5 Effects of Fast Fashion

In a matter of weeks after a runway show, budget-friendly retailers like Forever 21 and H&M create modified versions of the catwalk looks and sell them for low prices. Not too long after, we are able to bask in the warm, fuzzy glow of satisfaction that follows nabbing fashionable clothes for cheap prices. This is the rapid cycle of fast fashion. While this might sound great, our trendy, inexpensive clothes from these stores are costing the environment. Here are five effects of fast fashion.

1. It's wasteful.

Products made by fast fashion companies are cheap because they're poorly made and aren't meant to last for more than one season. This means that these clothes quickly find themselves in landfills. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away about 12.7 million tons of clothes every year (an estimated 68 pounds of clothes per person)!

2. It causes air pollution.

As the demand for fast fashion grows, so does the need for more factories in places with cheap labor. Large factories in countries like China and Bangladesh are where almost all of these clothes are being made. These countries have little to no emission regulations, which have led to a sharp increase in air pollution.

3. It depletes our water resources.

A study by Cambridge University found that the fast fashion industry uses approximately 70 million tons of water. We're talking about water that could have otherwise been used for more essential things such as drinking, bathing and growing crops.

4. It increases the use of harmful chemicals.

In 2012, a Greenpeace report revealed that companies like Zara and H&M were selling products that contained hazardous chemicals. Not only were these chemicals contaminating waterways and vegetation, some of them were also cancer causing and hormone disrupting chemicals.

5. It increases our oil use.

Many fast fashion clothes are made with some percentage of polyester, which is a fiber made from petroleum. It's no secret that the extraction of oil and the processes of turning oil into polyester are extremely detrimental to the environment. We are already rapidly using up the earth's last reserves of oil with our cars and other technology, do we really need to add clothes to this as well?

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- Tanaz Ahmed is a University of Michigan student who loves all things related to books, movies and music. Her favorite cause is education.