Everyone loves to save money, especially when it comes to clothing. People would rather purchase the latest trend for half the price, if it is just as good quality as the original designer item. Buying things second hand may seem sketchy or unsanitary, but as of now, that is the safest way to purchase clothes without helping contaminate the environment. According to Shuk- Wah Chung of Greenpeace.com, fast fashion is “drowning the world”, and the sad truth is, her statement isn’t wrong.
Fashion is a business that has many different chains of production, raw materials, clothing construction, shipping, retail, and eventually, disposal of the garment. Because of this, the fashion carbon footprint is huge. Not only does fast fashion pollute the air and the rest of the environment, but the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the amount of waste discarded clothing creates contaminates the environment. There are also many natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping. Many shoppers are of aware this contamination problem, but they think that organic cotton will help the problem. Even though organic cotton, might seem like a smart choice, it can still take more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt or a pair of jeans.
According to scientific research, cotton is the world’s most commonly used natural fiber and is in nearly 40 percent of our clothing. It is also one of the most chemically dependent crops in the world. Even though only 2.4 percent of the world’s land is planted with cotton, it still consumes 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals and 25 percent of insecticides. Although cotton is the most commonly used fiber, polyester and nylon have just as an impact because they are not biodegradable. Even though the making of both of them use a lot of energy, nylon releases a large amount of nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas. The impact of one pound of nitrous oxide on global warming is almost 300 times the same amount of carbon dioxide. It takes about 70 million barrels of oil just to produce the virgin polyester used in fabrics each year. Many people are starting to used recycled polyester as a greener option, but that doesn’t completely fix the problem, contrary to what some people may think. Used plastic bottles must still be cleaned, with the labels removed, before made into polyester fabric. This process is mostly done by hand and that means plastic bottles are shipped to countries with low labor rates, using dirty fossil fuels to send them there, and requires more dirty fossil fuels to send them back, making for unnecessary air pollution.
Asia is the main clothing exporter today, producing more than 32 percent of the world’s supply and providing nearly 13 percent of the world’s exports. Because production prices are rising in China, clothing companies are moving to countries where manufacturing is cheaper, like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines. These countries might not have the raw materials needed, so they’re usually shipped from countries like China and the U.S. Once manufactured, the clothes are put in shipping containers and sent by container ships and trucks to the retailer. About 90 percent of garments are transported by container ship each year. There’s an idea of how much fuel is used during the transporting of clothes, and how badly that pollutes the environment in multiple areas.
You may be wondering if it’s possible to eliminate the effects of fast fashion, and if so, how you can help. Shopping at boutiques, getting clothes made or making your own clothes, thrifting, or shopping in stores that produce clothes in one specific area, for example American Apparel, can all help limit the effects of fast fashion. Because of where we live, it’s obviously hard to buy affordable clothes that aren’t fast fashion and we will all at some point have to get new clothes. But we can be responsible with our clothes. When you no longer want them, donate them to a charity or hand them down. Don’t throw them away. Also, be aware of how much you wash your clothes. Putting on a shirt for five minutes doesn’t make it dirty, so try no to do unnecessary washing. Lastly, try to stay away from cotton. Not only does it use too much of our water supply, but it may have poisonous pesticides, according to international work organizations, which can cause cancer or other illnesses. So the next time you buy an article of clothing, think about what it’s made of, and what it went through to get to you.