The Impact of Fast Fashion


Emerson Marquez, Opinions Editor

“Pain is beauty” a common phrase that is thrown around. Yes, this quote is true, but it develops a new meaning when looking at the fashion industry and sustainability. There is absolutely no beauty in polluted and toxin filled rivers or sweatshop workers working for the fast fashion industry dying in a collapsed building due to the lack responsibility from clothing companies for the health and safety for their workers.

Fast fashion was made to be fast and is made in way that affects the environment greatly, but the demand from customers is causing these companies to make cheaper clothes. What consumers may not realize is that  making cheap clothes comes at a cost, that cost being the environment and workers lives. The International Journal of Production Economics states, “The production of fashion and textiles related products often requires high levels of energy and water consumption, and emits large quantities of pollutants to the environment.”

Infographic courtesy: Media Matilda. This infographic shows the contrast between a need and a want. The need is drinking water but the want is fast fashion apparel.

Some quick facts are:

  • Polyester production for textiles released about 706 billion kg (1.5 trillion pounds) of greenhouse gases in 2015, the equivalent of 185 coal-fired power plants’ annual emissions.
  • The water used for making our apparel is about equivalent to 32 million Olympic swimming pools.
  • Halloween costumes are only worn once a night every year but it is estimated that the US spends over 2.6 billion dollars on them.
  • Almost 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to produce the worlds polyester fiber (the most common fiber used in clothing) and it takes more than 200 years to decompose.
Image Courtesy: Yahoo Finance. Conocophillips refinery in San Pedro.

Fashion continues to be one of the most polluting industries in the world. According to Forbes, the fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of the carbon footprint in the world. A main cause for them being one of the worst polluters is the massive amount of overproduction. Clothes are usually worn a limited amount of times then they are thrown away. It’s wasteful and harmful to the environment. “I think supply and demand is hard to avoid nowadays with our industries.” commented 8th grader Stella Dommer, “But with fast fashion its unquestionably not helping with our environmental complications. We need to do something feasible and quick!”

The term reuse, reduce, recycle fits perfectly for this situation. If we began to reuse our clothes in a more efficient away and not to be so quick to throw them out then that may help. Reducing the amount of clothes you buy or even how much the clothing companies make would stop the problem from even starting. And if we recycle that can jump start a new industry of recycling clothes so they can be worn again. The Green Hub stated,”Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores or charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill.”

Image Courtesy: CNN. Pictured above is The Puente Hills Landfill which is currently the biggest landfill in the US and its located here in Los Angeles.

When most people buy or put on clothes they never think of the environmental costs that the one piece of clothing has. Fast fashion is a giant industry and a few people not buying clothes isn’t going to hurt their production. What will although slow the growth of fast fashion would be people being more conscious of the environmental impact of their apparel they own and buy.