by Elisa Thelvarik


https://anchor.fm/etherealism/episodes/Environmental-Impact-of-Fast-Fashion-e131pmf

Even though many people know that fast fashion damages the environment, the public is not aware of the extent of degradation it actually causes. Awareness is the key element to changing our wasteful ways incentivized by the fashion industry. I also want to focus on some of the topics I discussed in my first article, "Unmasking Fast Fashion." I only touched on the environmental impact in one paragraph, but there is so much more. To give even more information to a sustainable consumer, this article will serve as an extension of the previous article. There is so much that I do not have enough pages to show every statistic on the consequences of fast fashion. This is only the tip of the iceberg that is the wicked problem of fast fashion. 

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I would like to reiterate how much textile waste fast fashion creates. According to [Bick et al. (2018)](<https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0433-7>), "the average American throws away approximately 80 pounds of clothing and textiles annually, occupying nearly 5% of landfill space." In Australia, about 501 million kg of discarded textiles, and clothing ended up in landfills ([Moazzem et al., 2020](<https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105338>)). I believe it's important to reflect visually the space clothing takes up in landfills. These statistics give a bigger, more clear insight into the ramifications of this measure of waste produced on the Earth. If this type of behavior continues, the world will have no more space to put the waste. Unsold clothing can also become solid waste, clog rivers, greenways, and parks, and create potential environmental hazards for animals ([Bick et al., 2018](<https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0433-7>)).

Fast fashion not only contributes to the ever-growing pile of waste in landfills but also creates water pollution. "The fashion industry is also a major consumer of water (79 trillion liters per year), responsible for ~20% of industrial water pollution from textile treatment and dyeing, contributes ~35% (190,000 tons per year) of oceanic primary microplastic pollution and produces vast quantities of textile waste (>92 million tons per year), much of which ends up in landfill or is burnt, including unsold product," ([Niinimäki et al., 2020](<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340635670_The_environmental_price_of_fast_fashion>)). The highest water-consuming process is reported as the dyeing process with a water consumption ratio of 61% and the lowest ratio is reported as the sizing operation at weaving preparation with a ratio of 2% ([Yildirim et al. 2019](<https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102633-5.00007-5>)). Water consumption is a big issue due to the sheer amount of clothing created. Water conservation is incredibly important especially for the future of humanity. So much water is being wasted on creating new, cheap clothing for fast fashion. Enough clothing is already manufactured so new unsustainable pieces are not needed. If this fashion cycle continues, it can result in water shortages.

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Fast fashion creates an excessive amount of CO2 emissions. "Textile production is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping," ([Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017](<https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future>)). The fashion industry produces 8-10% of global CO2 emissions which is 4 to 5 billion tons annually ([Niinimäki et al., 2020](<https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340635670_The_environmental_price_of_fast_fashion>)). The fashion industry is not utilizing CO2 reduction plans anytime soon. By 2030, emissions from production are set to rise 60% reaching an estimated 2.8 billion tons of CO2 and increasing global CO2 contribution by 50% ([Dhana Tribe, 2018](<https://www.dhanatribe.com/the-true-cost/energy>)).

Energy consumption is also a massive concern involved in fast fashion. "An estimated 80% of the energy used in the fashion industry is used in textile manufacturing" ([The Conscious Challenge, 2019](<https://www.theconsciouschallenge.org/ecologicalfootprintbibleoverview/clothing-energy#:~:text=Factories%20are%20major%20energy%20consumers%20and%20therefore%20greenhouse,needed%20for%20washing%2C%20drying%20and%20dying%20the%20cloth.)>). "The textile industry retains a record of the lowest efficiency in energy utilization and is one of the major energy-consuming industries. About 34% of energy is consumed in spinning, 23% in weaving, 38% in chemical processing, and another 5% for miscellaneous purposes." ([Aravin Prince, 2008](<https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/3377/energy-conservation-in-textile-industries-savings>)). Water and energy consumption are directly related, therefore making the issue even worse. "Fuel consumption in textile mills is almost directly proportional to the amount of water consumed. Hence, if consumption of water can be reduced, it will also save energy," ([Aravin Prince, 2008](<https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/3377/energy-conservation-in-textile-industries-savings>)).

In this article, I delved into the topics of landfill waste, CO2 emissions, water pollution, and resource consumption. Fast fashion amplifies environmental problems with high water consumption, high discharge of hazardous chemicals, and the creation of more waste, which combines with bigger greenhouse gas emissions ([Gazzola et al., 2020](<https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072809>)). Awareness is the first step to fixing this wicked problem. There are too many stakes at hand related to this issue to be ignored. Consumers need to be aware of these consequences when they pay for a cheap piece of clothing. Awareness is growing and has a greater effect on consumer purchasing decisions, with more than a third of survey respondents reporting they have already switched from their preferred brand to another for reasons related to responsible practices ([Lehmann et al., 2019](<http://media-publications.bcg.com/france/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry2019.pdf>)). I wrote this article to bring the consequences of fast fashion even further forward. No matter how much social media buzz spikes, someone in this world needs to know the truth.

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This is your call to action. Talk about fast fashion. Promote the facts and do your own research. Continue to learn and improve.

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