by Lexi Johnson and Rene Adames
All stores shown above are a part of the fast fashion industry
When was the last time you shopped at Shein? Or H&M? Or Fashion Nova? Those three and many more of your favorite stores are a part of a system called Fast Fashion. Fast Fashion is inexpensive clothing designed to follow the latest trends. We all know the good feeling you get when buying clothing at a low cost that matches your aesthetic, but as you’re getting rid of your old wardrobe and replacing it with newer and currently trending styles, you are negatively affecting the environment around you.
The production of clothes requires the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are greenhouse gases. The two most common Greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide and methane. The role of Greenhouse gasses keeps the world at its average temperature. While this seems like an overall good thing, if we keep on contributing to the rise of fossil fuel emissions then it would lead to an increase in temperature which is the very definition of global warming. Global warming does not only increase the temperature by making our environment hotter, it also has other effects on the environment like droughts and severe storms.
Although most might not realize it, when shopping for your new wardrobe, the production of those new clothes you are buying does end up contributing to global warming by the added fossil fuel emissions.
When creating new clothing to keep up with all the newest fashion trends, these trends tend to be short-lived which leads to massive amounts of clothes being made and then quickly discarded. When clothing gets discarded, only 9% of the clothing which contains plastic ends up being recycled. However, 12% of the remaining clothes get burned which creates even more fossil fuel emissions. The remaining 79% of clothes are left to slowly decompose over decades in landfills. In the process of decomposing, greenhouse gasses like methane and toxic chemicals get released.
If the clothes aren’t being thrown in landfills they are thrown in the ocean. This creates ocean pollution. Ocean pollution affects over 700 marine species. Most clothes are what you call non-biodegradable. In other words that means they can’t be broken down naturally so they stay in form and pollute the ocean affecting marine life within it.
If we know the dangers of global warming, why are we still purchasing from brands that are a part of fast fashion? As was said before, fast fashion is a system that purposely sells cheaper clothing for its customers' needs. And in times like these, it’s fast fashion that’s balancing the fashion industry because it fits the tight budget needs due to the recent inflation. The standard definition of inflation is a general increase in prices and a fall in the purchasing power of money. In other words, it's an increase in prices over time. The main effect of inflation is that your money starts becoming less valuable than it was when you first got it. For example, if you had a total of $150 and inflation was up by 5% then your $150 will now have a worth of $142.50. Inflation cuts into your money’s worth. Due to the recent 2022 inflation, people are budgeting more than in past years.
Our current 2022 inflation was caused due to multiple reasons, the top one being directly linked to COVID. Due to the harsh symptoms of covid, factories closed to stop the spread of the virus right when there was a surge of high demand for service goods. This contributed to the decline in job availability, profit loss, and production shortage. Workers were making less money which made money have more value when given. As a result, sellers increased their prices to earn a higher profit since they too were losing money from the budgeting of consumers. When prices go up for consumers, purchasing power decreases. Purchasing power is the increase or decrease in how much consumers can buy with a given amount of money. In our case of inflation, each dollar was now worth less which would make people lose money that they already had. Now whatever money consumers had left they were forced to spend it wisely on things that cost less. Which ties into the popularity of 2020-2022 fast fashion trends.
When conducting our interviews, we asked three questions: What stores/brands do you shop for clothing in? Have you ever considered how many of these stores/brands contribute to fast fashion? Do you think it’s necessary to change stores/brands to help the environment? We interviewed 11th-grade high school students Camil, Anna, and Kendall who attend East Side Community High School. Their responses reflect the new generations' take on environmental issues. And to conclude our series of interviews we interviewed East Side’s green team leader and science teacher, Soleil. Their responses show off a common result, showing how fast fashion is a bigger topic than most are considering it to be.
Camil said that they tend to shop at thrift stores and other clothing brands like old navy. Their opinion on which stores happen to be fast fashion plays a huge factor in why they like to shop at thrift stores. They also prefer to shop at thrift stores because many brands tend to have expensive clothing. They agree that if the current clothes that you are wearing begin to tear then you should repair them yourself. Their demand for businesses, especially the more successful businesses to stop hoarding money. Producers in businesses should use the money to make better materials.
Anna was very enthusiastic during our interview. She didn’t state a specific store she shopped in but mentioned she shops at any store with great aesthetics. She doesn't necessarily think about the backgrounds of the businesses she shops from because she believes the businesses she buys from don’t affect the rise of fast fashion. However, when putting in further thought she said that she does think it is a very crucial topic that we are not putting enough effort into resolving.
Kendall had a very similar opinion to Camil in the sense that they both are very passionate about the environment and how fast fashion is affecting it. Kendall tends to shop in thrift stores and brands like converse. When Kendall was asked if they considered their effect on the fast fashion industry, they said they hadn't considered it, but only because they don't shop at stores that can add to the fast fashion issue. Although they don't consider it, they do know it's a problem, and when you find out that the store you enjoy purchasing clothes at and love shopping at contributes to the problem, then it would be a huge necessity to change these for the better of our society.
Since Soleil is one of the leaders of East Side’s green team and one of the ninth-grade science teachers, we anticipated she would be very aware of today’s global warming issue. At the moment she stated she tries to not shop for clothing, but rather do clothing swaps with her friends. But if there is a time when she needs to buy clothing, she shops at the L train which is a thrift store located by our school, and if she isn't able to find anything there, she will go to H&M to buy from their sustainability line, which is a line that contains recycled fabrics and polyesters. In purchasing clothing she is always aware of her contribution to the fast fashion industry. Since she is an adult with an income she has more room to purchase from sustainable clothing brands that are pricey. She does think that it is important for everyone that purchases clothing to take into account the effects their clothing choices might have on the environment. But she does admit that it is difficult for students and the younger generation to afford sustainable clothing. She uses forever 21 as an example. The brand contributes to fast fashion while advertising clothing that is currently trendy and cheap. Therefore it makes the younger generation purchase from them without taking into consideration the effects of their choices.
After going through what the East Siders said, it's clear that they all have opinions on this issue, and that they have considered the impact it has on our society. This helps us emphasize the point that it’s necessary to change these stores for the better of our world.
The next time you shop at one of your favorite stores, try to consider if they are a contributing factor to fast fashion. If so, try to reuse older clothing, shop at thrift stores, and consider shopping at any brands that do not contribute to fast fashion. It is important to research brands, especially popular ones before making a purchase. Our environment is in a fragile state, and fast fashion is only making it worse.