Fast Fashion Frustration: How Cheap, Trendy Clothes are Affecting the Planet

By: Kylie Chisholm ’20

Clothing stores like Forever 21 and H&M seem convenient, especially in college when you’re 1) broke and 2) looking for trendy, throwaway pieces to take pictures in and never see again. But, there is one major downside to utilizing the fast fashion industry in this way: the industry’s carbon footprint is way bigger than you would imagine.

The scariest part about fast fashion’s environmental impact is that it’s hidden in plain sight. It wasn’t until this past year that I learned of the dire effects fashion has on the climate, and I think so many of us would never guess that clothing could be causing any, let alone this much, damage to the planet. 

In an article for CBS News, it was reported that more than 8 percent of global climate impacts were caused by the apparel and footwear industry, and greenhouse gas emissions from textiles were equal to 1.2 billion tons annually. Additionally, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one single cotton t-shirt. Now multiply that by the mass production quotas fulfilled by Forever 21 as an entire corporation, and you have a crap ton of water being consumed through clothing.

As a consumer of fast fashion myself, I understand how tempting it is to buy cheap, trendy pieces that can be worn a handful of times and then donated to your local Goodwill, but the environmental impacts of this consumer mentality are too severe to ignore. But, people seem to be catching on to that.

The resale industry is expected to grow 1.5 times faster than the fast fashion industry over the next decade. ThredUp, an online thrift store, has found that more shoppers are conscious of the environmental impact of their shopping habits and willing to pay less for used, good quality items. The fashion industry is moving in a more sustainable direction, and we want to give you tips on how you can make more sustainable fashion choices.

Shop Sustainable

While sustainable brands like Reformation seem almost impossible to afford, look to sites like Everlane. Everlane isn’t cheap by any means, but they sell good quality basics that you’ll wear again and again. For even more affordable options, H&M actually has a Conscious line that offers sustainably and economically sourced clothing for their normal prices. In fact, H&M is hoping to use 100% recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, so hopefully they won’t be a fast fashion contributor for long.  

Thrift Shop

A trend in and of itself, thrifting shopping is a great way to increase the lifespan of clothing. Check out your local Goodwill or Savers for the hands-on experience. Or, if the racks on racks of clothing is a little too daunting, ThredUp allows you to thrift shop from the comfort of your dorm room!

Shop Less

Ultimately, the best thing you can do for the environment is to buy less clothing. Go through your own closet and see if there are any hidden gems that got pushed to the back over time. If you really need new clothing, arrange a clothing swap with your friends! You get rid of the clothes you aren’t wearing and gain some new pieces with no effect to the planet; sounds like a win-win to me!

**Valley Girl Magazine does not own any images used in this story

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