The Real Cost of Fast Fashion


Kai Pilger

Rack of Clothes

CENTENNIAL HIGH SCHOOL- Fast fashion; this global concept of consumption which many of us are familiar with is steadily making itself more and more prominent all over the world. Although people are generally familiar with the concept of fast fashion, many do not understand its unethical and harmful effects. Fast fashion may seem like a quick way to be able to buy lower quality, cheaper clothing, but at what real cost?
One of the most detrimental effects of the fast fashion industry is its harmful environmental effects, such as the carbon emissions which it produces. According to Business Insider, fast fashion makes up 10% of total global carbon emissions. To put that into perspective, this is equal to the total global carbon emissions of the entire European Union. Carbon emissions are heavy contributors to global warming and environmental damage. With the continual growth of the fast fashion industry, carbon emissions will directly grow as well and adversely affect the environment.
Another aspect of fast fashion which is often overlooked is the water usage and toxic water waste. In just the country of Bangladesh, which is a global hub for factory production, 22,000 tons of toxic waste from factories and tanneries is dumped into waterways every year. This turns the water in these waterways toxic and can hurt the health of the people, animals, and environment of the area. Additionally, if these waterways lead to the sea, this can cause sea pollution as well.
Not only is the fast fashion industry extremely harmful for the environment, it advances unethical exploitation of workers in third world countries as well. Fast fashion companies are often seen to exploit and underpay their workers in third world countries, and even go so far as to utilize child labor to make their products. Companies such as Boohoo, Fashion Nova, Forever 21, Pretty Little Thing, and more have been found to be exploiting their factory workers.
Some may defend the fast fashion industry by claiming that it greatly helps the economy. However, although the economy may benefit from fast fashion, the industry’s detrimental environmental and social effects greatly outweigh the growth that fast fashion gives to the economy.
Another stance on the topic could also be that every industry has somewhat harmful effects. Although this is true, fast fashion is one of the most popular and normalized industries and people often do not know the truth of its effects. Additionally, just because other industries may be harmful as well does not reduce the grave impact of the fast fashion industry on the world.
Although some may believe that fast fashion is beneficial in some areas and that it is not the only harmful industry, the detrimental effects of fast fashion are clear to see. In order to work towards a cleaner and more sustainable planet, we need to make a move to ditch fast fashion and instead consume more sustainable types of clothing, such as from ethically sourced clothing brands or thrift stores and truly understand the true cost of fast fashion.