A subject not commonly spoken or even thought about is the effect of fast fashion on the environment. Fast fashion focuses on two main things in particular: speed and low cost. Fast fashion retailers are forced to deliver new celebrity or runway-inspired collections as quickly as possible. This pressure ultimately means cutting environmental corners.
So what exactly are the environmental issues with fast fashion?
Well, for one, fast fashion makes heavy use of toxic chemicals that increase levels of textile waste. Toxic chemicals are used to create the vibrant colors, prints, and fabric finishes seen on much of today’s clothing. Textile dyeing is actually the second largest polluter of clean water worldwide, following agriculture.
In addition, even some of the fabrics used to make clothing can harm the environment. One of the most common fabrics in fast fashion, polyester, sheds microfibers when washed in a typical household washing machine. Microfibers add to the increasing levels of plastic in the oceans, and can also show up in our waterways due to their ability to easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants. These microfibers pose a threat to aquatic life, often eaten by creatures like plankton, which are eaten by other fish, which are then eaten by humans. This is evidence that polyester can eventually show up in what we consume, without us even knowing it.
Believe it or not, another environmentally harmful part of fashion is growing cotton. Cotton growing involves high levels of pesticides to keep the crops alive, which can seriously affect the health of farmers and any other life nearby. Toxic chemical use in agriculture has been acknowledged by companies like H&M and Inditex, who have started using organic cotton, but organic cotton still only represents less than 1 percent of the world’s annual cotton crop.
Fast fashion manages to create a constant desire among consumers for newness, which convinces them they need to frequently buy new clothes in order to participate in the latest trends. Textile waste is a big problem in fast fashion because clothes are not kept as long as they used to be. Retailers entice consumers with constant newness, so it is hard to look away, especially for those who love keeping up with fashion.
So can anything really be done to reduce the environmental impact that comes with fast fashion?
The answer is yes. One way to reduce the environmental cost of fast fashion is by choosing an eco-friendly fabric, maybe one that is organic. Another great way to help is by choosing recycled content. Urban Outfitters has a vintage line called Urban Renewal, consisting of handpicked vintage, remade, and recycled items. Urban Outfitters is one company to look to for helping the environment. The brand reduces plastic waste by providing eco totes instead of plastic shopping bags for every customer who buys something from the store.
One eco-conscious fashion entrepreneur has been working to change the environmental problems with fast fashion. Her name is Samantha Martin, and she started an ethical online boutique she calls Agathos Athleisure. The boutique sells trendy athletic and casual clothing, and most importantly, is eco-friendly.
Agathos Athleisure acts as a distributor, buying clothes wholesale from small, eco-conscious brands, then selling them on the site. This gives these environmentally friendly products the opportunity to reach a larger audience. Samantha Martin hopes to inspire consumers to think about how their decisions impact the environment and what they are supporting when they buy certain products.
Agathos Athleisure launched in 2016 and had a difficult time gaining interest from consumers, but once Martin found a way to get her message across and communicate the importance of eco-friendly products, her brand took off.
People love her products. One style of leggings in particular is made from recycled bottles of water. Surprisingly, the water bottle trend is not just limited to Agathos Athlesiure. Patagonia actually became the first outdoor clothing brand to make polyester fleece out of plastic bottles.
As fashion continues to evolve, as it always does, so will the way it is produced. It is important, even for what may seem like trivial purchases, to consider what your money is supporting. Samantha Martin and other people and companies like her have finally started the discussion that should have started a long time ago. Fashion is much more than what you wear.
If you don’t like old clothes that have been sitting in your closet, consider selling them on apps like Depop, Poshmark, Mercari, or eBay. You might be surprised at how easy it is to sell your clothes, and even find new clothes, too.
Featured image via Wikimedia