First Place, News
12th Grade, Ryan Price
Picture this: you are at a clothing store and see a fashionable top that catches your eye. You look at the price tag and see the cheap price, immediately capturing your interest. You purchase the top, bring it home and wear it the next day, only to find that it has already started to fall apart after just a single use. It becomes unwearable and thus, you throw it out and the cycle continues once again. This is what fast fashion is all about.
Fast fashion is defined as being the expedited process from manufacturing to landfill due to the demand for cheap and trendy clothing. In order to acquire clothing, many stores exploit cheap labor from overseas. Cheap labor is often child labor or labor in unsafe conditions. This not only brings up an ethical issue, but an environmental issue.
In order to sell clothing for cheap prices, many of these articles of clothing are made with harmful chemicals and dyes. Textile dyeing is an environmentally taxing resource as it contributes to freshwater pollution globally. These dyes affect aquatic plant life as many dyes contain chemicals that reduce photosynthesis in plants. The short life span of an article of fast fashion clothing also contributes to astronomical amounts of waste that either sits in a landfill, or is burned. Many cheap clothing is produced with microfiber plastic, which is not biodegradable and ultimately ends up polluting waterways.
It is not just the fashion industry that is using this tactic, the furniture industry is also using this. Fast furniture is an increasing problem as the overproduction of cheap furniture leads to over twelve million tons of furniture being thrown out each year in the US alone with eight million tons of that being office furniture, according to the US EPA. In fact, Ikea’s Billy Bookcase is so rampantly produced that it is used as an economic index. Many cheap furniture items contain a mixture of chemicals, such as harmful dyes and lacquers.
When speaking to adults and teenagers around me, I was surprised to find out that many of them did not know what the term fast fashion meant. We are in the age of environmentally consciousness and sustainability, yet people tend to focus only on single use plastics. While single use plastics are a problem, the growing trend of clothing and furniture waste is worrisome and needs just as much attention.
There are many ways to reduce the waste of clothing. One option is to buy second hand from thrift stores or online. This is not only environmentally friendly, but budget friendly as the costs are lower for gently used items than brand new items. Another option is to buy clothing that will last. Although quality clothing tends to be more expensive than cheap fast fashion articles, it will last longer and overall save you money in the long run.
Although reducing clothing waste as a whole is a daunting task, it is a start to ensure that the world is a clean and safe place for generations to come.