The Environmental Impact of The Fashion Industry
One of the most detrimental sectors of the fashion industry is the concept of fast fashion. Fast fashion is a technique employed by stores like H&M and Forever21 that churn out affordable and on-trend clothes at a rapid pace, by means of global production chains. The phenomenon of globalization is also its pitfall. Globalization allows clothing to be made and sold at lower prices than ever before, which in turn results in consumers treating clothing as disposable items. The consumption of these accessible clothes and accessories cannot keep up with the rate at which they are produced. As a result, this process creates a substantial amount of excess clothes and accessories.
Environmental hazards from the overproduction of clothing includes pollution from chemicals used to dye and treat textiles, excessive water usage in production, and the careless disposal of excess clothes and accessories. Given that textile production tends to take place in areas of the world where freshwater is the least plentiful, these practices are even more injurious to the environment.
However, the movement to incorporate sustainable fashion options into mainstream fashion output has picked up speed in recent years. Sustainable fashion has the potential to make a huge impact in helping reduce the stress humans impose on the environment.
High-end retailers such as Burberry are known to burn their unsold products in order for their brand to retain its market value. In June 2018, Burberry released a statement in which they admitted to 28.6 million pounds of their finished goods. In response to these destructive and abrasive actions, the company Thredup took action via social media, proclaiming that “the world can’t afford to waste perfectly good clothes anymore... we are in the midst of an environmental crisis exacerbated by the fashion industry. Fashion is now responsible for 10 percent of global emissions, and is projected to drain a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.” Thredup encourage users to resell their Burberry items on the site, pledging to “donate 100 percent of the profits to the environmental charity of your choice.”
Moreover, the availability of cheap and accessible clothes primarily benefits the upper classes in urban areas of society, though at the substantial expense of the working classes in developing countries. While the fiscally sound receive a multitude of fashion options, many developing countries where the clothes are produced are left with waste and pollution as by products.
In order to make the fashion industry more sustainable and economically sound, there needs to be a commitment to recycling and producing quality products that are able to withstand the test of time and are not cyclically thrown away or destroyed. So long as fashion continues to be a central contributor to the global economy, the industry needs to make strides to become more environmentally sustainable and less of a detriment to the earth.