As tempting as it is to buy a new top because it's on sale, or a new pair of joggers because the old ones are slightly faded, we must slow down and think about the effects on our environment. Fast fashion is designed to cut costs and provide consumers with cheap, fast turnaround 'new season' fashion almost every week. This results in damage being done to our environment without us even knowing, but as the devastation to our forests, shorelines, reefs, air quality etc continues to mount, it will soon be hard to ignore.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion, simply put, is when designers take inspiration from the catwalk or celebrity culture and makes clothing for the high street at break-neck speeds to keep up with current trends. It's the reason that high street brands seem to have a new range of clothing out almost every single week. The process from start to finish relies on massive volume, very low costs and often results in environmental corners being cut left right and center.
The Impact On Our Environment
Here are a few facts about the fashion industry:
- It takes approximately 20,000L of water to produce just 1kg of cotton
- Over 1.5 TRILLION tonnes (1,500,000,000,000L) of water is used by the fashion industry per year, largely due to the massive water demands of cotton.
- An enormous amount of fertilizer and pesticide is required to keep cotton plants healthy. 20% of the world's global wastewater comes from water pollution from sources like this.
- Cheap fabrics, like polyester, come directly from fossil fuels.
- Over 70,000,000 barrels of crude oil are used per year to produce polyester.
- In the UK alone, more than 235 million pieces of clothing are sent to landfill each year.
- 5.2% of global landfill is made up of textiles.
Fast fashion, simply makes these problems worse. Relying on cheap fabrics, often polyester and cotton, and 'first to market' speeds, means massive, fast turning volume is constantly flowing through the high streets, without much care for the consequences to our environment.
Due to low costs and constant availability, consumer behaviors have changed as well. It is now too easy to 'not care' about a £10 set of leggings you've purchased, or an £8 tee-shirt, because there will always be another style to buy and a similar low cost. Modern consumerism has trained us to not value the things we have and crave the things we do not.
The Current Sportswear Industry
Even more so than consumer fashion, sportswear relies on even more synthetics to produce functional garments. These garments need to stretch, be durable, water-resistant and look good as well. With a massive rise in 'athleisure' (fashionable sportswear) at almost 5% growth vs 2018, demand for synthetics is only set to rise, with Europe contributing to almost a third of the global growth.
What Can Be Done?
In sportswear, remember the primary function is to help your workout, not just to look good. Choose a product based on its function, and choose a 'look' later. Too many people will buy activewear purely based on how it looks rather than how it will perform alongside their chosen sport or activity. When garments are so cheap especially from high street brands, it's easy to keep buying every time you realise you've snagged a thread, ruined the colour in the wash, or it smells after just a few workouts.
Choose eco-friendly fabrics and brands that prioritise the environment. Chances are massive high street names who are able to sell garments for £15-£25 don't have our environment at the top of their company policy book.
Buy for the long term. Buy high quality and your risk of constantly needing to replace will decrease dramatically. What would you prefer? £40 for a gym-shirt that lasts a year or more, or £8 for a throwaway top that lasts a month and needs to be replaced?