Explained: Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion

The term ‘fast fashion’ is used a lot in headlines and advertising in modern society. However, the issue is much deeper than simply an issue with a throwaway culture. The industry of fast fashion has far reaching consequences relating to all the big names; fossil fuels, water usage, pollution – to name a few.

So, what exactly is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is the term given to the accelerated nature of the fashion industry. This acceleration is caused by retailers, and others in the industry, are encouraged to consume more and more by reducing prices and increasing the latest trends. This growing demand has detrimental effects on the environment.

With environmental issues coming and going in ‘popularity’ it would seem that fast fashion is the latest buzzword that is on everyone’s lips. Fast fashion is an epidemic of modern society, particularly in the UK. It is estimated that every person in the UK buys approximately 26.7kg of clothing every year. This is a huge level of overconsumption which inevitably leads to a huge amount of waste.

When buying clothes, it is important to consider the fabric – is it synthetic or natural? Synthetic materials are made of fossil fuels, which we all know are bad news. Synthetic items have a far larger carbon footprint than natural products.

It’s also important to consider where your clothes are coming from – many cheaper items are made in foreign countries where materials and labour are cheaper for organisations (so they can therefore maximise on profit). The environmental cost of flying and transporting the goods across the globe is the equivalent of 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere every single year.

Environmental issues are the topic of our generation, and rightly so. More and more the consequences of our modern day lives are coming to the forefront of our consciousness, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed with so many terms and ideas being thrown around. The Curious Environmentalist was created to make environmental and conservation topics more accessible. My name is Rebecca, the founder of TCE, and as I am learning about the world around me and the problems it faces, I am sharing that knowledge in the hope that, together, we can make significant, long-term change.

This post was originally written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause in September 2020. It has been refreshed and edited for The Curious Environmentalist, September 2021. Enjoy!

Fast Fashion
Explained: Fast Fashion

However, it is not just buying clothes that can damage the environment.

Washing our clothes generates even more emissions and when washing synthetic fibres, microplastics and small fibres can be flushed into the water systems, contributing to the polluting of our oceans and waterways.

Also, how we dispose of and the amount we dispose of our unwanted clothes is another important factor to consider. In the UK approximately £140 million worth of clothing ends up going to landfill every single year – with much more added due to offcuts and unworn items. Donating unwanted items is a great start but we need to get in the habit of buying less and fixing more – many donated clothes are also destined for landfill. By curbing our shopping habit, we can prevent this and reduce figures in the future.

A circular economy is a solution, that has been spoken about in regard to many environmental issues. Our throwaway culture (or linear economy) is the source of many of the problems that we are currently facing. So, there is a lot to consider when thinking about what we buy. It’s not always as simple as buying cotton t-shirts – there are many things to consider, such as land usage, water consumption and the effect of the production on local communities.

So, what can you do to minimise your impact and still own your style on a day-to-day basis?

  • Buy natural, organic, sustainable materials.
  • Invest in timeless, higher quality items that will last longer.
  • Have a small wardrobe of essential clothing pieces.
  • Buy from local, sustainable companies.
  • Recycle or donate old or unwanted clothes.
  • Demand change as a consumer from your favourite brands.
  • Pressure our government (or your local government) to adhere to their environmental targets and keep any environmental promises they have made previously.


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