Sustainability June 29, 2018
Out with the old, in with the new.
Fashion stores such as H&M, Urban Outfitters and American Eagle Outfitters always update their apparel to match the latest trends. Clothes disappear from the shelves as quickly as they appear. It’s called “fast fashion” and is described as the rate by which fashion trends cycle from new to old.
According to NPR, this practice is not only becoming more widespread but is negatively impacting the environment. Frequent turnover means there’s more wasted clothing.
“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal. The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem,” Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, said
What does this mean for keeping our environment in check?
Brands decide trends for consumers, which is why many consumers keep up up via the catwalk, social media or just the storefront. If the clothes they have seem too outdated and don’t match what’s in stores, why keep them? A
Forbes describes this as a “see now, buy now” mindset. As soon as a consumer sees a trending item of interest, they seek it out. The fashion industry, therefore, wants to accommodate this by making it easier to buy any item at any moment in time. Brands adapt their production models accordingly.
“The rationale behind the change was almost exactly the same as the one behind super-speedy delivery: Everyone has a truncated attention span because of Instagram, and if you don’t get a product to customers as soon as they feel desire for it, you miss your window,” the New York Times explained.
To make room for new items, consumers will then need to make room in their closets. Instead of donating clothing, people often throw items into the trash. The same is with retailers. Instead of donating the clothing, Gaby Del Valle, a writer for The Outline and a former Urban Outfitters employee, claims that it, along with other retailers, are destroying it and throwing out unsold merchandise.
People throw away more clothing than you may think. According to Forbes, 12.8 million tons of clothing are thrown away every year in the U.S. alone.
If that isn’t enough to open your eyes to the carbon footprint that fast fashion leaves behind, Forbes also states that “the fashion industry’s CO2 emissions are projected to increase by more than 60 percent to nearly 2.8 billion tons per year by 2030.”
This increase is thanks to “fast fashion.” Lewis said that fashion used to have “four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more.” The World Resource Institute says there may be as many as “50-100 microseasons.”
Increased production only ups fashion’s carbon footprint. Because more garments are produced, more water is used and more greenhouse gases are released into the environment. The WRI reports that “about 20 percent of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing, while the world uses 1.3 trillion gallons of water each year for fabric dyeing alone.”
Where does the clothing go after its thrown away? Some of it is recycled, but most of it goes into landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “84 percent of unwanted clothes in the U.S. in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.”
Pretty eye-opening, right? The environment is in trouble. Who knew that something like fast fashion and the different trends could add so much potential harm?
So you’re sitting here now with all of the knowledge about fast fashion and you’re wondering how to help, right? The best way to help eliminate harmful effects of fast fashion is to donate your clothes!
It’s really simple and you can feel good about doing it for two reasons: you’re helping the environment and helping low-income people to buy new clothes.
Go through your closets and throw everything you don’t need into a bag. After that, take it into a local thrift shop. They will take your clothes and thank you. You can even shop around to see if there is anything to purchase, thus adding to the cycle of not wasting clothing.
You can also do research and support brands that pay attention to their carbon footprint. There are a number of brands that use recycled materials or make sustainability a part of their mission statement.
Fast fashion isn’t the end. We can still help and reduce its impact.
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