There’s a lot of talk these days about how sustainable we need to be. “Don’t buy plastic bags at the supermarket.” “Bring your tumbler for a takeaway coffee.” “Don’t have the AC turned on for too long.”
This is awesome and we should all be doing these things, but there’s something else happening on a daily basis that is contributing more to our carbon footprint. The fashion industry.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, making it the second largest polluter after the oil industry...!! It’s insane. The fast fashion trend isn’t making this any better, either.
There are so many fashionable, inexpensive clothes that brands like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 release on a weekly basis. Apparently, Topshop introduces 400 new styles a week on its website (!?) These brands want us to keep upgrading our look and binge on clothes - I mean, that’s what their business models are based on. This makes us want to buy new clothes all the time which is fun, but it’s also making us get rid of ‘older’ items very often. So much new, so much trash.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of it too! It’s so difficult to ignore the cute clothes that are introduced each week. It’s almost as if we’re meant to feel left out or uncool if we're not wearing the latest trend, right? But this insane lust to stay on trend is making us greedy and ignorant of the effects of our actions.
One day I was having a lazy browse on Facebook, and came across an article about how the fast fashion industry is causing crazy levels of environmental damage. I was shook. That’s when I realized just how much money I’ve been spending on these brands - even when I buy a cheap, basic t-shirt I’ve been supporting and contributing to fast fashion.
So, before we go spending all of our well-earned money on more of these brands, I wanted to show you guys some crazy facts that we all need to know about the fast fashion industry.
1. Roughly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make polyester fiber. This is the most commonly used fiber in our clothing, but it takes more than 200 years to decompose.
2. More than 150 billion garments are produced annually, which is enough to provide at least 20 new garments to every person on the planet, every year. But in the USA alone, over 26 billion of it ends up rotting in landfill. That’s almost 20%.
3. Some manufacturers of fast fashion use lead to create bright (red, green, yellow, and orange) shades for our clothes, which is extremely harmful for us.
4. On average, people wear fast-fashion clothing and accessories less than five times, and only keep for them for 35 days before tossing them.
5. The average labor standards are so low that even though apparel is the largest employer of women globally, less than 2% of these women earn a living wage.
6. It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce only one cotton shirt. That’s enough water for one person to drink for 2.5 years.
7. 20% of global water pollution is caused by textile manufacturers.
8. Polyester production for textiles in 2015 resulted in 706 billion kg of green house gasses to be released into our atmosphere. That’s equivalent to the annual emissions of 185 coal-fired power plants.
9. Growing non-organic cotton uses approximately 3% of the world’s agricultural land, but it’s estimated that 16% of all insecticides are used to grow it – more than any other single crop.
10. A quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles.
If you’ve never heard of any of this before, all of this must sound completely nuts. What now? Are we now supposed to get rid of all of our clothes from fast fashion brands, and replace our wardrobes entirely?
No, I don’t think that’s a realistic solution. The thing is, fast fashion is so easily-accessible and affordable that it’s impossible to cut out completely, at least for now. What we want to do, is to try and encourage you to be conscious of what you buy.
Learning more about where our clothes come from is the first step. How were they made? Were any toxic materials used to make them? How often do we throw away our clothes? Where do these clothes go after the garbage man takes them away? These are some questions we can start to ask ourselves every time we buy clothing.
As consumers, we have the power in our hands to choose which industries we support with the money we spend - it’s pretty empowering. That’s why sustainable fashion is getting more and more recognized these days. A lot of people are starting to take action by saying ‘no’ to fast fashion, and choosing to buy from sustainable brands!
It’s easy to feel like one person can’t make a dent in one of the biggest industries in the world, but you actually can! If enough of us are conscious about what we buy and how we spend our money, we can influence the industry to go in a direction that is better for humans, animals, and our planet. We’re on the same journey. We’re not perfect, but we’re aware and doing our best.
Have a beautiful day.