By Milena Blachowicz
“Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year.” That’s 9525439770kg of clothing added to the pile of trash already there.
One of the greatest issues we’re dealing with today, is climate change, and greenhouse gas emissions contribute to it by a large extent. Not only do our cars emit excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, but creating clothing items adds to the carbon footprint, too.
Recently, alongside Greta Thunberg’s climate change strikes, sustainability came to my attention. I noticed items collecting dust all around my room. When I looked in my closet, I found random pieces of clothing, bought without a second thought. They got me wondering how much the fashion industry contributes to climate change and whether it plays a significant role in polluting the environment.
Fast fashion is the rapid and massive production of inexpensive clothing by companies in an effort to keep up with the latest fashion trends. There has been speculation about how big of an impact the industry has on the environment, because huge quantities of clothing are produced each year, and the fashion industry, “is estimated to produce as many greenhouse gases as all the planes flying in the world.” As consumers, we don’t purchase everything that appears in stores, so immense quantities of clothing usually end up in landfills. On top of that, when clothes are produced, CO2 is emitted… So isn’t it wasteful to produce such vast amounts if the majority gets thrown out anyway?
According to the BBC, clothes made out of polyester when washed, shed fibres which “end up being eaten by fish and other aquatic creatures, ultimately ending up in the food chain.” Just like with plastic, the wildlife is brought into the equation, and ends up affected by the choices we make as humans.
On a positive note, more and more talk about the environment surfaces these days. We’re starting to take steps towards more sustainable living. We’re discovering the magic of thrift shopping and starting to buy from brands, such as Reformation, which we know are better for the environment.
Companies, slowly but surely, have begun to realise that measures have to be taken to become more environmentally friendly. H&M for instance, has stepped up their game. You can drop off your cast- offs and unwanted textiles at their stores. Unwanted clothes, instead of making their way to the landfills, are then sorted into three categories: rewear, reuse, recycle. Another project the company has taken upon itself, is creating the collection ‘conscious’ where all of the clothes are made from recycled materials. Monki, is taking similar steps to limit their negative environmental impact. As we begin to protest, shop less and make companies aware of the problems they are causing, corporations are starting to listen and are finding ways to minimize their environmental impact.
Yes, the fashion industry has a lot to change and minimize in order to help save our world, however doesn’t the problem lie mainly within us, consumers? Our demand increases, and companies do what they can to make us happy.
What can we do? For starters, we can go thrift shopping more often. Instead of constantly buying new clothes, we can give love to older pieces that have already been made. We can also choose more environmentally friendly and sustainable clothing. Finally, and most importantly, before purchasing an item, we can stop and ask ourselves, “Do I really need this?” Unless you believe the clothing will be worthwhile for every penny spent, is purchasing it really worth all the wasted energy that was used to create it?
H&M and Zara, as well as other fast fashion companies, need to reduce the amount of clothes they produce, but that won’t happen if we continue to be wasteful. It’s time to start making conscious decisions about purchases we make, because the power to save our planet lies in our hands.
- “Research Gate.” Research Gate, www.researchgate.net/figure/Pictures-of-Conscious-Collection-Initiative-at-H-M-stores-Photos-are-from-Internet_fig1_275555624.
- “Trusted Clothes.” Trusted Clothes, www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2016/09/05/fast-fashion-landfills/.
- Butler, Sarah. “Is Fast Fashion Giving Way to the Sustainable Wardrobe?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Dec. 2018, www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/29/fast-fashion-giving-way-sustainable-wardrobe.
- Cline, Elizabeth. “Where Does Discarded Clothing Go?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 July 2014, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/where-does-discarded-clothing-go/374613/.
- Friedman, Vanessa. “The Biggest Fake News in Fashion.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Dec. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/fashion/fashion-second-biggest-polluter-fake-news.html.
- Harrabin, Roger. “Fast Fashion: ‘Penny on a Garment’ to Drive Clothes Recycling.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Feb. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47282136.
- “Is My Washing to Blame for the Plastic Problem?” BBC News, BBC, 7 Oct. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/uk-45770358.
- Perry, Patsy. “The Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 8 Jan. 2018, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html.
- “Plastic and Other Waste Found in British Mussels.” BBC News, BBC, 8 June 2018, www.bbc.com/news/uk-44414056.
Samaha, Barry. “How H&M Is Striving to Become a Sustainable Fashion Brand.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 June 2018,www.forbes.com/sites/barrysamaha/2018/03/26/hm-conscious-exclusive-collection-2018-sustainable-fashion-anna-gedda-interview/#201544e874f0.