The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

As a society, we have an urge to follow the latest styles. With rapid turnover rates, retailers such as Zara and H&M profit off desirable trends by biting off luxury brands in an effort to reach the mass market.

Succeeding in these efforts, fast-fashion manufacturers set affordable prices enabling customers to buy in high volumes, yielding a sense of satisfaction. However, these cheap staples are made to last for only 10 washes and then be quickly disposed of without the thought of fashion sustainability being at major risk in the future.

The fashion industry is the second most polluting contributor in the world, according to One Green Planet, and the cycle of buying into trends will rapidly continue to worsen the environment. Cheaply made garments are constructed out of synthetic fibers and dyes that release toxic chemicals, and dyeing and treatment processes use vast amounts of water (20,000 liters) in order to produce a single T-shirt and pair of jeans, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

As air pollution increases and natural resources become scarcer, escalating the costs of raw materials, the future of fashion is headed down the inevitable path of unsustainability.

The idea for fast-fashion retailers to promote that they are “going green” is often approached from a marketing perspective, solely aiming to appeal to more customers and disregarding the core issue: how the garment is constructed.

Transparency between the manufacturer and consumer would promote sustainability, unveiling the process of what goes into making the clothes we wear. Exposure forces consumers to be aware of what they are really putting on their bodies. Comparing the sustainability practices of a variety of retailers will then pressure other companies to improve, which would lead to the reduction of landfills and fewer resources wasted on cheaply made garments.

Looking at the fashion industry with a technological eye is necessary because although the industry is a creative one, it lacks the innovation needed to promote a clean environment. It is a social responsibility to realize that the clothes we purchase are not only investments of our closets, but also an investment toward a more sustainable future.

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