Fast fashion is exploding this last two decades. The amount of collections is pushed to an extreme, about 50 per year from 2 per year 20 years ago. The technologic innovations allows to produce fast and cheap.
All year long, we are surrounded by assortment to buy more and more and it is easy to fall for the siren call. All in one, the cocktail is explosive.
An average consumer buy 60% more clothes today than in 2000 but will keep it half the time he used to. We wear on a regular basis about 30% of what’s in our wardrobe, this makes it 70% of barely used items. And what happened with all those unused items? One garbage truck of clothes (“old” clothes or unsold) is burned or sent to landfills every second.
When we know that the textile industry is the second most polluting industry after the oil industry, we can only imagine the social and environmental negative impact of making clothes today.
The raw material
To keep up with such an increase demand, the raw material also need to be develop. Cotton represent nearly half of the total fiber used to make clothes today. Cotton is a natural fibre, but due to the huge demand 90% of it is now genetically modified, using vast amount of water, it takes 2700 liter of water to make one cotton shirt, which is enough to sustain one person to drink for 2,5 years. With 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use, the production of cotton is a real ecological disaster. Everyday 20 cancers are diagnosed in Punjab, one of the biggest cotton production country in the world, due to those chemicals. But cotton is not the only problem brought by the fast-fashion, we can see an increase of polyester production. Polyester is a direct by-product from oil and carbon intensive to produce. Its production for textile use in 2015 was the equivalence of 185 coal-fired power plants’ annual emission.
On top of the fabric itself, the dyeing process is the second most clean water pollutant in the world, after agriculture. Over 70% of Chinese lacs and rivers are polluted by toxic textile dyeing and chemical products.
With India and China entering the global middle-class, bringing this population from 3 billion in 2015 to 5,4 billion in 2030, we can expect an increased demand for clothes and other goods that define middle-income lifestyles.
If consumption keep up at its current rate, we’ll need three times as many natural resources by 2050 compared to what we used in 2000.
A social impact
Beside the environmental disaster that is set by fast fashion, this production model is a social concern too. Exploiting the workers is very common in this industry. There is 40 million garment workers in the world today. In China, textile workers can work up to 150 supplementary hours per month just to be able to survive. The minimum salary to be able to live decently is far from being reached in most of the leaders country in textile production. Over that, 1 child over 10 works to produce clothes in the world.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
In front of this state of play there are actions we can take:
– Get more infos about the brands you buy and carefully read the labels.
– Every time you are tempted to buy something ask yourself: Do I really need it? Don’t I have anything else that could answer this need already?
– Buy quality products. It may seems more expensive at first but on the long run it will be a win because you won’t have to replace it so fast.
– Don’t just throw away your old clothes, you can mend them, modify them, this is the principle of upcycling. Another alternative; exchange it.
– If you really want to get rid of it you can always give them to someone who needs it, but don’t abuse that either, charities are often overloaded with the same type of products and cannot process them all.
– Try not to get tempted by the “fashion looks”, nothing beats a good basic.