• Molly Sawells


Updated: Nov 11, 2020

The fashion industry employs around 60 million people worldwide and contributes $2.4 trillion to global manufacturing industries, with fast fashion making up a large proportion of this. Fast fashion is the rapid production of trend-driven, inexpensive clothes for mass retail. The ways in which these garments are produced have huge environmental and social impacts, and the clothes themselves are not made to last. This means that more clothes are being produced, consumed and disposed of than ever before.

Today, we are going to talk through five reasons why you should ditch fast fashion and shop sustainably, to help people and the planet.

  1. Water Consumption

According to the UN, 20% of global industrial water wastage comes from the fashion industry. This equates to approximately 79 billion cubic meters of water in total, or 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. The production of 1kg of cotton alone (which is about the same as one shirt and a pair of jeans) requires 10,000—20,000 litres of water. In 2017, The GFA predicted that water consumption for fashion will increase by 50% by 2030. Given that cotton is produced in countries such as China and India, which are already under high water stress, it is not a reach to expect that in the future countries like these may have to choose between garment production and having access to clean and safe drinking water.

2. Chemical Usage

Sustainable business network, Common Objective, state that over 8000 chemicals are used in the fashion industry in order to change raw materials into finished clothing products. Cotton production makes up for 4% of pesticide and 10% of insecticide of global usage. Biochemical flows (from fertilisers to erodible soils) already exceed the safe operating space by over 220%. These toxic chemicals from fertilisers and dyes leach into waterways and soil which harms aquatic and animal life as well as humans, who rely on such rivers for drinking and bathing. Chemicals such as mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium are present in waterways from the fabric-dying processes, can cause neurological damage and are carcinogenic.

3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the World Bank, fashion is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. By 2030, the GFA predict that carbon emissions from the industry will increase by 60%, to 2.8 billion tonnes emitted per year. This is about the equivalent of the yearly emissions of 230 million vehicles.

4. Social Challenges

Garment factory workers, who are usually women, are often marginalised. In countries like India where clothes manufacturing for multinational brands makes up one of the major export markets, levels of non-compliance in regard to minimum wage laws is 51%. If nothing is done to change this, a third of Indian textiles workers could be earning less than the legal minimum wage by 2030, according to the GFA. Not only do these workers not get paid enough, but according to War On Want's 2011 report entitled Stitched Up, 75% of women workers had been verbally abused, and half beaten. The factories themselves are often unsafe and without building regulation or any form of health and safety. An example of the severity of this problem is the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1135 people. Despite this disaster, factory workers in Bangladesh and beyond are still vulnerable.

5. Waste Creation

The average consumer now buys 400% more clothing than 20 years ago (Common Objective, 2020). According to a 2017 survey conducted by WeightWatchers, the UK alone has £10.5 billion of clothes in wardrobes that are unworn. Perhaps it is an understatement to say that fast fashion promotes throwaway culture. On average, 35% of all materials in the supply chain end up as waste before the product reaches the consumer. Then, when the clothes are actually bought, they are often bad quality and wear out more quickly, or go out of fashion due to the fact that these pieces are trend-driven. According to the GFA's 2017 report, only 20% of clothing is reused or recycled, with most ending up in landfill. Synthetic fibres, like polyester, can take hundreds of years to decompose, and also release plastic microfibres that can be the equivalent of between 240,000 and 3 million plastic bags in waterways per day (Common Objective, 2020).

According to the Global Fashion Agenda, apparel consumption is predicted to rise by 63% before 2030. It is, therefore, so important that we make simple changes to our consumption habits which could instil social change on a wider level, and dramatically reduce widespread environmental degradation that the fashion industry causes. Join VieVita today in ditching fast fashion!