Fast Fashion and Our Planet


—Eva Kuhn
Have you ever thought about
where your clothes go after you’re
done with them? Maybe you have.
Maybe instead of throwing clothes
out, you donate them or dispose of

them with a textile recycling com-
pany. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe

your clothes go directly into the
trash when you no longer fit them,

or simply don’t want them any-
more. The reality is, no matter what

you do, there is a surplus of cloth-
ing entering garbage landfills. More

than fifteen million tons of textile
waste is generated every year in the
United States. This wasn’t always
the case. Years ago, clothing was
much more expensive. Children
wore hand-me-downs. If your

clothes tore, you’d mend them in-
stead of just throwing them away.

So what changed to make
us so wasteful?
One important factor is the
introduction of fast fashion, or
“inexpensive clothing produced
rapidly by mass-market retailers in

response to the latest trends.” Basi-
cally, stores like H&M, Zara, Top-
shop, and many more create items

of clothing quickly and on a large
scale to respond to trends and then

sell them at a low price. Fast fash-
ion trends are often based on run-
way trends of the fall and spring

seasons, and these fads can last as
short as a few weeks. It has been

developing since the Industrial
Revolution, but it became more
common in the early 2000s. Have
you noticed how the selections of

clothing at these stores change eve-
ry time you visit? That’s fast fash-
ion: once a specific trend is over,

the company produces new pieces
of clothing with little thought to
how the old pieces will be disposed.

Since consumers spend so little on

their wardrobe, they have few res-
ervations about throwing their old

clothes away. Thanks to fast fash-
ion, there will always be something

new to replace whatever has been
The environmental impacts of
fast fashion are worrying, to say the

least. The average American house-
hold generates 70 pounds of textile

waste every year. Although 15% of
that clothing is donated, the vast

majority of it is ending up in land-
fills. The products of the textile

industry occupy 5% of landfill
space; these textiles are often made
from synthetic material, so they
don’t decompose fully, occupying

more space. Textiles don’t just af-
fect the environment after their use,

however. The production of textiles
releases greenhouse gases into the
air, as well as pesticides and dyes

into waterways. In fact, textile dye-
ing is the second largest water pol-
luter globally, after agriculture.

Fast fashion puts our environ-
ment in grave danger, but there are

ways you can help. Try buying
more durable pieces. Even though
they may be more expensive, they

will last longer and stay out of land-
fills. Shop from sustainable compa-
nies like Everlane and PACT, or

online thrift stores like thredUP. A

great place in town to visit is Trilo-
gy Consignment on Main Street.

Their pieces are affordable, great
quality, and, best of all,
secondhand. It can often be difficult

for individuals to lessen their im-
pact on the environment, but de-
creasing your participation in fast

fashion is one great way to start!