Fashion Isn't Always Pretty

It was John Lenon who said that “living is easy with eyes closed,” and this has never rung truer– in terms of fast fashion, anyway. 

We as consumers have been trained by the fast fashion industry to buy, buy, and buy with each season, leaving us with more clothes than we have room for. For the majority of consumers, the fast fashion industry is a win-win for themselves, and for the corporations who are selling these pieces. But are we really winning? Yes, fast fashion offers the average consumer a way to diversify their wardrobe and express their style through convenient and inexpensive means, but at what price?

The cost of fast fashion is a steep one– but it’s a cost that many of us choose not to see. Yeah, it’s completely true that you might have saved 20 bucks buying the replica of that Reformation dress you’ve been wanting for months, but the true cost of saving a few bucks is what you’re really closing your eyes to. And who’s actually paying that price? The planet

Textile Waste

According to an article in the Environmental Health Journal, 80 billion new articles of clothing are bought annually, most of which is consumed by the U.S. And according to a Mckinsey survey, consumers keep clothing items for half as long as they did in 2001. In fact, 85% of the clothing produced (which is equivalent to 3.8 billion pounds if you want to know the numbers) is sent to the landfills. That means each American sends 80 pounds of textile waste to the landfill, each year. (I’d hate to know how that registers in our bankbooks- but that’s a topic for another day).

85% of the clothing produced (which is equivalent to 3.8 billion pounds if you want to know the numbers) is sent to the landfills.

Textile waste that isn’t sent to the landfills either end up in the second-hand clothing trade- both locally and globally, or end up in rivers, greenways and parks, harming the wildlife and the ecosystem. So yes, you meant well when you donated all those clothes to charity, but what you didn’t know is that what isn’t sold is shipped abroad to destroy international waters instead. A 2021 CBS article reported on how the fast fashion movement was resulting in American textile waste clogging up beaches in Ghana. But that’s rare, right? Not really. Just try volunteering at your local park cleanup for a day and you’ll see what I mean.

The Environmental Impact

Cotton and polyester account for the most commonly used textile. That being the case, environmental hazards include water stress and pollution among others. Cotton requires pesticides and a great deal of water to grow. To produce just one shirt, cotton requires 2,700 liters of water. That’s what you might drink in 2 ½ years. Think about what that means for areas that are already facing water stress.

To produce just one shirt, cotton requires 2,700 liters of water.

Synthetic materials, like polyester, used to make your clothing cause plastic microfibers to pollute our oceans and produce more carbon emissions.

The pesticides used contaminates the water, soil, and other vegetation, which is in turn harmful to biodiversity. Is it any wonder that the honeybees are disappearing?

So, from the marine life that’s consuming the microplastics from your clothing to the pesticides infecting our vegetation… where does it all eventually end up? That’s right, you’re consuming it. The problems caused by the fast fashion movement isn’t just harmful to the environment, it’s also harmful to you, and your children.

As Patrick Rothfuss said, “What use is care? What good is watching for that matter? People are forever watching things. They should be seeing. I see the things I look at. I am a see-er.”

Don’t just watch, see. See, and then make a change.