The Environmental Costs of Mainstream and Fast Fashion are Destroying our Planet and Coming Generations
Copenhagen, Oct. 13, 2018 - by Ninna Helene Meacock, Master of Arts in Cultural Communication & Aesthetics
Most of us are finding ourselves living in a society, where everything is running full speed ahead. There’s a constant bombardment of notifications, deadlines, emails, expectations...
It could be described as a hectic living inside some sort of bubble, where no one is really being aware of the present. At the same time a lot of people are having trouble with really being in the moment, chill out and simply just enjoy the things they already have by keeping life simple.
Furthermore we’re not slowing down and taking the time to get to know the true story about the garments we choose to buy, because it’s much easier to just close ones eyes to it. To just close ones eyes to a harmful and often criminal industry, which doesn’t hold the perpetrators accountable.
Fashion has become faster, cheaper and more exposable. But the costs of stocking up on fresh looks are more extensive than one first assumes. It’s one of the most polluting industries in the world!
Fashion consumption is increasing, causing environmental degradation by draining water resources and letting out greenhouse gasses. It’s a billion dollar business that eventually comes with a large scale of consequences as a cost. An industry where power and greed is on the one side and poverty and fear is on the other side.
It’s a business carrying secrets of animal cruelty, child labour, low wages, health and safety risks as well as a sky-high carbon footprint.
So why even bother digging into this in the first place? Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore this without getting into further details? Isn’t it too late to actually do anything about this anyway?
Well, first of all think of the children you know today. What kind of world do you want them to live in? Or their children?
Are we not better than that?
The steps we as consumers can take will be small steps towards a better future for the coming generations. But it’s a step forward. And the more people who start caring about these issues the faster we can turn this around. It’s definitely time for a clean-up.
However, there’s a shift in the making. China, a huge export of textiles, has gotten much more serious about the subject shutting down factories in a move to curb pollution. And in general there’s been much more awareness of textile recycling lately.
Sustainable production could be one of those things that could really make a huge impact on the environmental issues we’re dealing with today. Each piece of clothing leaves an environmental mark on the Earth, so imagine what would happen if we began to replace those one piece at a time with sustainable fashion?
More and more smaller handmade shops are also popping up locally as well as online. These are clothes that are cared for in the process, which for the most part means that they’re not produced using chemicals or under unethical circumstances (this is another blog post) As the consumers are gradually getting more aware of the origin of the products they purchase - as well as the impact these have on the environment - it becomes clearer that there actually is a huge market for slow fashion.
Regarding style, design and texture many of the bigger brands within the fashion industry will continue to plagiarize slow fashion artists and smaller, independent brands that make their own pieces. Bigger brands steal ideas. So not cool. But what can you do...
That being said the responsibility also lies in the hands of us (the consumers) who in reality has the choice to ditch fast fashion and start supporting smaller businesses that have both their background, certifications and ethics in order though the price might be slightly more expensive (and often the quality and price go hand in hand). Then again we must try to keep in mind where the money eventually ends.
Understandably this can seem quite overwhelming to get into and understand. Each section should have it’s own blog post, since there’s a lot of details to get into. The following is a relatively quick overview of why we as consumers must and should reconsider mainstream fast fashion as a shopping choice.
1) Fast fashion is fast!
The more collections and seasons the fashion industry has the more discarded outdated fashion items. Clothes are fast produced for little money and mostly only worn until it gets out of style (whatever that truly means). These sales cycles are spiraling endlessly and are playing a huge role in climate change related challenges that we need to deal with for the sake of the coming generations.
People have busy lifestyles, which make them time-poor. It’s easier to buy new clothes than to fix garments that need repairing. Garment workers pay the price of cheap clothing and they have no voice and most often no choice if they want to feed their families and survive themselves.
Our culture is obsessed with beauty and appearance, which the fashion and beauty industry indeed is very much aware of. Hence, the different seasons and collections, the various ads and samples.
2) Cotton- why NOT?!
Growing cotton organically is important for the environment, since cotton farming uses more insecticides than any other main crop; 16 percent of the world’s insecticides and 7 percent of pesticides. These harsh chemical agents are subsequently released into the environment, which can end up distorting ecosystems. Just look up aldicarb and glyphosate.
However, organic cotton still requires high amounts of water, but the workers and the environment are not exposed to damaging chemicals.
In comparison to conventional cotton organic cotton is less likely to contribute to global warming, acidification, and eutrophication. Organic cotton cultivation can also reduce the possible negative impact cotton farming can have on local water quality as well as biodiversity.
