Hello everyone!! Welcome to Sustainable Existing. This is the fifth week of my sustainable journey. Now that we are past most of the introduction episodes and easy swaps, I want to dig deep and get educated and educate you all on the realities of some of the choices we make. None of the content in these episodes is meant to attack anyone or any brand, but I wouldn’t stay true to myself or the purpose of Sustainable Existing if I was not completely honest. Like I’ve mentioned before, switching to sustainable choices does not mean throwing away everything you own and buying all new sustainable products. Being sustainable means taking care of what you have and using them to their fullest extent, then replacing them with sustainable options.
With the rise of the sustainable movement within the past few years, unsustainable choices within the fashion industry have been brought to light. Many companies, maybe some of your favorites, are guilty of making unethical and unsustainable choices that exploit workers, resources, and consumers. In this episode, I hope to educate and better explain fast fashion and the environmental dangers of it.
Fast Fashion occurs when companies and brand outsource their clothes to developing countries to produce clothing with also paying incredibly low wages. This term is also used to describe the fast turnover of trends and styles that these companies can sell at cheap costs. Fast fashion companies release new, poor quality clothing into their stores every few or even each week as opposed to having “seasons” of high-quality clothing. Companies that produce fast fashion include H&M, Forever 21, Zara, and the list goes on and on. Fast Fashion has created a consumer culture than impulses us to have the mindset of “quantity over quality” and buying a bunch of cheap clothes is more rewarding than purchasing a one or just a few high-quality items. According to Mckinsey, the fashion industry is producing double the amount of clothing than what was produced in 2000. That is just in twenty years. I have fallen into this trap, but I hope that through researching all of this and educating all of you, we can help reverse this issue and help restore ethical clothing trends.
When addressing the issues that the fashion industry has created, there are four terms to keep in mind. Eco-Fashion refers to how a piece of clothing has an environmental impact. Slow fashion refers to the slowing down of fashion seasons and increasing the longevity of clothing you already own. Ethical fashion addresses the treatment such as the pay and health standard of textile workers and the effect that fashion production has on the community it is produced in. Sustainable fashion is the umbrella term that embodies all of these positive fashion terms.
One of the major issues with fast fashion is the amount of textile waste that comes from the mass production of low-quality clothes. Textile waste is the amount of waste that comes from the production of a companies’ clothing and the waste produced from the unsold clothing in stores. This includes scraps of fabric that aren’t utilized and or garments that aren’t properly made. This also includes the fact that 60% of the garments produced each year end up in landfills or incinerators and it takes from 6 months to 80 years for these most products to fully break down. When items are poorly made, they only tend to last a few times worn before they are tossed. In choosing sustainable brands, fast fashion companies will be forced to make less due to demand, and the amount of textile waste will diminish as well.
Fast fashion companies often use exploitive labor practices in order to produce low-cost clothing. Like I mentioned before developing countries such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia are often used to produce clothing because they will work for low wages. These companies may also provide poor working conditions and may often conduct textile labor that involves children. As crazy as it sounds, it is the sad truth. Many of us come from privileged societies and tend to look the other direction and maybe even deny these truths.
Emissions accounted for the fashion industry come from both the production and transport of clothing items. Carbon and other emissions account for more than 8 percent of global climate impact, greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. They contribute to climate change by raises global temperatures. This occurs when the emissions trap solar energy in the atmosphere which messes with water supply and other weather patterns with can be detrimental to humanity and life on Earth. Making responsible choices and reducing your carbon footprint can help prevent this issue.
Producing garments and especially fast fashion requires extensive water-use and also creates a lot of water contamination. This includes the amount of water used in making an article of clothing as well as the potential water contamination that occurs in result of producing this clothing. A lot of water goes into producing garments of clothing, more than most people may think of. It would take 13 years to drink the amount of water needed to make just one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Buying poorly made products that last only a few months, wastes many resources, water included. The fashion industry is estimated to be one of the leading contributors of micro-plastic pollution in impacting our oceans. I hate to be the one to say this, but when you eat seafood that has been in the polluted ocean, you are consuming part of this micro-plastic pollution. All of your choices in every aspect of your life are interwoven and effect both you and the environment.
Your irresponsible choices are bigger than just you. Fast fashion and an overload on clothing production cause public health hazards as well. Hazards can come from any point of an article of clothing's full lifetime, from production to transportation, to purchase, to disposal, and finally to the eventual demise of the item. They can come from the chemical dye and other production hazards that impact the community and the wellbeing of textile workers. This ranges from the pollution that gets emitted into the air, released into the water, and the physical exposures these workers are put through.
As the awareness of fast fashion increases, companies have begun creating lines of clothing within the brand that are slightly higher quality or use recycled materials claiming to be unsustainable, but as long as they continue to produce fast fashion, they continue to remain unethical and unsustainable. Again this does not mean throw out any products that are considered fast fashion and that you need to buy an entire wardrobe of sustainable items. Next week, I want to give tips on creating an ethical and sustainable closet. I would love to hear any tips that you may have or any comments, questions, or feedback as well. My social media accounts, as well as my email, can be found at www.sustianableexisting.com as well as the written-out blog post of this episode. I hope you all learned a lot this week because I certainly did. Have a great week and tune in next week to Sustainable Existing.