3 Reasons to Distance Yourself from Fast Fashion
Fast fashion has become a bit of a buzzword lately and for good reason. After to oil, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. In a time when individuals and corporations alike are trying to be more eco-friendly, it is important to take a look at how something as simple as buying clothes can have a major effect on the environment. Popular retailers like Zara, H&M, and Topshop have a shockingly quick turnaround time from design to production. New items can be designed, produced and shipped to stores in as little as two weeks with Zara specifically designing and producing up to 10,000 items per year. This selling model encourages the consumer to buy more than they need which in turn leads to a higher amount of clothing being discarded. Although the constant access to new, trendy clothes at a low price is enticing to customers, it is important to remember that these bargains have a human cost. Because we are so detached from the production process it is easy to forget that someone—usually a woman—had to create your cheap clothes in unsafe conditions for ridiculously low wages.
Here are 3 reasons to stop—or at least cut back on—shopping fast fashion:
1. The Human Cost
Most of the clothing sold by fast fashion retailers are made by laborers in major manufacturing countries like Bangladesh, China, and India.
Laborers often work 14 to 16 hour days 7 days a week to keep up with the breakneck speed of the retailers' production schedule. Because their wages are so low, many cannot afford to refuse overtime hours and in some cases, workers can be fired for refusing to work overtime.
Working conditions are often deplorable with workers at risk of inhaling toxic chemicals and fiber dust because of poor ventilation. The Rana Plaza disaster of 2013 which killed over 1000 garment workers in Bangladesh exposed the all too common poorly regulated factories in the garment industry.
Further reading: The True Cost
2. The Environmental Cost
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the fashion industry is one of the largest users of water in the world, producing 20% of global water waste. The UNECE has found that producing one cotton shirt uses 2700 liters (over 700 gallons) of water. This amount is equivalent to the amount of water the average person drinks in 2.5 years.
In addition, 10% global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry and cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides while only using 3% of the world's arable land.
It doesn't end there; 85% of textiles that are produced end up in landfills. That's about 21 billion tons of textiles becoming waste per year.
Source: UNECE Document on Sustainable Fashion
3. The Cost to the Consumer
Because of the disposable nature of the majority of fast fashion clothing, consumers are forced to buy more. Also, since most of the pieces available at shops like Zara and Topshop are super trendy, consumers end up having to replace their wardrobe once the pieces go out of style. How many times have you said "I have nothing to wear" while staring at a closet full of clothes? If your closet is full of expired trendy pieces purchased from H&M it's easy to feel this way. Buying second-hand pieces or simply buying less will be a lot easier on your wallet.
Hopefully, these three reasons to stop shopping fast fashion will inspire you to find a more sustainable approach to shopping. With that being said, sustainable brands like Reformation are not cheap. If you can't afford to shop a sustainable brand, or thrift shopping is inconvenient, an easy way to make a difference is to simply shop less. Instead of buying a couple new things from Zara or Forever 21 every week try shopping once every other month and be mindful when purchasing to avoid waste.