Opinion: How Fast Fashion is Destroying Our Planet

I saw a meme the other day that said: “Do you ever feel so financially unstable that you accidentally buy a whole new wardrobe?” 

I’ll be honest - I laughed. I related. I shared it on my girl gang’s WhatsApp group and laughed again, this time collectively. But then, I stopped to think about it, and that’s where the guilt - dare I say, disgust - slithered in.

Buying a whole new wardrobe when you’re financially unstable is the byproduct of fast fashion. It’s an epidemic that transfers through the touch of a credit card, the sight of a pleated hem, and the indelible feel of inferiority. If you know you can get a pretty, frilly, flowery dress for a measly $8, you may think your future is looking a lot like cheap ramen and pasta for the next month, because the penance is worth it. 

But while wasting lunch money on clothes isn’t anyone's business, the environment is (or at least should be). That flowery dress has a lot more connection to Earth than a vague floral pattern. The overarching issue with fast fashion is built with the first word that makes up this subculture of clothing. It’s fast because it is churned out to the lowest production quality with the cheapest methods at its heel. Countless trips to the fabric store with my grandmother as a child told me that good quality fabric does NOT come cheap.

Just as fast food cuts nutrition down to slap a burger on your tray within five minutes, fast fashion cuts corners environmentally to get the garments from factory to shop floor as speedily as possible. This includes using toxic dyes to create all the fabulously colorful patterns on the garment, most of which end up being flushed into clean water streams. This issue is so prevalent, it’s actually become the second biggest clean water pollutant in the world.

Let me say it again for the people in the back: those vibrant pink and yellow flowers on that $8 dress are poisoning water sources faster than they can be any natural flushing can dispel, and in turn, posing a serious threat to aquatic life. 

But that’s not the biggest issue with fast fashion.

No. The biggest issue is how we interact with it. According to Greenpeace, we’re buying 60% more clothes than we did 10 years ago. The culprit? Fast fashion’s falling prices. And what do we do when we find ourselves with too many pieces, too little closet space, and too strong of an itch to buy, buy, buy? Sayonara, old clothes; off you go down the garbage shoot. It’s the Marie Kondo Method on crack, only to replace the things that don’t spark joy with even more things that leave us hollow and depleted.

And I'm not just making this scenario up for dramatic effect. The average American throws away 80 pounds of used clothes, which averages out to 15 million tons of used clothing waste being generated per year.

All however, is not lost. Slowly but surely, the fashion industry is waking up to the catastrophe of their unsustainable greed and timetables. Gucci has launched Gucci Equilibrium, a sustainable sister line in a bid to create a "portal connecting people, planet and purpose". But you don’t even have to fork out $500 for a pair of shoes to wear a conscience. Even brands like H&M, who very much fall in the toxic fast fashion pile, released the seventh edition of the H&M Conscious collection, with clothes made out of recycled silver and regenerated nylon from ECONYL®. Stay Wild Swim, a British-born swimwear brand co-owned by fitness and sustainability blogger Zanna Van Dijk, produces beautiful swimwear from 100% recycled material.

An even easier way to avoid this mess? Buy from thrift shops and charity stores, or borrow from friends and family. Invest in two higher quality pieces rather than eight fast fashion items that you’ll throw away in a year’s time, and don’t be afraid to wear the same thing twice. 

Most importantly, ditch the $8 jackets, the $2 t-shirts, and the $12 dresses from the new wave of fast fashion brands (you know who I’m on about). PS: they won’t last you a week before they rip to shreds from a gust of wind anyway.

By Lara Elsergany
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