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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Elon chapter.

Everyone always wants to wear the trendiest, most fashionable clothes they possibly can. Being looked at by others for your great taste in style is one of the biggest compliments you can receive. This craze for trends has led to the issue of fast fashion. Fast fashion is defined as the production of inexpensive clothes by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends in the fashion industry. Some of the most popular fast-fashion and unsustainable brands that you are probably familiar with include: Zara, H&M, Shein, Zaful, Boohoo, Nasty Gal, and more. Purchasing from these unsustainable fast fashion companies may result in temporarily looking trendy for a low price, but the damage to our environment is not worth saving a few dollars. Plus, there are other companies that will provide clothing of higher quality that will last longer and not cause harm to our planet. 

Below are some of the biggest consequences of fast fashion:

Textile Waste

Each year, 85% of all textiles end up in landfills. It takes the textile waste over 200 years to decompose. While they decompose for this long amount of time, they produce the greenhouse gas methane and leach toxic chemicals and dyes into groundwater and soil.


Synthetic Fiber

Synthetic fibers, such as polyester, are non-biodegradable, plastic fibers that take up to 200 years to decompose. They are used in 72% of our clothing and cause 31% of the plastic pollution in our environment. Not only do they pollute in the decomposing process, but synthetic fibers are more energy-intensive compared to natural fibers and emit dangerous gases such as N2O.


Water pollution

The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. It takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt, and 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. Fashion is also responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution and causes the people living near these river banks and oceans to have contaminated water and aquatic life.


If the fashion industry continues the way it’s headed, its share of the carbon budget will reach 26% by 2050. By being conscious of what we buy, and wear, and for how long, we can help to save the environment by preventing harmful microfibers, dyes, and more from entering our earth and causing further damage. In order to do this, you can shop sustainably and purchase clothes of higher quality that will last for years. So often people purchase clothes to only end up wearing them once. By becoming mindful of our buying habits, purchasing from thrift stores, buying higher quality clothes that will last longer, as well as purchasing clothes that were made eco-friendly, we can help to save our environment from the damage that lays ahead.

Sera Borg

Elon '22

Communication design and strategic communication student at Elon University.