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5 ways you can Prevent Fast Fashion from Damaging our Environment

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

The need to satisfy our appetite for the latest fashion trends is a fundamental part of modern consumerist culture. The fashion industry is worth £66 billion in the UK alone. It’s clear that brands are capitalising on this demand and thus are producing garments at an unprecedented rate. This has been dubbed as ‘fast fashion’ where retailers recreate style trends seen on the catwalk at a more affordable price for the general public. But what we don’t think about when we’re at the checkout is how the fast fashion is having a negative effect on the environment.

Fast fashion is the second largest polluter in the world with the apparel industry accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. This problem is only getting worse with the e-commerce boom of online sales, making fast fashion easier to access at the click of a button. This along with the pressure of social media to keep up with the latest trends. Instagram is the main culprit with celebrities being sponsored by high street fashion retailers to advertise their cheap and affordable clothing to their millions of followers, fast fashion clearly has a market. Alarmingly, the Environmental Audit Committee found that Brits are now buying more new clothes than any other European country. Clearly our thirst for fast fashion out of control.


The garment that is most damaging to the environment is a staple in everybody’s wardrobe: jeans. Around 7,000 litres of water are needed to produce just one pair of jeans (this amount of water is what one person drinks in 5-6 years!). In Stacey Dooley’s documentary “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets”, she travels to Kazakhstan where the effects of cotton production has caused the Aral Sea – once one of the biggest inland seas in the world – to completely dry up due to vast amount of water being diverted for cotton farming. With 2 billion pairs of jean being produced each year, it easy to see how the production of jeans are having a disastrous impact on our environment.


Fast fashion is not only just having a negative impact on the environment but also socioeconomically on those who work on the production lines in the fashion industry. The low pricing of our affordable clothes is at the expense of garment workers in third world countries such as Bangladesh, where factory wages are the lowest in the world. Furthermore, their environments are significantly impacted too, as the toxic chemical from textile factories pollute the local water supply. As a result, textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally.


Purchasing new clothes isn’t the only problem. But it is the contribution it has to “throw away culture” that is also just as harmful. In the UK last year, it is estimated that we binned clothes worth £12.5 billion, with 300,000 tonnes of textiles ending up in landfill. The fast fashion of cheap clothing only means cheaper materials, consequently the garment falls apart after a few washes. But that is what fast fashion is designed for. Your garment is designed to break so you purchase another from the retailer, it’s their business model to keep you coming back for more. So how do we break this vicious unhealthy cycle?


Thinking more sustainably about our choices is a good place to start:

1. Second-hand clothing


Instead of regularly shopping on the high street, opt to browse around charity shops, vintage shops or online platforms such as eBay and Depop. This ensures that garments last longer, rather than ending up in landfill. If you are looking to declutter your wardrobe you can either donate them or make some money by reselling them online!


2. Rein back on impulse purchases


Easier said than done but every little helps! Impulse purchases are worst as you can end up buying something without thinking about where you will wear it and it will inevitably end up hanging in your wardrobe unused or thrown away.


3. Shop with brands that are sustainable


Fast fashion is a problem that needs to be tackled, so make sure you know what brands are committed to sustainability, for example M&S and H&M have dedicated programs to promote recycling clothes and reducing fashion’s impact on the environment.


4. Shop less online  

Online shopping means delivery and delivery means an increased amount of carbon emissions being used. It may be useful but only use it when you really need to!


5. Be creative!


If you get a small tear in your favourite shirt for example, instead of throwing it out why not sew the tear up? Or make a new piece of clothing out of the material!


I feel that there is still a lack of awareness surrounding this issue, I myself only became aware of this when watching Stacey Dooley’s documentary on this topic (which I thoroughly recommend to watch). This is probably because of the vast amount of money the industry brings into our economy this year but we must do better. This month, online fashion retailers such as Amazon, Asos, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Misguided have been called before parliament to answer questions on the impact of fast fashion on both workers and the environment.


Although it is great that the government are beginning to hold fashion retailers to account, it has been long overdue. We are beginning to take a step in the right direction but rather than waiting for retailers to assume responsibility, we must take direct action ourselves to look after our planet.


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Sinead Butler

Nottingham '19

Sinead Butler is a 3rd year English and Philosophy Jt Hons student. She joined Her Campus Nottingham in September 2017 as a Social Media Intern and Blogger. This year, she is currently Head of Social Media and has continued her role as a Blogger for HCN. Along with her roles at HCN, she also blogs for the University of Nottingham's Careers Service and has a blog site of her own: www.thoughtsofsinead.wordpress.com. After university, Sinead aims to pursue a career in political journalism.
Hey, I'm Chloe Jade Clarke. I studied at the University of Nottingham for a degree in English and Philosophy from 2016-2019. During my time here I started out in journalism as a reviewer for Her Campus Nottingham before being promoted to Campus Correspondent (editor-in-chief) in my third year. After graduation, I will be training for my News Journalism MA at Cardiff University. Here are a selection of articles that I've written over the past couple of years; I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!