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Illustration of a Person Carrying Groceries
Illustration of a Person Carrying Groceries. (Source: Freestocks/Unsplash)

In the fashion industry, we may know two contradictory terms: fast fashion and sustainable fashion. Fast fashion is a fashion industry that moves very fast, with new collections ready to be launched every week and sold at relatively low prices. Meanwhile, sustainable fashion is often associated with fashion products that use environmentally friendly materials, such as recycled and natural materials.

Most people don’t realize that when they buy a cheap fast fashion product, they are contributing to environmental and human damage. Clothing items with unsustainable materials have the potential to damage our earth when they are no longer used and end up just turning into waste, called fashion waste.

During their production, fast fashion is one of the biggest causes of fashion pollution that damages the environment. More often than not, fast fashion pollutes water, soil, or emits greenhouse gases that can cause climate change.

Besides environmental catastrophe, the fast fashion industry often sacrifices the safety of their workers, so they are often called unethical. Most fast fashion industries are located in developing countries, particularly Asia, such as Bangladesh, India, and even Indonesia. Usually, they will employ women with low education, young women, and immigrants. Then the workers have to work 14 hours per day, are given low wages with no life insurance or work safety guarantees. They also have to work in dangerous conditions to produce the fast fashion product.

Excessive Production and Consumption

Illustration of a Person Sorting Clothes
Illustration of a Person Sorting Clothes. (Source: Sarah Brown/Unsplash)

We may be more willing to donate t-shirts or cheap trousers rather than bags from top brands. However, we need to remember that the goods produced by luxury brands are also largely unsustainable.

For example, a famous fashion brand from London came under fire (figuratively, not literally, but puns intended) in 2018 for burning nearly $40 million worth of unsold supplies. This is done to prevent these items from being sold at lower prices or discounts, while increasing the brand’s attractiveness in the eyes of the public.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that every second, textile waste in a garbage truck is burned or thrown into landfills. In addition, fast fashion industry is also projected to contribute 20 percent of waste and 10 percent of carbon emissions.

The Impact of Fast Fashion Industry

Illustration of Fast Fashion Industrial
Illustration of Fast Fashion Industrial. (Source: John Cameron/Unsplash)

Fast fashion industry certainly has a negative impact on the environment, even on humans themselves. Among others are:

  • Fast fashion industry usually use cheap and dangerous textile dyes that can cause water pollution and pose a risk to human health
  • Polyester, one of the raw materials widely used in fast fashion industry, comes from fossil materials, and its fibers release microplastic during washing
  • The cotton material used is usually mixed with water and pesticides in large quantities, endangering workers and increasing the risk of drought, creating great pressure on water sources, degrading soil quality, and other environmental problems.
  • Fast fashion industry is usually also the cause of reducing the number of animal populations, because most of them also use animal skins as raw materials and of course will be mixed with various chemicals. Like snakes, tigers, and other animals. Industries that use animal raw materials also perpetuate violence and cruelty to animals.
  • Fast fashion industry encourages many people to shop often because they always produce models with the latest trends. This will lead to extravagance and dissatisfaction.

Minimizing the Impact of Fast Fashion with Sustainable Consumption and Production

Sustainable consumption and production is one of the keys to reducing the impact of fast fashion. Practically speaking, here are some ways that we can do to avoid the impact of the fast fashion industry:

  • Buy less and use more

According to a Fixing Fashion report, extending the shelf life of 50% of garments by up to nine months will save 8% carbon, 10% water, and 4% waste per metric ton of clothing.


  • Pay attention to clothing labels

Petroleum-based synthetic fibers such as polyester require less water and soil than cotton, but they emit more greenhouse gases per kilogram. Bio-based synthetic polymers made from renewable crops such as corn and sugarcane release up to 60% less carbon emissions. The label must indicate whether the garment was made using recycled polyester (rPET).


  • Choose local

Local brands often use materials native to the country, that will reduce carbon footprint when it comes to transporting, from production to distribution


  • Choose sustainable services

In the UK, several sustainable and vintage brands offer lifetime repair services. A total of 59% of major retailers including IKEA and GAP pledged to increase the use of recycled polyester by a minimum of 25% by 2020.


  • Shop at charity

In 2017, eleven thousand UK charity shops saved 330,000 metric tonnes of textiles from landfill, and helped reduce carbon emissions by millions of tonnes per year through the reuse and recycling of used clothing.


  • Choose organic cotton

The Soil Association told the Environmental Audit Committee that increasing organic cotton production could minimize the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry because it will reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and water.

Written by: Yohanna Christiani



2021/05/07/155527320/jangan-cuma-belanja-pakaian-ketahui-juga-dampak-fast-fashion-pada?page=all accessed on 20 October 2021.

https://zerowaste.id/zero-waste-lifestyle/mengenal-fast-fashion-dan-dampak-yang-ditimbulkan/ accessed on 20 October 2021.


4465856/kenali-istilah-fast-fashion-dan-dampaknya-bagi-kehidupan accessed on 20 October 2021.


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