October 20, 2021

Environmentalists are tirelessly battling the effects of fast fashion. As the $2.5 trillion industry continues to rise, the importance of achieving fashion sustainability is more prominent than ever before.

According to the United Nations (UN), the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, contributing to 20 per cent of wastewater production and accounting for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. A result of fast fashion.

The process of quickly providing consumers with cheap clothing has led to increased demand and decreased trend cycles. The World Resources Institute (WRI) estimates that the average consumer is currently buying 60 per cent more clothing than the average consumer 15 years ago. The institute says that these purchases are being kept half as long as consumers are approximately throwing away 70 pounds of clothing annually. This has profound environmental consequences.

Effects of fast fashion are visible through pollution and waste, the greenhouse effect, climate change and other environmental impacts. The importance of achieving sustainability is evident. Why is the process lacking?

The topic of achieving greater sustainability has become increasingly familiar over the past few years. Recognition of harmful environmental impacts has led to industry leaders taking several steps forward.

Some brands are incorporating sustainable materials such as recycled plastics, organic cotton and Tencel into the production of their clothing. For instance, Fashion Designer Stella McCartney uses organic cotton and avoids using leathers, feathers, skins and fur. Other brands such as Levis are taking responsibility for their waste by accepting old products and upcycling used materials. There are many movements happening, but they are not moving fast enough.

According to the Chatham House, a U.K.-based policy institute, if the fashion industry continues to grow at its current trajectory, the industry could account for a quarter of the world’s total emissions by 2050. This should be an alarming sign that greater efforts must be made. Fast fashion needs to slow down.

On a large scale, the current linear fashion model needs modification. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a U.K.-based charity, suggests the transition to a circular industry model. This would promote producing clothing with eco-friendly materials, increasing the usage of clothing and upcycling used or unwanted products. Reworking the industry model requires extensive universal change. Change in which consumers play a major role.

Being conscious of the purchase, usage and disposal process is crucial. When purchasing clothing, think sustainably. Choose from brands that maintain sustainable practices, shop second-hand clothing and avoid buying trendy pieces. When using clothing, think sustainably. Maintain the condition of clothing and consider sustainable wash cycles. When disposing of clothing, think sustainably. Donate and resell clothing that is used or unwanted. Being conscious of these elements is immensely important.

Fast fashion needs a fast fix, think sustainably.

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