Fast Fashion: How It Hurts the Planet, and How You Can Help.

by Cat Woods

In the last couple of decades, the world of fashion has begun to move at an astonishing speed. Trends, once seasonal, now change almost day to day as the internet has revolutionised how quickly we are exposed to new styles and celebrity culture. With constant access to whatever new innovations the fashion trailblazers are wearing, there has never been more pressure for people to keep up – for both the consumer and the manufacturer. But what is fast fashion, and how can we reduce its impact?

What is Fast Fashion?

Environmentally conscious brand ranking website Good On You defines fast fashion as ‘cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand‘. New trends are mass produced, flung out into the market as quickly as possible. They’re cheap, and often low quality due to the demand for a quick turnover. We buy and wear them, enticed by the low cost – and then in a few days’ time, the world of fast fashion has left us behind. The style is already ‘outdated’ and the next big thing has come along.

A Fashion Disaster

This is going to hurt, especially my little sister (who’s a Primark junkie), but we have to accept it: fast fashion is an environmental disaster. Online shopping has surged due to Covid-19, and our addiction to fast fashion is now worse than ever. 

Sustainable fashion designer Stella McCartney states, ‘Did you know that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is burned or landfilled every second? And right now, less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, meaning 99% of all textiles and fashion are waste… that’s about 100 billion dollars worth of materials wasted each year. It’s crazy!’

The sheer numbers are indeed worrying. Greenpeace estimates that polyester production is responsible for the yearly use of nearly 70 million barrels of oil. All this oil, just for clothes? 

More concerning still is the human cost. A disturbing example is the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse, where 1000 sweatshop workers died, and a further 2500 were injured. Rana Plaza was just one example from a vast industry which will do anything to maximise production and meet demand. All these lives risked, all this labour and energy expended – to end up as waste in a pile, to be buried or burned?

This isn’t the fault of individuals who just want to stay warm and look good. It’s down to our economic system that values profit over people and planet.

Green Town St Helens Started With a Simple, Impactful Clothes Swapping Event!

While many people do take advantage of charity shops and recycle their unwanted used clothing, a significant amount still gets dumped in landfill every year. At Green Town St Helens, we’ve been raising awareness of this.

Clothes swapping is simple concept where people exchange the clothes that they don’t use with clothes that they would love to use. Clothes swapping has become really popular in recent years.  Some of its popularity comes from the fact that it is an eco-friendly practice. This is just one of the benefits of clothes swapping, though. There are lots more: it’s cost effective, it helps the environment, and you can optimise your wardrobe!

I’ve run a clothes swap event twice now to great success, at Mill Street Barracks and Momo’s Coffee Shop. These were both sell-out events with an incredible amount of interest. As an added bonus it made people consider the growing problem of fast fashion and its impact on the environment. I was so proud of the outcome that I plan to run another event, hopefully with a bigger venue and more people. 

Keep An Eye Out…

You can find out about our next clothes swap events on Facebook and Instagram – we’ve collectively saved half a tonne of clothing going to landfill in our town! Thank you to everyone who has taken part in previous events for your wonderful contributions. You really have helped to make a difference to people and the planet!

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Gemma May 23, 2021 - 8:19 am

I can’t wait to come to the next clothes swapping event you do.

Reply June 12, 2021 - 10:03 am

Many Thanks.

Emma van der Burg November 10, 2021 - 3:03 pm

Love this idea but I’ve never been to one! Count me in for the next one.


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