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Fast Fashion Must Go by Claire Hedberg

Fast Fashion Must Go by Claire Hedberg

Picture from Zero Hour

We often hear about how corporate fossil fuel companies are largely to blame for the current climate crisis. But, we seldom talk about accountability for the other companies also playing a role in the current climate crisis. Dialogue needs to occur about the role fast fashion companies are playing in this increasingly urgent crisis. Companies such as Fashion Nova, H&M, Zara have taken the fashion industry by storm. But, at what cost?

While the garments that come from these companies may be pretty, the effects of the fast fashion industry are not. The fast fashion industry emits more carbon than the maritime and international flight industries combined. It is also the second-largest user of the world’s water supply.

If the industry is allowed to continue its growth at its current unhealthy pace it will emit about 26% of the world’s carbon.

Not only are there disastrous effects on the climate from this industry, but there are also cruel labor practices common among the factories that these companies use to manufacture many of their goods. Sweatshops, slave labor, and dangerous factory conditions are ripe within the industry. The industry also dumps excess products into neighboring rivers affecting nearby communities.

Illness and pollution are directly caused by these companies. Waste is also a pillar of the fast fashion industry, as 85% of the produced textiles, each year are dumped. The equivalent of a garbage truck worth of clothes is dumped or burned each second. With the increased use of synthetic fabrics come deadly consequences for the world’s oceans. These materials don’t break down upon entry in the ocean, instead, they release small plastics called microplastics. These small plastics are not filtered out and often harm marine wildlife. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fast fashion. The industry has demonstrated time after time that they do not value sustainability or the rights of workers and low income and impoverished areas.

Fortunately, we have some of the solutions at our fingertips. We know that in order for these companies to make money, they need to sell lots of clothing fast. As consumers, we must demonstrate that we prioritize quality over quantity. We have to recognize that something may be affordable, but it doesn’t come without costs. While an increasing number of activists and influencers are calling out these companies for their actions, many influencers continue to promote these companies without acknowledging the facts about them. We need to push influencers to own up to the facts around fast fashion. They have the power and following to educate the public about the effect of this industry. They also have the attention of these companies and could get them to change their practices.

In addition, we need to change the culture around fashion dramatically. Instead of buying into the latest trend, opt for a timeless piece that won’t be thrown away when inevitably the trend has run its course. We must end the throwaway culture. We can shop second hand, or repair our clothes. We can even buy online from companies such as ThredUp or Rent the Runway. We need to normalize the sharing of fashion. Borrow clothes from your friends, do a swap, or ask a friend or family member for hand-me-downs. You can also learn to sew and increase the lifespan of your garments and even make your own. We also can normalize wearing our pieces again and again. With the rise of social media, we constantly want to be wearing a new look and that means we are always buying clothes. Companies like Zaful and Zara exploit the sentiments that social media consumerism and fashion culture have given us. Furthermore, the current economic and political systems leave many people without significant money for clothes. This makes it easy for fast fashion companies to sell a ton of clothes. We also need to address these inequalities in order to completely rid our economy of fast fashion.

This is not a one-step solution. We need to address many issues in order to completely reform the fashion industry. There is hope. If we as consumers demonstrate that we prioritize sustainability and quality over mass production and quantity we can reform the industry. It’s up to you and me. So think twice when you buy a garment. Inform those around you about what you have learned and use your buying power to end the fast fashion cycle.


About the Author

Claire Hedberg is a 15-year-old activist with Zero Hour. She is a writer and hopes to spread awareness about climate change through her work. She is a proud Latina and resides in Richmond Virginia. She enjoys watching political tv, cats, and activism.

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Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth supports all young people and their diversity in exercising their right to freedom of expression. Reach Not Preach platform serves as a safe space for all young people to share their take on the topic of climate change. The views expressed in the Reach Not Preach platform are those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth and the United Nations.

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