6 Ways Fast Fashion Is Contributing To Climate Change
6 Ways Fast Fashion Is Contributing To Climate Change
10% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from the global fashion industry and the popularity of fast fashion brands is contributing to climate change. While investing in new trends can help elevate your style and give you a serious confidence boost, have you ever considered the impact fast fashion is having on the environment? Today’s throwaway society is developing an unquenchable thirst for short-lived trends and gimmicks and this is having a detrimental impact on the planet! Let’s take a look at 6 ways the fast fashion industry is contributing to climate change, and how slow fashion brands can help you indulge in sustainable clothing.
10% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from the global fashion industry
1: Seasonal Trends Never End
While the environmental impact of flying is well known, fast fashion uses more energy than both the aviation and shipping industry combined. The issue starts with our perception of fashion. As one season ends, and a new one begins, consumers expect new trends and styles to flood the fashion world. In fact, the entire industry relies on the change of season to sell new season must-have items. While this can be creative, exciting and profitable, it also has a significant impact on the environment. What do you think happens to the ‘last year’s’ pieces? Well, more often than not, dead-stock will be destined for landfills if not sold to the public. Over-consumption of cheaply-made clothes is increasing textile waste and pollution. The best thing consumers can do is to support a sustainable fashion brand and think twice before buying trends over high-quality wardrobe staples.
2: Fast Fashion Free Returns
According to recent data, online shopping is gaining popularity across the EU, with 16-24-year-olds the most likely to buy clothes, shoes and accessories online. While it’s certainly convenient to buy fashion online, rather than in-store, especially during a global pandemic, the offer of free returns is contributing to climate change. European eCommerce revenue generated $465 billion in 2021, which triggered a sharp increase in the use of plastic packaging supplies. The problem is, plastic bags, stickers, protective wrapping and packaging labels end up in landfill sites, or worst still are dumped into the ocean. When this happens, plastic packing can claim the lives of hundreds of innocent marine animals, as well as contaminating fish in the form of micro-plastics. Disruption of such a delicate marine ecosystem can mean dismantling the largest natural carbon sink for greenhouse gases. When plastic breaks down into methane and ethylene, it increases the rate of climate change. Plus the more plastic we make, the more fossil fuels we need, the more we exacerbate climate change.
3: Fast Fashion Chemical Dyes
Unlike slow fashion, fast fashion is focused on turning a profit in the quickest time possible. With this business mindset, many fast fashion brands use toxic and chemical dyes as well as synthetic materials. Rather than use eco-friendly and sustainable clothing, some brands will choose to pollute water sources by manufacturing garments with man-made dyes. In fact, 79 trillion litres of water is used by the fashion industry to dye and manufacture fast fashion. So, the more you buy into seasonal trends rather than invest in sustainable fashion that will stand the test of time, you’re contributing to and supporting water pollution. When water is contaminated with substances such as mercury and lead, marine life can be impacted.
Consider yourself a bit of a tree-huger? Well, if you’re indulging in retail therapy more than once a month, chances are you’re contributing to climate change! Buying a white t-shirt, or new pair of jeans from a fast fashion brand can be highly destructive to the environment. In order to produce synthetic materials, large-scale deforestation is required. A huge number of plants and trees are needed to produce fabrics derived from plant pulp, rubber, viscose and lyocell. And this chemically intensive manufacturing process is destroying Mother Nature. In South America, large swathes of rainforest are being cleared every year to make way for cattle pastures, driven by the demand for leather around the world.
5: Logistics & Climate Change
If we talk about online shopping again, failing to do your homework when it comes to sustainable fashion brands could mean buying a little black dress, choosing fast international delivery and having a fast fashion brand ship the item from the other side of the world, no matter the environmental impact, in order to fulfil the delivery. Unfortunately, consumers now expect to be able to shop online and receive items the next day, and this makes it challenging for sustainable clothing brands to keep their carbon footprint low. But, consider this; the global apparel and footwear industry produced more greenhouse gas than the UK, France and Germany combined in 2018, with this figure expected to rise to 2.7 billion by 2030. So, you might want to think twice about adding items to your basket online that you don’t actually need!
6: Suppliers & Carbon Footprint
Slow fashion brands invest time, money and resources to ensure their supply chain is acting in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, but this can’t always be said for fast fashion brands. While the brand might claim they are acting in a sustainable way, this doesn’t mean their ethos applies to their entire supply chain. In order to shop responsibly online, make sure to support a sustainable fashion brand that makes it their priority to be eco-friendly and these ethics extend to their supply chain too. Sadly, it’s down to consumers to shift towards supporting sustainable fashion brands and saying ‘no’ to fast fashion to make brands take note of their direct impact on climate change.
As Vivienne Westwood put it ‘Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.’