Fast fashion pollutes faster

Fast fashion pollutes faster

Calista Rockwell

The majority of my adolescence was spent being stressed and urged to act for our planet. I knew early on that this problem was not one that could be solved overnight, and that big changes had to happen if we wanted to guarantee our future. Like my fellow Gen Z peers (that is, the age group born post 1996), pressed with this same knowledge at a young age, it is apparent the impact it had on us.

We are more environmentally conscious than any other generation before us. Through youth climate protests and emphasis of practicing sustainability in our every-day lives, we are working to make a dent in the ever-pressing, and complex issue of saving our planet from extinction. Though, there is one aspect that Gen Z kids—and frankly, every other generation group one can belong to—has failed to bring to light when it comes to sustainable practices: the fast fashion industry.

As a college student, I am aware of the art of stretching a dollar. I find myself browsing online discounted sites and cheap retail too often. Stylish, on-brand clothing, for half the price. It seems like a no-brainer, right?

Being one of the most polluting industries on the planet, fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing that can be produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.  According to an article by Snob Steals, “Fast Fashion Facts,” the world consumes an estimated 80 billion pieces of new clothing from the fast fashion industry per year, 400% more than just two decades ago. Of those 80 billion pieces of clothing produced, 10.5 million tons of it will be sent to sit in our landfills this year alone. 

So, what could be responsible for such a significant increase in the demand for new clothes? The power of social media. The internet’s ability to dominate and influence consumers has taken the fast fashion industry by storm. Tempting, discounted clothing is being advertised and idealized everywhere we look. Popular brands such as ASOS, Urban Outfitters, Target, Zaful, H&M, Gap and Forever 21 all utilize discounted tactics to contribute to unethical fashion practices with no plans of stopping soon.

By 2030, carbon dioxide emissions are expected to increase by more than 60% because of this epidemic in over production, as predicted by a Forbes article titled, “Fast Fashion is a Disaster for Women and the Environment.” Not to mention, this influx of “fast” clothing is resulting in main cotton producing countries such as China and India beginning to experience water shortages, which could ultimately leave them forced to choose between cotton production and a secure drinking water supply.

Fast fashion brands are not only exploiting the planet’s resources, but the people who live on it too. According to Forbes, it takes a garment worker 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break. 

This unsustainable, and inhumane practice has got to come to an end. The fast fashion epidemic that’s tempting today’s consumers with “cheap” clothing is not the way to act on this quest to protect and preserve our vulnerable planet. 

We need to take action. Doing things like giving your dollar to second-hand stores and consignment shops, researching sustainable industries before you shop and extending the wear of your clothes through repurposing and repairing, can eliminate your clothing’s carbon, waste and water footprint by 20% to 30%. This is something that we all can be doing—a simple way to make a big impact.

Let’s make our living sustainable again, in all aspects of consumption. Trust me, the earth will thank you later. 

Calista Rockwell is a sophomore, 

environmental studies and 

sustainability major.