Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Author: Tara Allohverdi
The textile industry is one of the largest polluters in our global economy.(1) Annually, it makes up 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses which surpasses the output from both transatlantic flights and maritime goods shipping! With growing discussions about “eco-fashion” and “sustainable textiles” I thought it might be worthwhile to sit and talk about what fast fashion really is, what the outcomes are and what we might be able to do about it.(1)
Environmental hazards and natural resource abuse
In order to keep up with consumer demands, clothing must be made as cheaply as possible. Often this means harvesting cotton and other natural fibres unsustainably, using toxic bleaches/ denim dyes and utilizing synthetic materials. All this results in; ecosystem breakdowns and soil degradation, contaminated waterways and (as we’ve all heard) microplastics in our potable water!(2)
Occupational health and the cycle of poverty
A documentary title you’ll often hear mentioned is that of “The True Cost”. A 2015 film directed by Andrew Morgan, it outlines the causes (global consumerism driven by capitalism induced poverty) and effects (laxed health and safety of underpaid textile workers in areas like China, India, Bangladesh and more). The documentary illustrates the events of the Savar building collapse in 2013 that resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people. Moments before the factory collapse, workers were forced into the building even while pointing out visible cracks in the walls. In order to self educate on the issue, this film is a great starting point.(3)
So what can we do about it?
The statement “There is no ethical consumption under capitalism” could not ring truer to me but at the same time it doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Of course there are fantastic brands out there like reformation and wholesome culture but they can be really expensive for the average Canadian! My response to this can be to jump on the thrifting bandwagon - maybe consignment stores if, like me, you’re worried about gentrification of second hand stores(*) - and just generally consuming less textiles. Sometimes fast fashion is a must and if that’s the case then lets try to buy only what we need and make it last for as long as we can.
(*) gentrification of second hand clothes is the increase of economic value and price of second hand clothes due to increased demand from individuals from higher economic classes. Gentrification therefore reduces the amount of second hand clothes accessible to those in lower income brackets and NEED second hand clothes.
2. Claudio, L. (2007). Waste couture: Environmental impact of the clothing industry.
3. Morgan, A., Ross, M., Siegle, L., McCartney, S., Firth, L., Shiva, V., Blickenstaff, D., ... Life Is My Movie Entertainment (Firm),. (2015). The true cost