Every time someone purchases an item of clothing from one of the mainstream stores, they are contributing to child labour, animal suffering, air and water pollution, insecure food and the main problem, climate change. “In fact, the fashion industry, specifically fast fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth.” “Esquire. (November.4.2016). Scott Christian.” http://www.esquire.com/style/news/a50655/fast-fashion-environment/
This research paper, will address some of the main reasons the way we are producing our clothing is unsustainable, and the effect it has on developing countries such as Bangladesh. It will be explained what fast fashion is, and the result of consumerism in the western world. Furthermore, how this is linked to climate change.
“Fast fashion is described as “low cost clothing collections that mimic current fashion trends.” These trends change incredibly fast, often causing new styles and trends to become obsolete in a matter of weeks. Fast fashion keeps up with these trends, but unlike high fashion, fast-fashion garments are cheap and usually made out of lower-quality materials. Fast fashion is bought mostly by young consumers who have a deep desire to look stylish and appear on-trend.” “Leena Oijala. What is fast fashion” https://www.leaf.tv/articles/what-is-fast-fashion/
So, we can ask ourselves these questions, “Does this include me” and “how can the clothing I purchase cause so much damage?”
The culture of consumerism
In today’s society, we are surrounded by commercials. These commercials are made by professionals to make us want to buy everything, and anything they are selling. They create an unconscious desire that makes us feel like the only thing that will make us happy is by purchasing that particular item. To illustrate this, human evolution has evolved from making a light bulb last approximately 2500 hours, to only now lasting 1000 hours. This industry is now selling more light bulbs than ever. So, the real question is; how could we, as a growing, intelligent and complex society make our new products cheaper and with lower quality? How does this benefit the businesses, and could it be worth destroying our planet and our future?
What we all need to know is how fast fashion clothing is produced. The cotton industry for example, is one of the world’s leading clothing materials. Notably, Organic Trade Association (OTA) came out in 2010 saying that cotton is the world’s dirtiest crop due to the large amount of insecticides. Despite this, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) reports that cotton is currently using 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land, and 16 percent of the world’s insecticides. This is more than any other crop so far.
Some of the most acutely hazardous insecticides, are represented among the top 10 most commonly used in cotton production. One of them being Aldicarb, it is said to be able to kill a man with just one drop absorbed by the skin,”. Why are there still 25 countries in the world that are still using this insecticide? Even 16 states in the US have reported Aldicarb in their groundwater.” “The magazine of corporate responsibility. 2010” http://business-ethics.com/2010/08/07/1438-the-bad-side-of-cotton/
Another threat to the environment is the leather industry. In Hazaribagh there runs a river called the Burigana river. The river runs through Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. If you are envisioning a river surrounded with green grass and flowers, think again. This river is lined up with piles and piles of leather textile. Factory workers do dangerous tasks like dipping leather hides in highly toxic chemicals, mostly without any protection such as gloves and shoes. It is also estimated that 90 percent of workers die before they turn 50 years old. “Wired. 12.117. Laura Mallonee” https://www.wired.com/2017/01/adib-chowdhury-a-thousand-polluted-gardens-inside-bangladeshs-polluted-billion-dollar-leather-industry/#slide-1
The true cost documentary states that we purchase 400 times more than we did 20 years ago. Globalization has a huge part in this revolution. Over the past two decades it has been made easier than ever to produce cheap clothing in Bangladesh, and sell them in America. Correspondingly, Bangladesh is accounted for producing 5,8 percent of all clothing in America. However, an article written by Mona Chalabi for “fivethirtyeight” shows that Bangladesh has the lowest wage, just above minimum wage. https://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/where-the-u-s-gets-its-clothing-one-year-after-the-bangladesh-factory-collapse/ This makes it hard for workers in Bangladesh to provide for their family and themselves.
Advantages of the fast fashion industry?
Despite the fact that this industry has unbelievable consequences such as pollution, water waste and excessive amounts of textile waste, there are always some advantages of any industry. Unemployed workers in Bangladesh will get an opportunity to work and earn money for their family. We in the western world, will have a wider range of styles, trends and brands to choose from. Everyone who purchases these clothing items, can stand out of the crowd with a new pair of jeans or a fancy new top. When an item of clothing gets ruined, we somehow find it easier to throw away that piece of clothing that was cheaper and made out of a lower quality material. This makes us feel less guilty, resulting in better mood. However, our way of buying and throwing cloths away is having a huge impact on the environment.
The environment is getting worse
With that said, is our clothing worth the death of an animal, dirty drinking water in Bangladesh and the extinction of polar bears? According to World Wide Fund (WWF) it can take 2,700 liters of water to produce one cotton t-shirt. (WWF. 2013) http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt It also takes 71 pounds of carbon dioxide to produce one pair of jeans. “Mattias Wallander. 2012” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mattias-wallander/t-shirt-environment_b_1643892.html
Think about all the water, greenhouse gas emissions and transportation that goes into only one piece of clothing, add that to about one billion clothing pieces that is transported from one continent to the other. Of course this will in the long run have serious consequences.
Where does our waste end up?
As the true cost mentioned, the average American tosses 82 pounds of textile waste every year. If you do some calculations, you will find that this amount equals 11 tons of textile waste in America alone. If you think about all that waste, where does it end up? According to EPA in 2010 America discharged 13,1 million tons of textile. Within these 13.1 million tons, only 15 percent were recycled. Do more calculations and you will see that 11 million tons of clothing textiles went to landfills all over the country. EPA is not one hundred percent sure what will be the long- term effects of this. Logically they think that it can harmful for the air and soil, as a result of all the chemicals that the industry uses. “TriplePundit, 2 January 2012. Mattias Wallander” http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/01/textile-waste-be-banned-landfills/
When you now have all this information, it is a fact that the fast fashion industry is destroying the environment. People throw away excessive amounts of textiles every year, not to mention the environmental impacts the chemicals have on our planet. Whether you are for or against the industry, here are some of the choices we all can consider making before we purchase another item of clothing. For instance, we can choose the appropriate materials, such as organic and/or recycled. This will minimize the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and water waste. As communities, we can incorporate local craft skills to produce our clothing. Workers in Bangladesh will need jobs, choosing brands that support workers, and is Fairtrade will have a magnificent result in the working conditions for textile workers. Considering whether the brand has a strength of environmental regulation and infrastructure, will help build a new way of textile production, and ultimately what we need is new way of producing our clothing that is sustainable for the future.