close up of hands running material through a sewing machine

Why is fast-fashion harmful to our environment?

Fast-fashion – have you heard about it? It’s the latest buzz word on the high street that for many of us, is meaningless. What is it? Who sells it? But more importantly, why should I be avoiding it? Well, fast-fashion is more familiar to you, than you may think. Most of us have seen fast-fashion or purchased it – you might even be wearing it right now. It’s a term that encapsulates a process in the fashion industry that, you guessed it, is fast. From fast sales, fast product lines to fast deliveries, and sadly a fast lifespan. It’s time to understand fast-fashion and our environment.

Fast-fashion and our environment are in a bit of a spin, and it’s down to us to slow it down.

Much like fast-food, fast-fashion is all about supply and demand, and as a nation, we’re quite needy. Free returns don’t help, it almost makes it to easy. A discussion on Zoom amongst the Greenredeem team last week revealed a ‘friend of a friend’ that ordered 13 pairs of shoes to find ‘the one’. And all because returns were free. Whilst it’s not easy to get out to the shops right now, surely? Many of us are purchasing outfits for one occasion, only for it never to see the light of day again. These shocking truths are out there and far more common than we realise.

Social pressures play their part and we understand the need to be seen in the latest look. Breaking the fast-fashion habit isn’t necessarily easy, but it is essential. This month we’re going to uncover the truth, dispel myths and send you in the right direction for living a slow-fashion lifestyle. First of all, let’s take a look at fast-fashion and our environment.

making fast fashion

Fast-fashion and our environment: Greenhouse Gases

Let’s start with the big one when it comes to environmental impact. As discussed in our carbon footprint blogs last month, avoiding these gases when creating new garments is difficult, but it doesn’t excuse the sheer volume of them. Millions of clothes are produced each year to give us the latest trends, most coming from China and Bangladesh, where the primary source of energy is burning coal.

Synthetic fibres are the most harmful as they come from fossil fuels. You’ll find these fibres in everyday items made from polyester and nylon. Avoiding them is difficult, the same way avoiding plastic is, but most of us have got the hang of finding eco-friendly alternatives to the plastic bottle. Is it time to start searching for better garments too?

The worst part? 12 million tonnes of fast-fashion clothing ends up in landfill each year and 85% of that ‘waste’, could have been reused or repurposed.

fast fashion being made in a factory

Water pollution

Water is the ultimate resource; we use it everywhere; that includes making clothes. Fast-fashion can harm almost every aspect of the environment, and it harms water by polluting it with untreated harmful toxic wastewater. Lead, mercury and arsenic are just some of the few toxins that pollute 2.77 trillion litres of water each year that filters directly into our oceans.

Bleached jeans, dyed t-shirts and tanned leather; everyday items that have been in production for years, but each one has damaged our water eco-system. It can take 200 tonnes of water to create 1 tonne of dyed fabric. Can you imagine the scale of water pollution that fast-fashion has had, when it produces on average 1 billion items every year?

raw materials fast fashion being transported


But trees don’t make clothes? Think again. Wood-based fibres cause mass deforestation across the globe, 70 million trees a year to be exact. Fibres such as rayon and viscose are big culprits for deforestation, but you might have suspected this next fabric a little less. Cotton.

We know what you’re thinking, “cotton is a good natural fibre, right?”, and it is. The importance of sourcing cotton is its sustainability, and the high demand we have for fast-fashion means a lot of it is unsustainably sourced. Millions of trees logged to make way for cotton fields. Yet again, it is our needy demand for items that enforces the negativity of otherwise positive sources.

deforestation due to fast fashion

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share :


If you’re not already a member, then you’re missing out! All of our members get rewarded for living a greener lifestyle, including reading this blog.