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The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion (and How You Can Help...)

October 25, 2020 7 min read

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion (and How You Can Help...)

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion (and How You Can Help...)

Have you ever wondered how the fashion industry has gotten so chaotic and so unsustainable?

Clothes have gotten cheaper, made in low quality, trend cycles have speeded up, and
consumption has increased drastically. Sometime in the 1990s or 2000s, the fashion industry
changed. So-called “fast fashion” was born.
Large global brands like H&M or Zara dominate the shopping streets and the online world. Now
a T-shirt from H&M is cheaper than a cup of coffee from Starbucks. But their price tag is not
reflecting the cost of environmental and social impact.

 

What is Fast Fashion?

The basic idea of fast fashion is to get the trendy styles that are inspired by the catwalk or
celebrities on the market as fast as possible to meet consumer demand. These garments are
usually discarded after a few weeks because they are no longer in-style.
The system has made consumers think that they must buy the latest look as they are happening
and repeating the same outfit is not “cool”. Clothes are now considered as disposable items.
Fast fashion brands now produce thousands of styles with an extremely short turnaround time
between a style seen on the catwalk and when it hits the shelves. With overproduction and
consumption, the fashion industry is now amongst the largest polluters in the world.

 

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

There was no way brands could produce that much trendy clothes at the lowest cost without any
negative impact on the planet. The negative environmental impact of fast fashion includes the
depletion of non-renewable sources, emission of greenhouse gases, and the use of a massive
amount of water and energy.
The world consumes around 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year, you can imagine the
impact it is creating. The fashion industry is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste per
year globally. The industry is also responsible for the emission of 1,715 million tons of CO2
each year, accounting for 10% of total global carbon emissions.

Microplastic being a hot topic of environmental issues in recent years, the fashion industry is a
big part of this issue. Washing clothes that contain plastic-based material releases 500,000 tons
of microplastic-fibers into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
These tiny microplastic particles are too small, they are difficult to clean out of waterways. And
once they reach the ocean, they can end up in the fish. Microfibers can bypass the water
filtration system and end up in drinking water and on-land fertilizer, which means they frequently
pollute our food and drinking water.
As a result, we are consuming microplastic from our clothes through the water we drink and the
food we eat. Polyester, along with nylon and acrylic are common materials used in the fashion
industry which are made from plastic.
Since the year 2000, the use of polyester fiber has doubled. 60% of garments are now made
from polyester. Producing clothes from plastic-based materials use 324 million barrels of oil
each year.
Consumers are still chucking unwanted clothes in their household bins without considering other
available options or where these clothes will end up. In North America alone, 10.5 million tons of
clothing is sent to landfill every year. Far too many materials and clothes are sent to landfills.
And less than 1% of clothing is truly recycled into fresh textiles.
Choosing where the clothes will end up is as important as knowing how they are made.
Because the truth is, almost everything we have thrown away over the past few decades still
exists somewhere on Earth, whether buried in the landfill or polluting the ocean.

 

Unethical Practices of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion brands offshore manufacturing where labor is the cheapest like Bangladesh or
China, with the use of workers on the lowest wages without adequate rights or safety. 150
million lives are touched by the global apparel industry daily and most of these people do not
receive a living wage and work in terrible conditions.
The ethical violations include unlovable wages, child labor, modern slavery, migrant exploitation,
gender discrimination (the majority of workers are young females), verbal, sexual, and physical
abuse, forced overtime (workers in Bangladesh work 60 hours per week on average), and
hazardous working conditions.

 

Creating Better World With Sustainable Fashion

So, when it comes to making decisions about your wardrobe, being conscious about your
choices is always a good look.
The best way of doing that is through what we call ‘sustainable fashion’.
Sustainable fashion can be defined as fashion items that are manufactured, used, and disposed
of with minimal impact on the environment while treating people involved fairly. True sustainable
fashion manufacturing considers both environmental and socio-economic aspects.
To be considered sustainable, brands must work to improve every single aspect of a product’s
life cycle.
Natural resources - like water, land, and soil - should be used efficiently and carefully, and
utilize renewable energy sources. Brands should also consider the human impact of fashion,
working conditions; on the farm, in factories, and in stores must be ethical and fair. Moreover,
fashion brands should work on encouraging more sustainable consumption by educating the
public.
For a garment to be truly sustainable, it must be produced with eco-friendly materials in an
ethical manner. If a T-shirt made with organic cotton but used slavery in the supply chain, that is
not a sustainable T-shirt.

