Destroying the Environment One Fashion Trend at a Time

Fast fashion may be appealing to those trying to shop on a low budget, however this method also comes with negative environmental impacts.


MCT Campus

A coal plant continuously releases toxins, such as mercury, lead and sulfur.

Liv Zender, Reporter

Fast fashion describes inexpensive clothing rapidly produced by market retailers to fit the latest trends. This form of fashion was created to target the lower-middle class by designing off brand clothing that is much cheaper than buying designer brands. The clothes may be made with cheaper material and will not last as long. However, fashion trends move fast. Therefore, just as the clothes are starting to break down, a new trend will come out with new clothes to buy. It’s a vicious cycle. Even still, this fast fashion comes with more downsides than just cheap material. Most fast fashion products are not ethically or sustainably made, as they produce mass amounts of air and ocean pollution, create wastewater and contribute to the size of landfills. 

Fast fashion creates detrimental amounts of pollution, in both the air and the ocean. The factories that make the clothes release carbon emissions as well as other chemicals into the air. According to Business Insider, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. The next cheapest way to get rid of this plethora of clothing is by incineration. This method releases even more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses into the air, as well synthetic fibers, accelerating climate change.  

Shoppers stream into the Forever 21 location at Times Square, New York City. (MCT Campus)

Another way old clothing is pushed aside in order to make room for new clothing is to either ship it abroad or dump it into the ocean. Shipping clothes abroad uses resources and adds to water and air pollution. Clothing that is dumped into the ocean adds to the micro-plastic pollution. According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature, a study from 2017 shows that 35% of all micro-plastic materials found in the ocean are from washing synthetic materials. Washing these cheaply made clothes contributes to half a million tons of microfibers being released into the ocean every year.  

A third negative outcome from fast fashion is the waste water it produces. According to the UN Environment Programme, 20% of toxic waste water is produced by the fashion industry. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water in the world. It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans and the leftover polluted water is usually left in natural waterways, damaging them irreparably.  

Landfills are increasing in size every year. However, while landfills contain any product thrown away, according to the UN Environment Programme, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If the world does not make a change in how they consume clothes, by 2050 the fashion industry will have used a quarter of the world’s carbon. 

Trash being dumped from a trash truck in a landfill. (MCT Campus)

There are many ways to avoid fast fashion on the daily without dropping thousands upon thousands of dollars on designer brands. One way would be to buy clothes that are nicer and produced in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. These clothes may cost more when scanning your card at the cash register, but they will also last longer, saving you money in the long run. Brands such as Patagonia, Reformation, and Levi’s are companies committed to reducing their environmental footprint by using sustainable, recycled and organic materials as well as innovations to reduce water use. Thrift stores are also beneficial since the clothes being sold would be thrown away or incinerated if they were not put on the shelves and bought. As helpful as these ideas are, they will not be enough. While a little bit of help here and there from as many people as possible is better than no help, in the long run it simply will not be enough. It’s up to everybody walking this planet to advocate against fast fashion and the havoc it is wrecking on the environment all over the world and continue to search for a better option that will be long term.