Updated: Jun 21, 2021
In the contemporary world of awareness, technology, and social media, the damaging effects of taking a flight, using excessive plastic, or even driving a personal vehicle are widely known. However, the footprint left by something as simple as the clothes we wear isn't something we give thought to.
The environment is negatively affected by the increasing consumerism and growing influence of the fashion industry. People want more low-priced items with a wide variety and style to keep up with the latest trends. A study showed that in 2014 there was a 60% increase in the purchase of garments than there were in 2000. Production of these garments accounts for 10% of humanity's carbon footprint. It is also responsible for the contamination of rivers and streams and dried-up water sources.
Moreover, it is a highly wasteful industry. Every year about 85% of all textiles are discarded.
Additionally, countless scraps of plastic are released into the ocean by washing certain clothes.
Here are the most consequential effects fast fashion has on the planet.
Since 2000, the manufacturing of clothes has increased twofold.
Even though there was a 60% increase in the purchase of garments in 2014, it is found that the clothes were kept for only half as long.
Fashion companies in Europe started coming up with five collections each year by 2011 while they offered only two in 2000. Several brands go beyond that and offer twice as many collections. H&M is known to put out 12 collections each year while Zara offers as many as 24.
A lot of these clothes are ultimately thrown away. A truck worth of clothes winds up burnt or dumped in a landfill every second.
Simultaneously, microfibres equaling 50 billion plastic bottles are released into the ocean each year by merely washing these clothes.
Among the various fibres found in garments, the majority are polyester fibres, a type of plastic found in over 60% of clothing. Like all plastic, this material does not decompose in the ocean. Moreover, the production of polyester emits two to three times more carbon emissions in comparison to the production of a material like cotton.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) produced a report in 2017 which roughly calculated that synthetic textile like polyester made up 35% of all microplastics found in the ocean.
As mentioned before, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity's carbon footprint which amounts to more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation put together a report in 2017 that predicted that the carbon footprint left by the fashion sector could leap to a staggering 26% by 2050 if changes aren’t made.
When clothes aren't polluting the water, their production makes the industry the second-largest consumer of water globally. This is because cotton is a highly water-intensive plant. The production of one cotton shirt uses almost 700 gallons of water, while a pair of jeans uses as much as 2,000 gallons of water.
Fashion also contributes to 20% of industrial water pollution. Textile dyeing uses water equivalent to 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year. All of which ultimately end up in the rivers and streams.
Even though the problems are overwhelming, each year more and more companies and people all over the world start putting effort to make fashion industry less harmful. However, the industry needs to completely transform in order to bring much needed positive change.