 

So, what can we do in order to stop supporting Fast Fashion?

Well, there is an alternative: slow it all down! What do I mean by that? You are about to find out.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion is the antithesis of fast fashion. Generally referred to the concept of slowing down
the pace of production and consumption and making conscious and mindful choices. Slow
fashion takes a long-term view as opposed to the fast fashion short-term view, and it is about
quality instead of quantity.
It is counterculture because it goes against the current societal norms that “more is more” and
“faster and cheaper are better”. It is a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers
and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities and
ecosystems.

 

Organic Cotton

Choosing garments made of organic cotton is a great way to minimize the environmental impact
you create from the consumption of fashion items. Organic cotton is produced without the use of
chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, it also does not use genetically modified seeds
(GMS).
This also means that growing organic cotton keeps farmers safe since they are not exposed to
toxic in the field or through their food and water supply. Organic cotton is biodegradable, and
while they decompose, they do not release any chemicals to the soil. It also releases 46% less
CO2 during the production process, and organic cotton farms produce 94% less carbon
emission than conventional farms.
Moreover, clothing made from organic cotton is harmless for the skin and is extremely
comfortable to wear.

 

Recycled Cotton

Recycled cotton (commonly referred to as regenerated cotton or reclaimed cotton) is also a
sustainable option as it is sourced from already existent cotton. There are two places where that
cotton comes from: post-consumer and pre-consumer.
Post-consumer recycled cotton is made from when the consumer is finished with their garment
and recycles it, while pre-consumer recycled cotton latter is made from manufacturer waste,
which includes scraps, rejects and trimming. It is estimated that 15-20% of fabric is wasted
during the production process, these scraps usually never make it to the consumer’s hand and
normally discarded.
Both types of recycled cotton are better alternatives than simply sending fabric waste to the
landfill or getting incinerated.
However, the production of recycled cotton is still limited. Clothes are often made with blended

materials (such as cotton and polyester) and there is no technology that can separate natural-
based fiber and plastic-based fiber at scale yet.

 

Greenhive Collective believes in Slow Fashion.

This is why I founded Greenhive Collective. This is what makes me get up in the morning,
knowing that my day will have an impact on the world we live in.
It will have a positive impact on the lives of people I do not even know. And hopefully, it will
inspire others to take action and support the Slow Fashion movement and similar causes with
their money and the decisions they make.

Greenhive Collective offers a wide range of sustainable products that allow customers to live a
more sustainable lifestyle such as apparels and lifestyle products.
At our core, we value animal conservation and eco-friendly practices and advocates a healthy
thriving planet by incorporating artwork that raises awareness and consciousness for preserving
the environment.

Our t-shirts are made with sustainable materials including organic cotton and recycled
cotton/polyester and dyed with soy-based ink, so you don’t have to worry about chemicals being
used during the dying process.
Some of the cotton we use is GOTS-certified organic cotton which means that it meets the
requirements to ensure the organic status from the harvesting of the raw materials, through
socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing process, to labelling on their garments
to provide credible assurance to the consumers.
On top of that, our garments are produced at WRAP-certified factories which means they can
ensure traceability and these factories are dedicated to ethical and responsible operations.
Greenhive Collective donates 10% of all profits from our merchandise to various charities
including The Planet Bee Foundation, One Tree Planted Organization, and The Sloth
Conservation Foundation.

We are also collaborating with these organizations to create special designs for our products.
Through the partnership with One Tree Planted Organization, our brand has planted 100 trees
in India in August 2020, and 300 trees in Australia and around the world in May.
With every purchase you make at Greenhive Collective, you can rest assured the money you
are giving a company that is a champion for our beautiful planet and it will help provide
resources to animal & environment conservation charities.

We are not saying this to brag. We are saying this to stimulate change.
Now you know the fashion industry - a $2.5 trillion sector - is the second most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil. You understand that the industry extracts, processes and discards
way too fast.

The lack of transparency in the fashion supply chain is not allowing consumers to see how the
product is created and by whom, how many natural resources were used, and the impact it has on the environment.

We consumers should try to improve the way we buy, care, and dispose of our clothes. We can all take immediate and effective action, and to do so, we must educate ourselves and make informed buying decisions.
By changing our buying habits, we can encourage fashion brands to do better, use environmentally friendly materials or pay fair wages to their workers. We have the power to slow
down and make the fashion industry more sustainable.


If you are interested to know more about how you can support Greenhive Collective, check out our eco-friendly tees!



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