Fast fashion may seem cheap, but the environmental impact is high. Fast fashion websites have exploded in recent years, with cheap trendy clothing available at the click of a button. However, the low price of fast fashion comes at a cost.
FAST FASHION DEFINITION
Fast fashion stores work to provide clothes that are cheap and trendy--and often low quality. These stores can offer up to 600 new items per week based on the latest trends. Fast fashion encourages frequent purchases and turnovers to keep up with trends, and is not made to last. In order to move a product from design to production quickly, garment workers are typically overworked, underpaid, and often in unsafe conditions. As for the clothing items, the low quality means they are thrown away after a few wears and end up in landfills, or simply fall apart.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF FAST FASHION
The dizzying speed at which fast fashion brands offer new items creates a significant amount of waste. Fashion production creates 10% of global carbon emissions, and 85% of all textiles end up in landfills each year, both from disposing of unwanted items (the average American disposes of an estimated 80 lbs of clothing a year!) and waste created on the factory floor. In order to keep prices low, fast fashion companies typically use synthetic materials, which shed microplastics into our waterways and oceans. Approximately 35% of all microplastics come from synthetic fabrics. Fast fashion may look cheap, but it comes at a high environmental cost.
THE ALTERNATIVE? CLOTHING CIRCULARITY
Clothing Circularity seeks to reduce waste and keep clothing out of landfills. This means making clothing from high quality materials, using recycled materials when possible, and considering the product’s end of life. Different brands take different approaches to circularity. Some brands offer a recycling program, where you can return old or unwanted clothing to the store so they can reuse the material for a new garment. The brand Girlfriend Collective, for example, creates their activewear out of materials from old plastic bottles. When the clothing is at the end of its life cycle (whether it’s ripped, stained, or no longer fits), customers can return it so the fibers can be regenerated into fabric for new pieces.
Another approach to clothing circularity is reducing the amount of waste created in production. Zero Waste Daniel is a clothing designer who uses pre-consumer fabric waste from New York City’s garment industry to create his clothing and accessories. By using fabric deadstock, his items keep fabric out of landfills from the very beginning! Shopping with Zero Waste Daniel and other similar brands supports fair labor practices and reduced textile pollution. (May we recommend our Limited Edition Dropps X Zero Waste Daniel Bag? Whether you’re looking for a laundry bag with handles or a tote, this bag has you covered!)
“I don't make work that hurts people, or oppresses people, that makes someone hate their body or their face, or that pollutes someone's water. I'm willing to work with what we’ve got, I don't care how long it takes, I care that you look good. I care that it's made here, that it’s made fair.” - ZERO WASTE DANIEL
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Being an informed consumer is the first step! Whenever possible, invest in sustainably made pieces that will last. Taking care of your clothing to extend its lifespan, such as tackling stains rather than discarding stained items, is a great way to keep your clothes looking fresh and out of landfills. Check out our Stain & Fabric care guides for tips! When your clothing has reached the end of its life, seek out a recycling program, or reuse the fabric--if you’re the crafty type, the possibilities are endless! You can also consider hosting a clothing swap with friends, donating your clothes to a local thrift store, or reselling them online, rather than throwing them away. A bit of mindfulness goes a long way--and together we can make a big difference.