By: Mylene Oyarzabal
From H&M to Zara, fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing rapidly created as a result of demand for contemporary trends. Targeted primarily to women between the ages of 18 to 24, these clothes are typically categorized as “trendy,” only to be of low quality and never to be seen again following the initial wave of demand. While we’re surrounded by it every day, a majority of Americans are not familiar with the consequences that surround this phenomenon. Although these items tend to be beneficial for the large companies that produce them, the amount of unused and discarded clothing that often results from this has contributed to the pollution of our planet, and is continuing at an alarming rate.
Since the year 2000, the production of clothing is believed to have doubled in size, and has in turn damaged the state of our planet dramatically. Fast fashion has been at the forefront of this spectacle, encouraging mass market stores to appeal to what is commonly known as “seasonal collections.” Starting with Zara’s bi-weekly collection releases, many brands from Forever 21 to Wet Seal have replicated the practice: redesigning and releasing new clothes at every major location on a weekly or monthly schedule. These enormous shipments and mass productions have in turn taken a toll on natural resources affecting the environment more than ever before.
And while the amount of clothing produced may seem balanced by the continuing growth of the human population, studies have found that clothing is discarded even quicker than ever before. A majority of Americans own 60% more clothing than they did in the year 2000, but only keep hold of them for half as long. The amount of discarded clothes tends to be baffling; on average, 5800 pounds of clothing are burned or landfilled per second. As a result, this amounts to around 182 billion pounds of clothing a year, with the United States alone contributing 26 billion pounds to this obscene number. Taking over 200 years to decompose, our actions are causing clothes to pile up for an indeterminate amount in these landfills and are causing great damage.
The question that we must ask ourselves is how do we resolve this growing issue? An important component to preventing the curse of fast fashion lies in simple inaction. Maintaining our clothes for longer periods of time and refraining from purchasing “hip” new clothing not only saves money, but also helps save the environment. Donating clothing, instead of simply throwing it away, allows clothes to remain in use for longer periods of time and directly maintains them out of landfills. Conscious thinking on our part is essential to breaking the cycle of pollutant clothing, and is becoming a necessity in our consumer-run world.