The Force of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion has been a continuing trend for a few decades. However, with the use of social media, trends can change within a matter of days. Because of this, production has increased to meet the demands of movement-obsessed consumers. Unfortunately, this leads to an increased depletion of natural sources and a loss of environmental stability.

With online shopping, it seems that anything people could ever want, or need can be delivered to the door with just one click of a button. Yet, the environmental impact of such services, especially in the continually evolving fashion industry, is detrimental. Through mass production, excessive use of natural resources, the abuse of synthetic materials, and the excessive consumption of mass media dictating what is trendy, the fashion industry has contributed to climate change at rapidly increasing rates.

As the second-largest pollution source globally, fast fashion is primarily made in factories where most of the workers are exploited women between the ages of 18 to 24 years. The constant production rates needed to meet the demands of the trend-obsessed media users allow for a superseding of human welfare for the good of a maximum profit. In 2018, the US Department of Labor found forced labor and child labor within the fashion industry. 

Fast fashion also contributes to over 10% carbon emissions, which is more than maritime activity and international flight combined. Over 85% of textiles that have been used or discarded for impurities can be found in landfills worldwide. In addition, clothing that has only been worn a few times can also be found there, wasting away when there was nothing wrong with the garment. The three main contributors to the fashion industry’s worldwide pollution are its dying and finishes, yarn prep, and fiber production. In total, these practices contribute to an astounding 79% contribution to global pollution, as these practices are reliant on a continual source of water and an energy-intensive process that rapidly burns through fossil fuels.

Countries and companies have long ignored the environmental impact of such methods of clothing production. Yet, the cost of this could very well be the lives of those who live in areas affected by the climate change the industry is contributing. There are ways to make sustainable fashion, but this can only be done once companies and factories are held responsible by countries worldwide.

Legislation surrounding material usage, and the types of safe materials for long-term usage, could be put into effect. Lawmakers could also produce bills and laws about the amount of water used in production, and environmental engineers could find ways to make clothing more sustainable and the fashion industry.

There is no limit to the different ways that people could produce affordable and environmentally-friendly fashion. However, people and companies especially need to be held responsible for the detrimental effects the industry is having on our natural resources. There will always be different trend cycles. However, there may not always be an abundance of resources to create these clothes with. Therefore, individual activism for sustainable fashion can only do so much – it is time for the companies and governments to help change the way people use fabric.


“Fast Fashion: Its Detrimental Effect on the Environment.” Earth.Org – Past | Present | Future (

“List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” United States Department of Labor, 2018,

Huckle, Manon. “Environmental Impacts of the Fashion Industry.” SustainYourStyle (

Le, Ngan. “The Impact of Fast Fashion On the Environment – PSCI.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University,

Madeleine Smith is a junior history major at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., United States.

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