Quantcast
Health

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

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
PxHere

This Common Preservative in Processed Food May Be Making You Tired

By Brian Mastroianni

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

EVs 101: Your Guide to Electric Vehicles

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

A Rescue Dog Is Now Helping to Save Other (Much Wilder) Dogs

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
RoNeDya / iStock / Getty Images

What Is Mead, and Is It Good for You?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and a yeast or bacterial culture.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
U.S. Army member helps clear debris from Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael. U.S. Army

Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'

The Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report (pdf) that warns flooding, drought and wildfires and other effects of climate change puts U.S. military bases at risk.

The 22-page analysis states plainly: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Protesters interrupt the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler on Capitol Hill Jan. 16 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

5 People Calling Out EPA Acting Head Wheeler for Putting Polluters First

This week, people across the country are joining environmental leaders to speak out against the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Scott Pruitt's hand-picked successor, Wheeler has continued to put polluters over people, most recently by using the last of his agency's funding before it expired in the government shutdown to announce plans to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marine Biologists Raise Flags About Viral Great White Shark Encounter

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Keep reading... Show less
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

Wall Before Country Takes Mounting Toll on Americans Everywhere

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!