Why and How to Avoid Fast Fashion: Ethics and Environment

Following the latest fashion trends can be pricey for the environment, not just your wallet.

Your carbon footprint might not be the first thing you think of when you’re browsing for new clothes online, but the fashion industry can have incredibly harmful effects on people and resources, so this needs to be part of our buying decisions. This is especially true for fast fashion whose business model relies on persuading us to buy way more clothes than we need, and the planet can afford to produce.

Read on for our advice on how to avoid fast fashion and its many pitfalls altogether, and discover ways that you can help protect our planet by backing more sustainable and ethical fashion.

Put together by the team at PARO Store, an online store that is passionate about others teaching how to avoid fast fashion

Why We Need to Learn How to Avoid Fast Fashion: The Negative Effects of Fashion on People and the Planet

The most concerning aspect of fast fashion is the human cost of cheap labour on workers across the globe. The lower the price of a T-shirt, often the less fair the wage and working conditions for the person making it. No one should earn below a living wage or work in unsafe conditions with limited workers rights to make our clothes cheaper. There is always a higher cost to fast fashion that outweighs the small price tag on garments with a short life cycle.

Did you know that the fashion industry has a bigger impact on global warming and creates more carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined? The often-overlooked negative effects of what has become known as ‘fast fashion’ can be far-reaching for the environment and the people responsible for making your clothes.

Why is Fast Fashion Bad for the Environment?

Some of the biggest negative effects have shocking statistics. For example, the volume of unwanted items that end up in landfill amounts to the equivalent of one garbage truck of textile waste being dumped or burned every second! In total, it is estimated that 85% of textiles go to landfill each year, that’s enough to fill Sydney Harbour annually.

Although it’s very hard to find accurate statistics because of the lack of transparency in supply chains, it’s estimated that fast fashion is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s global carbon emissions and is particularly harmful to water resources, causing both water shortages, and water pollution. It might surprise you to know that the fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply – producing and dyeing textiles is a super water-intensive process. Every time we wash synthetic garments (materials very commonly used by fast fashion brands) microfibres are shed and end up in the ocean – adding up to an estimated equivalent of fifty-billion plastic bottles.

sweatshop interior, key when considering how to avoid fast fashion problems
Photo taken in Ciawi, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, by Rio Lecatompessy on Unsplash

Alternatives to Fast Fashion: 5 Simple Tips to Follow

If the hard facts of fast fashion shock you then you might want to consider becoming a more conscientious consumer. You can find alternatives to fast fashion and help prevent harmful environmental impacts by following our helpful eco-conscious pointers below.

  1. Slow Fashion

Slow fashion champions slower production and consumption – a holistic approach to sustainable textiles that are made to last in ways that challenge the fast fashion industry’s focus on single wear, throwaway garments. Slow fashion brands focus on crafting seasonless, quality garments using carefully sourced natural and sustainable textiles. As well as seeking out slow fashion brands, you can also live the principles of slow fashion by buying fewer pieces that you wear more often, and by repairing and caring for your items once they are in your wardrobe.

  1. Sustainable Fabrics

Look for sustainable fabrics that are environmentally friendly and kinder to your skin as well as the ecosystem. The production of synthetic fabrics is oil-intensive, so the fossil fuel industry is also a player in the fast fashion industry.

In addition to a sizable carbon footprint, micro-fibre plastics used in synthetic textiles end up in the ocean. Quality organic and natural materials are biodegradable and often more durable so they last longer. Some of the materials that are kinder to the planet include organic cotton, linen, hemp and Tencel.

  1. Ethical and Eco Shopping

Find online stores that support brands that are challenging fast fashion by following ethical practices when it comes to people and the planet. Some of the biggest offenders of the fast fashion industry are popular brands like H&M, Uniqlo or Gap, but shopping for new clothes doesn’t have to mean that you are supporting fast fashion. Purchasing from online ethical retailers that have transparency around their supply chains and support sustainable brands is a great way to ensure you are supporting a better side of the industry and lessening the impact of your shopping.

There are now many online retailers that stock sustainable garments produced by ethical brands so you still have the convenience of shopping online while being a conscientious consumer.

Armstrong's Vintage
Armstrong’s Vintage by Jenni F
  1. Digital Cleanse

What keeps us buying so much stuff? The messages we subconsciously absorb on a daily basis tell us that we need the latest this or that in order to be ‘in’ right now. You don’t need us to tell you that finding confidence in your own personal style transcends the “what’s hot” page in Grazia, the ‘New In’ section on Zara, or the latest trending TikTok. Time for a digital cleanse – write a list of the fashion retailers, brands and publishers who are pushing trends and overconsumption and unfollow, delete the bookmark, stop visiting the website – delete the voices who are polluting your brain and the planet.

  1. Donate right

Landfill statistics for textiles are eye-opening so before throwing out your clothes find the pieces in your wardrobe that can be recycled, sold on or given a second home at a charity shop. Be careful how and where you donate your clothes. You want them to help a local person or group in need, rather than in a landfill site in Ghana (that’s a real possibility if you put them in a clothing donation bin on the street or fast fashion store.)

Make second-hand shopping your priority when it comes to new items or host a clothes swap with your friends to truly avoid fast fashion. Check out local thrift stores or go online where you can often find designer and good-quality textile items that are pre-loved so they are kinder to the environment and your wallet!

Key Takeaway on Today’s Fast Fashion Problems

Your clothing choices matter to the environment! Hopefully, our pointers above show you how becoming a more conscientious consumer can really make a difference to the environment, and the lives of workers and local communities behind the production of clothes. By looking for sustainable textiles, embracing a thrift-store approach, supporting eco-retailers and ethical brands, and slowing down your wardrobe, you can help move towards a more caring fashion industry.

About the author

PARO Store helps people discover emerging designers driving the fashion industry towards sustainability. The clothing industry is one of the most damaging for the planet, and PARO Store doesn’t want to stand by, they want to take action. They stock independent brands that design and produce clothing that’s better for people and the planet. With an ethos of good design that’s good for the world.