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How your clothes are hurting the environment: a fast fashion story

What is Fast Fashion?

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash.

Fast fashion happens when companies mimic trendy clothing styles at a cheap price for the public. However, the environmental cost of doing this is extraordinary.

Why is it harmful?

Water resources:

To make clothes cheaply, companies use lower quality materials that worsen the durability of the article of clothing. Even though the material is lower quality, the amount of resources poured into making the clothing does not decrease. Did you know that one cotton t-shirt takes over 700 gallons of water to produce? That is enough water for one person to live on for about 2.5 years. For perspective, in 2017, Americans produced 33.8 billion pounds of textiles, which is a steep increase from the 20.7 billion pounds produced in the year 2000. To make matters worse, since the articles of clothing are of such low quality, consumers are encouraged to continuously buy new clothing once theirs deteriorates or goes out of style. The abundant increase in the amount of clothes purchased multiplies the negative affects on the environment.


Did you know that the fashion industry makes up 10% of our global carbon dioxide emissions? Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that greatly contributes to global warming. These emissions come from the fashion production process, the transportation needed to produce the garment offshores and transfer it back to consumers, and more.

Human rights:

To make trendy new garments quickly and cheaply, companies often outsource their production to places where labor is cheaper and there are fewer environmental regulations, such as China or Bangladesh. In 2017, workers in a Myanmar clothing factory had minimum wage of $63/ month for a 6-day work week. This averages to about $2.61 per day.

What can I do about this?
  1. THRIFT! The biggest solution to fast fashion is simple: thrift! Since the clothes have already been purchased by someone else, you are not paying the polluting companies for that item and thus are not supporting their unsustainable habits. To see some change, it is imperative to show big businesses, with your wallet, that you will not support their environmentally damaging habits.
    1. Did you know there are online thrift stores? These stores provide an easy way to sort through all the goods at a thrift store in an organized, socially distanced manner.
  2. Shop from sustainable companies. However, you must be careful to avoid greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company claims to be eco-friendly but does not fully live up to that claim. To avoid falling for greenwashing schemes, keep an eye out for vague claims, exaggerations, and the lack of specific actions taken to reach their goal.
  3. Fix, donate, or reuse old clothes. It may seem simple, but by fixing an article of clothing you are keeping it out of landfills and keeping yourself from having to buy yet another garment. However, if it is time for you to discard that piece, please donate! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Plus, you will contribute to the secondhand clothing market and keep your article of clothing out of landfills. If you would still like to make use of your old clothing, cut up the fabric and use the rags for cleaning or perhaps, get creative and sew together a tote bag or a shirt for your dog with the scraps!
An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities. View the complete policy at

One Comment on “How your clothes are hurting the environment: a fast fashion story

  1. Thank you for writing about this topic. It’s something that most people don’t think or know about and it really does make a difference! We have to stop being a throw-a way society, and it starts with our own habits and practices.