Fast Fashion: The Impact Our Clothing Choices Have on Environment

Lizzie Meyer, Feature Editor

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A lot of today’s largest clothing stores are considered to be fast fashion retailers, which essentially means that the clothing was produced quickly and in large quantities by mass-market retailers. This makes the clothing quite inexpensive, which is why many people buy them regardless of the ethics of the company or the environmental impact of the fashion industry in general. 

Recently, one of the largest fast fashion companies, Forever 21, filed for bankruptcy. The Los Angeles company has made its way to being one of the biggest players in the industry by quickly updating their clothing to incorporate the latest trends while keeping everything at relatively low price. On Sunday, Sept. 29, the firm filed for bankruptcy due to slow mall traffic (partly due to the growth in online shopping), over-expansion, and dissatisfaction with its clothes, which led to a cash crunch. Out of about 800 stores, an estimated 350 of them will need to be closed down, including 178 of its United States locations. 

There are several ways to know whether a brand is sustainable or not, the easiest one being: do research. All it takes is a quick Google search to know if a brand is fast fashion or not. Also, make sure to always check the materials the clothing is made of. Some of the most sustainable fabrics are linen and cotton, as both are plant-based materials. Although it’s an animal product, wool is a very environmentally friendly option because it’s durable and holds colored dyes easily without using chemicals. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally because of the toxic chemicals that are used. Polyester is a material found in about 60 percent of clothing today, but when it’s washed in domestic washing machines, clothes shed microfibers that add to the levels of plastic increasing in our oceans. There is also a large amount of waste accumulation due to these disposable clothes that cannot usually be worn many times before being too worn out. The fashion industry is responsible for about 10 percent of global carbon  emissions and is generating a lot of greenhouse gasses. Most of the clothing is manufactured in China, Bangladesh, India, or other countries similar in the sense that they are all essentially powered by coal which is the dirtiest type of energy when it comes to carbon emissions. 

Lots of people think that shopping sustainably is too expensive, but that’s not always the case. There are plenty of ways to shop in an eco-friendly way that doesn’t cost a fortune. One way is thrift shopping. There are tons of different thrift shops where clothing can be bought second hand, and there are websites like Depop and Poshmark meant for the same thing. There are also online swap sites, which are similar but instead of paying money for clothes, people trade their own for someone else’s. There are swap parties as well, where people do the same thing, except groups meet up in person to trade clothes. 

While sustainable clothing is easier to get than you think, many students at Weedsport are sticking with fast fashion. The clothing made by these companies is usually much cheaper than more sustainable options. Weedsport’s Maddy Hudson weighed in on the topic in recent interviews with The Johnny Green. Maddy is a senior at Weedsport who is very interested in clothing and fashion, and she had some things to say about fast fashion and its impacts. 

When asked if she knows what makes a brand sustainable, Maddy responded by saying that a brand who uses recycled and eco-friendly materials is what sustainable means to her. She was then asked if she takes this into account when shopping for clothes, to which she said, “Not usually. I typically just shop until I find something I like, I never really take into account if it’s sustainable.” When asked what her favorite brands to shop at are, she said that she usually goes for Pacsun, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, and Forever 21, none of which she believes to be sustainable. Maddy said, “It causes a lot of water and air pollution, and there are a lot of toxic resources being used that are awful for the environment.” 

Maddy’s decision is one that most high schoolers make as she buys fast fashion clothes regardless of the impacts of the fashion industry. High schoolers typically make this choice because it’s convenient and accessible to people with a low budget, which teenagers tend to have. Regardless, as you grow older, figure out what your values truly are, and establish your own financial income, keep in mind that sustainability is important in many aspects of life, which includes the clothes you wear every day. 

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