainable, immoral and a downright awful system.
Even if using child labor may not sound unethical to you, remember that most of what we own comes from slave owners that work children day and night, and that fast fashion is a huge pollutant in our environment.
According to Business Insider, the majority of fast fashion fabrics are made out of polyester. Polyester requires three times as much carbon dioxide compared to cotton, and it does not break down. Carbon dioxide is a huge factor in global warming, as it causes our atmosphere to heat up, which can result in inhabitable environments for humans, and a multitude of other species, to survive.
Cotton isn’t the only clothing material that fast fashion relies on. Polyester is another common fabric you’ll find. Since polyester is made out of plastic, it ends up as microplastics in the ocean. Microplastics, pieces of plastic, are so small that they cannot be detected by the human eye, but they produce major health risks. They appear undetectable, but they are ingested by the fish that we then consume. It’s a dangerous cycle accelerated by fast fashion. Approximately 35% of microplastics in the ocean are due to polyester.
These issues already sound bad enough, but fast fashion doesn’t just stop at global warming, pollutants, and slave labor. Fast fashion is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide, taking about 700 gallons of water for one t-shirt and 2,000 gallons for one pair of jeans.
Despite fast fashion already using countless gallons of water, it continues to pollute the water around their manufacturers. Textile dyeing, where you add dye to fabrics, is the second largest polluter of water. The dye utilized in fast fashion is frequently dumped into nearby lakes, streams, rivers or ditches. Not to mention, the dyeing process uses enough water to fill 2 million olympic swimming pools every year, with fast fashion making up around 20% of industrial water pollution across the globe!
With these negative impacts considered, why do people continue to buy from fast fashion stores? It’s simple. They sell clothes that are trendy, cheap and encourage the consumer to buy more.
You may potentially buy multiple pairs of t-shirts for less than $10 at some chains, with all of them being worn by your favorite celebrities. Fast fashion looks at popular trends, celebrity outfits, and listens to their consumers. They then rapidly assemble these items, often in limited quantities, which draws the buyers in, making them feel like they have to buy these items at the moment, or they’ll run out. Fast fashion changes every week, which tempts buyers to come back by leaving them feeling like their clothes are out of date.
Luckily, many brands are starting to distance themself from fast fashion items and are vowing to be more sustainable. Multiple websites and apps such as Good on You, Rank a Brand and TreeClicks, all notify a buyer if the items purchased are sustainable. However, famous stores such as Zara, H&M, Shein, Forever 21 and Fashion Nova all participate in fast fashion. In order to send a clear message to others about the need for sustainability, it’s important to not purchase from these brands. Our planet relies on our small steps towards an eco-friendly future, and shopping sustainably is one of them.