I’ve written quite a bit about fast fashion. That’s apparel produced in weeks, shipped, and sold before the season even begins. It’s what we count on at Zara, H&M, Target, Walmart. It is simple, inexpensive but high in quantity (not quality) and it makes a ton of money.
It also is incredibly ecologically damaging in so many ways; it can bankrupt nations and cause unnecessary deaths. Not pretty. To put this into perspective:
- Producing a pair of jeans consumes even more water — around 3,000 liters — due to the dyeing and bleaching involved, according to calculations by Quantis.
- Making a single pair of jeans emits around 20 kg of CO2, the same amount produced during a 49-mile car journey.
- The industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, wastewater production, and large amounts of landfill waste.
- Fast fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter.
The fast fashion industry produces ~1 billion garments annually.
Profits are around 3 trillion dollars per year. What impact does this large amount of production have on our environment? Production at this scale is pushing our natural systems to the absolute limit.
The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
This is about 5% of global emissions. That’s more than the emissions created by air travel and international shipping.
In 2015, the fast fashion industry used 80 billion cubic metres of freshwater.
The industry is one of the largest consumers of freshwater on the planet. To put this in perspective 80 billion cubic metres is enough to fill about 32,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
Production of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
The industry uses chemicals to produce, dye, coat, and soften fabrics. Many of these chemicals are harmful to humans and the environment. Through wastewater, chemicals used to produce clothing often end up in our waterways and oceans.
Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there.
In comparison to synthetic materials cotton may not actually be better for the planet. This crop uses large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers. Globally, we use about 11% of pesticides and 24% of insecticides on cotton crops. Currently, less than 1% of cotton crops are organic. On top of this cotton requires an enormous amount of water.