The real cost of fast fashion

By Fodhla O'Connell-Grennell

Having a sustainable wardrobe might seem like it comes at a very expensive cost, but the cost of having a closet filled with fast fashion is huge on the environment. As ‘The True Cost’ movie found, currently the world consumes 80 billion pieces of new clothing every year; 400% more than two decades ago!

Operating by a weekly-transitioning trend system, this means many pieces of clothing are being discarded before their due time. Therefore, it is obvious that sustainable fashion, whether it is loving what you own, buying vintage or pre-loved clothing or spending the extra few bob on ethically-made clothes, is the fashion practice that people should be embracing. However, many people don’t know the detrimental impacts fast fashion can have on the environment, therefore, we have created an easy breakdown of four of many reasons why fast fashion is in conflict with the planet.

It’s fast

Not to point out the obvious, but fast fashion being fast-changing means that something really isn’t right. Quick production practices usually mean the same amount of love isn’t put into each piece of clothing. The fast nature of this fashion production also impacts workers in factories who tirelessly make these clothes. They work unbearably long hours for very little pay and in usually hazardous conditions.

Water waste

One byproduct of textile factories is the untreated toxic water waste. Substances like lead, mercury and arsenic are all inside this water which is harmful to both humans and the marine ecosystem. It can take hundreds of tonnes of freshwater to dye and complete just one tonne of fabric. In countries which are already poor, this endangers human’s water security. Synthetic fibres, such as polyester and nylon, omit microfibres every time you wash them too. Microfibres are small pieces of plastic which when put into the water are usually then consumed by humans and marine life.

Greenhouse Gases Impacts

Fast fashion production emits a lot of carbon; the fashion industry is accountable for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Business Insider. Producing, manufacturing and transporting millions of garments per year uses up a lot of energy. Countries which are fossil fuel dependent are usually the countries making the clothes and the synthetic fibres found in the fabrics used are also made from the use of fossil fuels.


Some of the fabrics used in fast fashion come from natural sources, such as sheep’s wool or cotton from the gossypium hirsutum plant. Chemicals which are used in the production of these fabrics can also damage the soil in the earth. Overgrazing animals leads to loss of valuable plant species, soil erosion, famine and other detrimental factors to the environment. Wool-based fibres can cause deforestation. Rainforests are felled each year in order for plantations to grow wood-based fabrics needed in fast fashion. This, in turn, is not only harming the planet, but it harms indigenous communities too.

The next time you are thinking about buying fast fashion, ask yourself why? Look for sustainable alternatives and help save the planet. There is no reason why anyone should find themselves keeping up with fast fashion.