4 Disastrous Ways ‘Fast Fashion’ Clashes with the Environment
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Green is the new black, especially in the international fashion industry. And many brands are boasting about their new environmentally friendly initiatives.
But many of these sustainable programs still come at a high cost to the environment.
The rise of “fast fashion” has had disastrous effects on the climate. Fast fashion is when cheap, trendy clothing becomes available at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand. Brands want to get the newest styles on the market as fast as possible so that shoppers can snap them up while they are still popular. As a result, many unsustainable business practices are used, including releasing harmful chemicals into the air and false advertising.
Here are four hurdles fashion brands face when trying to be more sustainable.
Many fashion firms may have the best intentions when rolling out their new green marketing initiatives, but sometimes their messaging is at odds with what is happening behind the curtain.
So-called “greenwashing” is when companies make false or misleading claims about the positive impact that a company, product, or service has on the environment. Being caught in a lie can have disastrous consequences on your brand and the environment.
There has been pushback. Recently, the UK-based Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it will be investigating brands such as Asos, Boohoo, and George at Asda over their green claims, looking closely at how products and services claiming to be ‘eco-friendly’ are being marketed, and whether consumers are being misled.
In the US, H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Nike, and Allbirds have been called out for not practicing what they preach. Responding to consumers’ demands to be more accountable can quickly become a PR nightmare if a company’s communication strategy doesn’t make the cut. Before trumpeting your triumphs, make sure you are transparent in all areas of the business.
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To meet rising demands for items, fast fashion houses have resorted to using more synthetic materials to reduce costs. A report by Synthetics Anonymous found that the doubling of the production of fashion apparel in the past twenty years has led to more than half of the materials being produced coming from polyester.
But the increased use of synthetic materials creates an increase in pollution. The production of synthetic fibers currently accounts for 1.35% of global oil consumption, which exceeds the annual oil consumption of Spain, according to a report by Synthetics Anonymous.
Microplastic pollution is also quickly becoming a macro problem. Shedding of these polymer fibers crosses the blood/brain barrier and has even been found in a child’s placenta, not to mention the food we eat.
Using more natural fibers, such as organic also has its limitations. Many consumers may not realize that cotton requires a lot of water. In fact, as stated in this report, by The Columbia Climate School, 1kg of cotton required to make a pair of jeans would need to consume between 7,500 liters and 10, 000 liters of water. To put this into perspective, this is the same amount of water one person would drink over ten years. Not to mention, the number of pesticides and chemicals required to harvest the cotton that ends up in our ecosystem.
Fashion is loved for its creativity, and forward-thinking styles combined with its practicability and purpose, but many designers are feeling constrained on what they can create using sustainable materials. Synthetic-made materials are less expensive, durable, can repel water easily, and are great for active wear. Natural fibers tend to absorb your sweat and moisture. Can you imagine your athleisure wear being made from natural fibers?
This gives designers a real headache when they need to create their next collection. Imagine lululemon being made all out of linen. In return, such companies are providing sustainability impact statements on their sites. However, it has been reported that recycling plastic bottles, saved from the ocean for example, still doesn’t avoid the problem of micro pollution.
Harvard Business Report recently reported that recyclability in the fashion industry has been oversold. Less than 1% of garments are recycled due to their unusable materials.
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Sadly, the fashion industry is synonymous with its poor working conditions with only 2% of workers actually earning a livable wage. With a fashion industry seeking to shorten turnaround times from the launch of new designs to in-store availability, production sites are required to respond ever more quickly. Some workers in Bangladesh are expected to work 60 hours per week, it has been reported.
In addition, many of these overworked factory employees live near the waterways contaminated by the dyes and chemicals of the textiles that the neighboring factories are producing.
What’s the solution to all these woes?
It starts with education. Consumers and companies must demand more transparency from their suppliers should they wish to make the fashion industry sustainable for future generations. Only then case start to see the fashion industry design better and cleaner strategies.
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