What is Fast Fashion And Why is it Bad?

You've probably heard of the term fast-fashion but do you really know what it means and what it's effects are on the planet? It is also crucially important to know the wonderful alternatives available and how to put a stop to damaging fast fashion industry. 

In celebration of Earth day (which let's be honest is everyday!) we wanted to shed light on the fast fashion industry, the second biggest freshwater polluter, because our Earth, our home deserves better. 

What is fast fashion?

The term 'fast fashion' is used to describe the process of rapidly making inexpensive clothing en masse. The items produced generally follow the latest trends and are made quickly whilst demand is at it's highest. The clue is in the name, what is fashionable made fast. 

This by itself doesn't sound too bad but unfortunately fast fashion comes at an extortionate cost to people, animals and the Earth. It might be cheap for you but someone, somewhere is paying the price. 

The whole notion of fast fashion is that it is unsustainable; consuming and discarding in the way the process does, strips the earth of it's valuable resources and litters on and pollutes the very thing that keeps us alive.    

Let's talk facts...

(Take a deep breath)

Polluted rivers

The effects on our planet


20% of fresh water pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing. Asia alone produces 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater from the textile industry resulting in 70 percent of Asia's rivers and lakes being contaminated. Of course other fashion and textile process will be contributing to this but the biggest culprit by far is the fast fashion industry. 

Greenhouse Gases

In 2015, the total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production was estimated at 1.2 billion tonnes annually of CO2 equivalent, more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. That's mindblowing. 


Microplastics are small pieces of plastic debris that is found in the environment, often the oceans. Textiles are the largest source of both primary and secondary microplastics, accounting for 34.8% of global microplastic pollution.

The largest source of primary microplastic release into oceans is from laundry of synthetic textiles.  Every year, around half a million tonnes of microfibers are released by washed garments contributing to ocean pollution. 

Loss of habitats

Over 70 million trees are logged every year and turned into fabrics such as rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell this then results in a loss of habit including from endangered forests.

Cotton farming also has a huge impact on wildlife, 22% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides are applied to cotton crops causing a huge loss of insect life, which has many disastrous impacts on food porduction and the health of our planet and eco-systems.

Inhumane work conditions

Not only does fast fashion harm the Earth but it also causes serious harm to the people who work in the factories and sweatshops who make the products. Garment workers usually work with no ventilation, breathing in toxic substances, inhaling fiber dust or blasted sand in unsafe buildings. They are often forced to work incredibly long weeks, with some reports of workers working 75 hour weeks. The overwhelming majority of workers are women. These women often barely earn enough to look after themselves and their families. 

To read more about workers conditions and what you can do to help, we highly recommend Labour Behind The Label, click here to learn more!

Workers conditions

We can't keep consuming...

In 2015, it was estimated that global clothing production has more than doubled globally over 15 years and if we continue as we are, the industry’s impact will reach a projected 49% increase in climate change impact by 2030. That means the apparel industry will emit 4.9 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent. 

The average consumer is now purchasing 60 percent more items of clothing (in 2014 compared to 2000), but each garment is kept half as long.


So where does it all go?

Landfill of clothes

In the UK, it is estimated that the average piece of clothing lasts for 3.3 years before being discarded, but where are all of these items going? 

We like to think that we are good at recycling and being mindful of our waste but in reality fewer than 1% of garments are recycled into new clothing each year and only 20 per cent of textiles are recycled at all. 

A staggering 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK each year, that's an estimated £150 million worth of clothes. It is an amount so incredibly vast, it's impossible to wrap your head around, and remember, this is the amount for the UK alone. 

Arguably worse than what is worn and wasted, is what is wasted and never worn,  around 60 billion square meters are left on the cutting room floor worldwide every year. 


Don't get weighed down

Phew - those facts can be pretty heavy and hard to take in but you got through it! Knowing the problems we face is the first step in being the change this world needs. The power is in your hands, and in your wallet. Where you put your money matters and every purchase supports a business. We have the choice to fund the problem or the way forward, so what do you choose? It's time to put your money where you heart is. 

Feeling gulity about your consumer habits won't help the planet, nor will it make you feel any good. Change happens when you feel empowered to live kindly and shop gently, it's a choice you can make now. 


What to do now

So you've made the decision not to support fast fashion (you deserve a round of applause for being so awesome!) but what should you do now? The first step is to educate yourself on the brands that use these harmful practices and then stop funding the destruction they cause. You can find a list here to start you on your way! 

Support small business and brands that are actively seeking a healthy way forward for the fashion industry, the more support they get, the more money they can invest in finding sustainable alternatives. (*cough cough*, our brands are a great place to start!)


sustainable brands


Read our blog on How to Make Your Style Sustainable for more ideas!


What was the most shocking thing you learned? Let us know in the comments!


By: Katrina Scales

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