Features Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 2

The Real Cost of Fast Fashion

by Caroline Johnston

When people think about the largest contributors to climate change, they usually think about cars, planes and possibly livestock. There are very few occurrences when people recognize the fast fashion industry as a leading cause of climate change. However, the fast fashion industry is responsible for emitting more carbon annually than international flights and maritime shipping combined (Business Insider). It is easy to ignore the issues of fast fashion because many want to save their money by buying cheap, trendy clothes, and push the environmental consequences out of their mind. 

Fast fashion is one of the easiest problems to disregard because it isn’t super apparent how clothes can have such a detrimental effect on the environment. Sadly, it is very popular right now because online brands such as Shein and Zaful are producing trendy, cheap clothing that people can order with very little effort. On average, a person only wears a piece of clothing just seven times before they donate it or throw it away. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 84% of unwanted clothes either end up in the landfill or in an incinerator. The problem with clothes sitting in landfills is that as clothes sit there and decompose, they produce the greenhouse gas, methane. Most clothes can not be composted because they have been so processed with dyes, bleach, and chemicals that they are far from natural anymore. Sadly, burning clothes in an incinerator is not any better for the environment because when the clothing is burned, it releases harmful toxins into the atmosphere. Sophomore Autumn Hamlin said, “While the carbon emissions of fast fashion are more widely known about, fast fashion also affects our land, water, and other living things.” 

While these are some overwhelming facts, don’t feel hopeless, because there are ways to buy clothes without contributing as much to the degradation of the environment. One option is to buy clothing that has been made out of recycled materials, from brands such as Patagonia or Volcom. Another option is to buy second-hand clothing instead of buying new clothing. This is often much more affordable than buying sustainably made clothes first-hand, and it ensures that you find unique pieces of clothing that not a lot of other people have. Thrifting is very popular among many Las Lomas students. Hamlin said, “It’s a very gratifying feeling to find things you love at thrift stores, and to know that you are caring for the earth in the process.” Sophomore Justine Weingartner said, “I prefer buying second-hand because it is much more sustainable and affordable, and I usually end up finding my new favorite pieces when I thrift.” Senior Summer Randolph also added, “I like thrifting because it’s cheaper, and I am able to buy nice things for a more affordable price!”

It is important to remember that the fast fashion industry can only be sustained as long as there is a demand by the people.