Change Out of Fast Fashion and Into Sustainability

Contributing Writer Elena Fitzgerald, ’21

I’m wearing clothes from sophomore year right now. Although some high schoolers may think that’s weird, it’s actually helping the environment in a big way. For a long time, I used to buy clothes once they went on sale in order to get a good deal, especially when I got my first job and had to pay for them myself. Once I started becoming more environmentally conscious, I realized that what I was doing wasn’t helping my cause. Some clothing companies have fallen into fast fashion, which is the fast production of cheaply made clothing so we, as consumers, will continuously buy from their stores.

With everything we hear in the news about global warming and climate change, we never really hear about the fashion industry’s impact. It originates in the dyeing process of clothes in factories, which involves the use of water. The excess water contains toxins and is then dumped out, traveling within the land into streams or seeping into the ground. This affects the water that people need for everyday activities all around the world. The production of cotton clothing uses 3% of the global water supply. Another way clothing damages the Earth is through the immense trash that comes with it. Two-thirds of the resources used to make clothing are thrown out, and there were 11.3 million tons of textiles found in landfills from 2018 alone. 

These problems are continuous due to the increasing demand for fast fashion. According to researcher Cassandra Elrod, the idea of fast fashion stemmed from Fashion Week. Clothing companies would see what went on the runway and make a less durable and less expensive version of that product for consumers. Then, there would be continuous production of new clothes for people to buy once their other outfits wore out. When the cost of clothing is low, it often comes from unsustainable factories. Brands categorized as fast fashion also have hazardous waste leftover from the production process. Additionally, any clothes that are not sold are discarded, resulting in three-quarters of them being incinerated. The leftover clothing could instead be given to homeless shelters or thrift stores for anyone in need of help rather than being discarded.

Writer and researcher Matthew Green gave three ways to be environmentally conscious while shopping. First, it’s necessary to buy less clothing. Then, to know the background information of your clothing sources. And lastly, to advocate for sustainability from brands that need to change. Being able to reuse clothes also has a big impact and is easier to do if the clothing is more durable. Although they do cost more, durable clothes last longer and consumers are able to reuse them. In Prato, Italy, the circular economy has been a driving force, reusing and repurposing things that would have otherwise been thrown out. Even though fast fashion has become a common practice, there’s proof that there’s a way to combat it. Fast fashion has had a large environmental impact over the last few decades through producing waste and polluting water. The United States also plays a part by overusing water and constantly producing cotton clothing. Teenagers are often tricked into buying fast fashion through peer pressure, large sales, and shopping events like Black Friday. We as consumers need to take charge of what we buy. So the next time you need clothes, think about if you really need those new jeans.

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