Nick Crockett: Control your use of resource-intensive ‘fast mode’ – Reuters

Have you ever thought about what you wear? Where is it produced? How was it made and what materials is it made of?

This holiday season, I have been struck by the many advertisements, marketing campaigns and “deals” aimed at enticing shoppers to buy holiday items, especially clothing. This made me think more about the environmental impacts of the garment industry. I started looking into this question in hopes of clearing my conscience.

I found a plethora of articles articulating the negative environmental impact of the fashion and apparel industry. Then, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I came across a colloquial term, “fast fashion,” which implies its own environmental influences.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “fast fashion” describes the process by which mass-market retailers quickly produce inexpensive clothing to keep up with the latest trends. Some notable brands in the fast fashion market include H&M, Uniqlo, Shein, Forever 21 and unfortunately many more. These companies use a cheap and somewhat careless method to manufacture their garments, which leads to multiple destructive impacts on the environment.

Looking at the outfit I’m wearing now, I think about how it was probably cut, sewn, and printed. But, another part of the manufacturing process is the use of water. Water and fast fashion clothing have a very close relationship. For reference, the water required to produce a cotton shirt is around 700 gallons and a pair of jeans requires around 2,000 gallons. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t even take into account the toxic chemicals used in dyeing clothes that then end up in rivers and oceans.

Cotton can often be too expensive for these companies, so they turn to synthetics. This material comes with its own major problem, microplastics. Not only does plastic take an insurmountable amount of time to degrade, but these microplastics can easily end up in the ocean, harming ocean ecosystems and contributing to the litter crisis.

Speaking of waste, clothing waste is a side effect of the fast fashion model. With the affordability and up-to-date trends of these fast fashion giants, it makes sense that people see less value in clothing. Tens of millions of tons of textile waste are produced each year, 95% of which could be recycled, but this pattern has contributed to more of this clothing being thrown away. To compound this problem, when these landfills fill up, they move the waste to incineration, which can result in the release of toxic substances or poisonous gases.

Immersing myself in environmental issues like this industry is always difficult. Reading about the many problems of this earth can be hard to swallow. However, educating yourself is an important step in taking action to improve our planet.

So what can you do to fight the fast fashion industry? You don’t need to boycott these brands completely, but I hope you’re careful when buying from them, and that goes everywhere you buy clothes, to become a more informed eco-conscious shopper.

In addition to thinking about where you buy clothes, think about your own clothes. How can we reuse, repair or recycle the clothes we earn to reduce waste. To sum up, I hope we can all be thoughtful and aware of the impact of our actions on our planet. There is only one Earth, and we can all do our part to take care of it.

Nick Crockett is a senior at Mayo High School. Send your comments on the Teen Chronicles to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.

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