In honor of spooky season we are sharing some scary facts about the fast fashion industry! Most of us don't often think about the life-cycle of our clothing, or the long-term impacts they have on our planet. However, traditional clothing production requires a significant amount of natural resources and takes a huge toll on the Earth. Furthermore, due to a "throwaway culture", we as consumers tend to think of our clothes as disposable items rather than long-term investments. Scarier yet, many popular fast fashion brands depend on the low quality of their clothing to lead customers to make more frequent purchases. The better we understand fast fashion, the more likely we are to avoid its pitfalls. So here are some fast fashion fast facts that are sure to make your skin crawl!
It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans.
2,000 gallons is 10 years of drinking water for one person. 10 years! That would be a lot of water for a whole batch of jeans, but that's for a single pair. This is largely due to the amount of water required for traditional cotton farming methods. Since cotton is in over 50% of garments, excessive water usage is not exclusive to jeans. It takes 700 gallons to make one t-shirt. The fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water worldwide. This issue becomes even more concerning when we consider that 750 million people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water, and factories in underdeveloped areas are polluting waterways with toxic chemicals.
The equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothing is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.
Only 15% of discarded clothes are donated or recycled! The average American throws away around 70 pounds of clothing each year, and while we might think "out of sight out of mind", those clothes don't just disappear. They are burned or dumped in landfills, releasing pollutants into the air, ground, and water. So the next time you think about clearing out your closet, don't throw your unwanted pieces in the trash. Give them to your friend, your mom, your sister, your cousin, your aunt, or your grandma. Nobody wants them? You have other options! Donate your clothes to thrift stores, charitable organizations, or send them away to be recycled properly. Some great textile recycling programs can be found at www.terracycle.com, www.zappos.com, and www.helpsy.co!
The clothing industry contributes to about 35% of the micro-plastics in our oceans.
Washing clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year. That's the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. This is the result of washing clothing made with synthetic textiles like polyester. These materials never biodegrade, ending up in large bodies of water and disrupting ecosystems. So how do we avoid this? Focus on purchasing clothes made with more sustainable materials like linen, organic cotton, hemp, and modal. Already have clothes in your closet with polyester in them? Most of us do! Gadgets like the CoraBall and the GuppyFriend are designed to catch micro-plastics in your washing machine!
11 of the most used chemicals in clothing production are hazardous.
The fashion industry lacks generally agreed upon regulations for what chemicals are allowed to be used in the production process. This is largely due to the global supply chain involved in fashion production. From sourcing materials to distributing finished products to customers, garments typically travel through various countries. Therefore, it us up to the discretion of multiple countries to decide what substances are used to make clothes. This is why it is extremely important for brands to know about their own manufacturing processes. An estimated 8000 synthetic ingredients are used in fashion manufacturing and many of those are not only bad for the environment, but for our skin as well. Common ingredients like formaldehyde, chromium, and lead have been linked to skin irritation and long-term health risks. If these ingredients are dangerous for consumers, they are certainly dangerous for the garment workers who handle them daily as well.
400% more carbon emissions are produced if we wear a garment 5 times instead of 50 times.
Perhaps the scariest part of fast fashion is our tendency as consumers to perpetuate it. Instead of investing in sustainably made quality pieces that last, we have grown to look for the cheapest possible items and get rid of them as soon as we've posted a picture of ourselves wearing them on social media. In fact, 3 out of 5 garments end up in a landfill within a year of purchase! It's important to remember that it is okay to wear clothes more than a few times! I actually think thats the fun of fashion. Styling pieces you love to make different looks every time you wear them.
We hope these facts about the fast fashion industry inspire you to become a more educated consumer. You did read this post after all, so you are already on your way! By being selective about what brands we buy from, how often we make purchases, and how we dispose of our garments, we can contribute to making the fashion industry a little less "spooky"!