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The cost of fast fashion

Avatar of Aneta Hrudová Aneta Hrudová Jan 2022

We all know the famous quote: “Clothes Make the Man”. No doubt, fashion is important for many people. But fashion is also one of the world's top polluters these days. We have to realize that fashion’s environmental impact is colossal. And although such a claim might sound rather harsh at the beginning of this blog post, the data speak for themselves:

According to BBC Future, it is estimated that 92 million tonnes of textile waste globally end up in landfill sites; an equivalent of a garbage truck full of discarded clothes every second. That makes the textile industry one of the fastest growing categories of waste producers in the world.

So while tons of clothes end up in landfills every year, chemicals and dyes leak into our rivers and soil. Textile waste doesn't biodegrade easily, because it’s made of fabrics that can't be broken down. Polyester, nylon, acrylic - the most commonly used fibers in clothing - are made from plastic and will never fully decompose. Like other forms of plastic, the fibers will break down into microplastics over the years, harming wildlife and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Synthetic plastic fibers are cheap and extremely versatile but these fibers contribute to ocean plastic pollution. Plastics leak into the environment during washing. Estimates vary, but it’s possible that a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of fibers from our clothes into the water sources.

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It's not just about the textile waste but also about the energy footprint created by producing clothes and transporting them to the customer. The label “Made in…” on our shirts actually only reveals one of the many probable locations that the garment passed through along the way. A typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycle. Amazingly, it can take 714 gallons to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. Also there is a question where the clothes come from and who is making it. But this is an entirely different (and serious) topic about working conditions in textile factories.

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We’ve outlined the problem. But is it possible to solve it? Obviously, the path to the solution isn't easy, but we believe that it can be done! Big companies have bold recycling claims that sound great. But are they true? Isn't it just greenwashing? The pressure on low prices leads to an unsustainable model. Experts say fast fashion must change. If we really want to help the environment, brands and consumers need to adjust their behaviour.

Let’s focus on how to tackle the environmental impact of fast fashion on a personal level! What can we do as consumers to make a difference?

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A conscious consumer can make small actions that make a huge change🙏‼ Here are a few things you can implement in your decision-making process when buying clothes.

One of the best decisions is simply to buy a higher quality product. When you buy quality, you can count on those pieces lasting a much longer time, and you buy less of them. Also choose wisely, ask yourself questions like: How often will I wear this item? Does it match my other pieces in the wardrobe? Can I just rent it for the special occasion?

Sustainable and ethical fashion brands guarantee quality. Before buying, take the time to check who actually produced the clothing. Knowing the working conditions behind these brands is important for making an informed decision.

There is no need to always buy new. Try a clothing swap in your city or community. It is fun, you can get many interesting pieces and also meet new friends there. Another option might be to buy second hand.

You can also repurpose old clothes. For example, old t-shirts can become great cleaning cloths. And if damaged clothes can be repaired - do it and wear these until they are really worn out.

Another option is to recycle old textiles. Put them into the clothing donation bins. Last but not least, bring awareness about fast fashion to the people around you. Education is the key. We know that - that is why you can find tons of info about sustainable options in the viaGood app. Explore the diverse ways to live a more sustainable life! ☺