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The Disturbing Reality of Fast Fashion's Impact on our Environment

Fast fashion has been a go-to for keeping up with the latest trends without breaking the bank. But the real cost of those cheap, trendy outfits is starting to become clear, and it's not pretty—for our wallets or our planet. Thankfully, a new trend is taking root: sustainable fashion.

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Understanding Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is a modern retail phenomenon that allows brands to quickly produce inexpensive copies of catwalk trends. This model relies on rapid production, low costs, and a quick turnover of designs to keep shoppers continually buying new items. While this has democratized style, making the latest trends accessible to more people, the environmental and social costs have been enormous.

The Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion lets brands churn out cheap copies of the latest styles at an alarming rate. This keeps buyers shopping and their profits up. It's great for staying trendy on a budget, but the hidden costs are huge.

Fast fashion eats up enormous amounts of water, dumps pollutants into rivers, fills up landfills with non-biodegradable waste, and racks up a scary carbon footprint from all the global shipping.


Let's Talk Numbers

Let's break down some of the most troubling of the statistics by category:


  • It’s estimated that the fashion industry currently uses anywhere from 79 to 93 billion cubic meters of water per year. This is enough water to meet the needs of 5 million people.
  • A single pair of jeans can take up to 2,000 gallons (about 7,600 liters) of water to produce, from growing the cotton to the finished product.


  • The processes of dyeing and finishing, which involve applying color and other chemicals to fabrics, account for 3% of global CO2 emissions and contribute to more than 20% of worldwide water pollution.
  • In 2020, 2.6 million tonnes of returned clothes ended up in landfills in the US.

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  • That same year, online returns generated 16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Emissions from returns alone are equal to the emissions generated by powering two million homes for a year.
  • The processes of dyeing and finishing, which involve applying color and other chemicals to fabrics, account for 3% of global CO2 emissions


  • Dyeing and finishing, as previously mentioned, contribute to more than 20% of worldwide water pollution.
  •  An estimated half a million tonnes of plastic microfibers shed during washing end up in the ocean. This is equivalent to over 50 billion plastic bottles.

How You Can Help

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As consumers, we have the power to influence the industry by making informed and conscientious choices. Here’s how you can start:

What to Avoid

  • Fast Fashion Brands: Steer clear of fast fashion companies known for their unsustainable practices and poor labor conditions. Brands like Shein are notorious for promoting a cycle of excessive consumption and waste.
  • Synthetic Fibers: Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon contribute significantly to microfiber pollution. These fibers are plastic and do not biodegrade.
  • Excessive Consumption: Avoid the lure of constant new clothing purchases. The culture of buying more and more contributes directly to the issues discussed, from resource depletion to pollution and waste.

Actions to Take

  • Support Sustainable Brands: Choose to buy from brands that are committed to sustainable practices. Look for certifications like Fair Trade, Organic, or B Corp, which can help guide you to more responsible choices.
  • Buy Second-hand: Getting clothes second-hand not only reduces waste but also decreases the demand for the production of new clothing.
  • Care for Your Clothes: Extend the life of your garments through proper care—wash less frequently, avoid dryers when possible, and mend older clothes.

    Help build a future where fashion is both fair. Let us know in the comments which sustainable fashion choices you’re making!