Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

7 Reasons You Should Hate Fast Fashion

Health + Wellness
7 Reasons You Should Hate Fast Fashion

Fast fashion has received a lot of criticism in recent years. As AlterNet's Glynis Sweeny explains, fast fashion fuels "rampant consumerism ... in which clothing is designed to be moved as quickly as possible from catwalk to store." And as we cycle through clothing faster and faster, the industry's environmental impact has exploded. "It is particularly worrisome," said Sweeny, "because it creates demand for and then constantly churns out massive amounts of cheap clothes, ultimately accelerating carbon emissions and global warming."

Photo credit: Heather Stilwell

In April, Swedish-based clothing company H&M (considered a fast fashion giant) issued its annual sustainability report. While many commended the company's latest efforts, others, such as Veronica at xoJane, felt fast fashion and sustainability are simply incompatible.

She wrote:

"It’s almost impossible for fast-fashion and sustainability to exist under the same roof: One thrives on the rapid mass-production of trendy clothes, using cheap materials and even cheaper labor to ensure prices that customers won’t complain about; the other focuses on creating garments that will last a lifetime, from sustainable yet pricey raw materials, and, in the best case scenario, using labor that is fairly paid and production processes with limited impact on the environment."

By focusing on cutting costs wherever possible to mass-produce cheap, disposable clothing, fast fashion offers "trendy," bargain-price clothing at the expense of people and the planet. Here are seven reasons why you should hate fast fashion:

1. Cotton is a thirsty and chemically dependent plant: Cotton is the most commonly used fiber in the world, making its way into nearly 40 percent of our clothing. Though it only makes up 2.4 percent of all cropland, it uses 12 percent of all pesticides and 25 percent of insecticides.

"Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops in existence," demanding six times as much water as lettuce and 60 percent more than wheat, according to ProPublica. And yet the federal government subsidizes growing cotton in the Arizona desert.

2. Cotton alternatives aren't any better: As for common synthetic alternatives to cotton, such as polyester and nylon, they are made from petrochemicals that do not biodegrade. They require a great deal of energy to make, said Sweeny, and the manufactures of nylon emit large amounts of nitrous oxide, an incredibly potent greenhouse gas.

Recycled polyester, made from discarded plastics, uses half the energy as virgin polyester. But often times companies cannot get enough discarded plastic, so they buy unused water bottles directly from manufacturers to be able to market their product as "recycled" polyester, according to Sweeny. Fortunately, eco-friendly alternatives to these unsustainable fabrics are being developed, including products using pineapples, coconuts and bananas.

3. Garment operations, textile mills and dyeing plants are polluting waterways and endangering surrounding communities' health: Rivers around the world, but especially in Asia, where so much cheap clothing is made, are extremely polluted. Greenpeace East Asia's Detox campaign has been working to expose the textile industry's pollution and its effect on residents from Bangladesh to China to Indonesia.

4. Toxic chemicals and dangerous work conditions put factory workers at risk: For an excellent explanation on just how awful and dangerous working conditions are in garment factories, check out John Oliver's segment on fast fashion below. The Savar building collapse in 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 people, shows just how dangerous working conditions can be.

The dangers from chemical exposure among factory workers range from acute to chronic and can ultimately lead to death. "Some dyes and chemicals, such as alum and copper sulfate, can irritate your skin and cause rashes, allergies or breathing problems," said Hesperian in its guide Hazards in Garment Factories. "Others are more dangerous, such as potassium dichromate and tanning acid, and can cause cancer as well as other health problems."

5. The chemicals in clothing linger: Chemicals, such as formaldehyde, perfluorinated chemical (PFC), nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dioxin-producing bleach, are all commonly found in our clothing. And all of these chemicals have been shown to produce serious adverse health effects. Dangerous chemicals are found in kids' clothing too, according to a Greenpeace report.

6. That dress you just bought is more well traveled than you: Raw materials can be shipped from China, India or the U.S. to places like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines, explained Sweeny. Then, garments are put in shipping containers and sent by rail, container ships and eventually rail and trucks to the retailer. There's no way to gauge how much fuel is used in total, said Sweeny, but considering Americans buy 22 billion new clothing items every year, the fast fashion industry's emissions contribution is significant.

7. John Oliver hates fast fashion, so you should too: Oliver wanted to teach fashion CEOs a lesson for the horrible environmental and labor conditions in their factories, so he sent "suspiciously cheap" food to fashion CEOs selling "shockingly cheap" clothing.

If you haven't already seen "The True Cost," a documentary about the clothing industry’s impact on the world, you should check it out:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Mark Ruffalo Is ‘Berning Up’

13-Year-Old Sues North Carolina, Asks Judge to Force State to Take Action on Climate Change

An Organic Indoor Vertical Farm May Be Coming to a City Near You

Indoor Veggie Garden Lets You Grow Your Own Food Right in Your Kitchen

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less