The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion: A Guide to Sustainable Shopping

The fashion industry has a huge influence on the environment, from the production of clothing and shoes to the use of plastic packaging and hangers. Fast fashion is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution, with an estimated 80 billion garments being consumed each year. Slow fashion is the response to fast fashion and its environmental impact, advocating for reducing excessive production, complex supply chains and mindless consumption. Designers, brands and scientists are exploring ways to make fashion more sustainable and circular. Leather production requires large amounts of feed, land, water and fossil fuels to raise livestock, while the tanning process is one of the most hazardous in the entire fashion supply chain.

Cotton is also not environmentally friendly in manufacturing. Sustainable fashion and circularity in the textile value chain are possible, but this century consumers around the world are buying more clothes and wearing them for less time than ever. The UN has launched the Alliance for Sustainable Fashion to address the damage caused by fast fashion. UNEP is also developing a road map towards sustainability and circularity in the textile value chain and working to change the narrative of the sector. The best advice for reducing the environmental impact of fast fashion comes from Patsy Perry, senior professor of fashion marketing at the University of Manchester, who says: “Less is always more”.Fast fashion relies on labor exploited in developing countries, where regulations are lax.

It is important to be aware of these impacts when shopping for clothing and footwear, as well as to support sustainable fashion initiatives that promote circularity in the textile value chain.

Grady Kemper
Grady Kemper

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