3) Dyeing, bleaching and printing fabrics with chemicals
Often chemicals are used to soften or dye textiles. Again we’re talking about the effect of chemicals on human health and the companies that cause the toxicity, which further leads to different health issues such as cancer, birth defects etc. Ironically - and sadly - these companies are also the same companies producing medicine for various illnesses caused by a toxic environment.
In the countries producing textiles you can also see the effects of these chemicals in the lakes and water streams, which often have unnatural vivid colours that stem from the untreated factory wastewater of the cloth dyeing industry. Again, this can cause distortion within ecosystems, which will eventually cause damage in various areas and basically make sure that nature will get out of balance.
Regarding textile printing the process includes
4) Non-decomposable synthetic fibres, microfibres of plastic threatening aquatic life and methane release from wool during landfill decomposition
The industry produces overwhelming amounts of non-decomposable waste that also leaves traces in water; the oceans and our groundwater.
| Water is essential for life and the average adult human body consists of approx. 50-65 percent water depending on gender and fitness level. The plastic ends up in the oceans, where plankton is munching on microplastic that eventually gets eaten by animals, who finally ends up on our plate. So basically we end up having microplastic in both our food and drinking water.
Decomposing clothing releases methane, which is a hazardous greenhouse gas and therefore also a significant contributor to global warming.
5) OUR OWN LACK OF STYLE
“I have NOTHING to wear” is one of the most common statements that women have regarding their wardrobe. If you have nothing to wear, then why is your closet filled to the point of bursting? As mentioned before - the fashion industry constantly feeds the consumers with new seasons and collections creating a need for the consumer.
Well, style isn’t necessarily fashion. It’s how you carry yourself using what you’ve got and making the best of it. Money can buy a lot of lovely things, but they can’t buy style. It’s something you have to create yourself. If you lack inspiration take a look at wonderful women with substance and amazing character
There is an endless amount of inspiring women out there that can help to function as your muses. Think creatively about what you already have or mix ethical fashion with second hand or borrowed pieces. That you can’t wear certain things at a certain age is not true. Of course some things might be less flattering to wear, but you can wear what you want. Don’t let others dictate how to live your life. If you feel good about yourself and shine inside out, who can stop you?
And why not swap clothes with a friend or person online if both of you need a bit of change? When going to a special event consider borrowing an outfit instead of buying something you’ll only wear once or twice.
Looking after both people and the environment are the two main aspects to consider, when choosing ethical brands.
Brands that recycle or use upcycled materials indicates that they’re committed to making better use of resources and creativity.
| Ethical fashion can create jobs that are both fairly paid, meaningful, skilled and fairly paid for people in disadvantaged communities. This especially includes women who have previously been marginalised. Supporting local brands is making a smaller carbon footprint and minimises the environmental impact of large global supply chains.
You can also decide to choose brands that are limiting their environmental impact and reducing their carbon footprint. Try to do a little research on the brand’s environmental commitments and processes
Also - what you bought 3 weeks ago is no longer “in”. Therefore, care less about seasons and collections. Nora Abousteit, founder and CEO of CraftJam, believes in sowing your own clothes as a way to conquer fast fashion and offers classes covering different projects, tools, and materials and ideas for you to make at home and CraftJam is therefore a place where creativity is available to all. It’s all about how you style garments and how you wear them. Go be create and most important of all - have fun, while doing it!
Another ethical option is to buy clothes made of organic cotton dyed with only non-toxic materials. Make a green difference by looking at the label to see if the garment is made of organic cotton.
The use of natural packaging can also be a big plus in the attractiveness of an ethical brand. Of course it’s also clever to charge money for a bag, so the customers might reuse old ones or bring a tote bag to save money, but first and foremost we should think more about plastic and where it eventually ends up.
The travelling distance of your garment is of course also an aspect to pay attention to - considering the energy it takes to get from the sender to the purchaser.
When all is said and done… How sexy do you now feel in your fast fashion clothes knowing that it has most certainly polluted water, air, and land? THINK AGAIN, EARTH FRIEND ❤
This Month's Writer is the talented & Dear Friend:
Ninna Helene Meacock (b. 1986) holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Communication with a focus on Urbanity & Aesthetics from Copenhagen University, Denmark, and Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
She loves to put all sorts of music on (everything from bluegrass and baroque to dark synthwave and 60s psych) and cook plant-based food from scratch. She also enjoys writing and creating art in her home studio. When she’s not biking around Copenhagen, she enjoys travelling the world and experiencing different cultures.