Up until the 1960s we were still making 95% of our clothes. Now, we make less than 3% with the rest outsourced to other parts of the world. It surprised me to learn the fashion industry is the world’s 2nd biggest polluter today behind only Big Oil. The majority of waste in landfills today is disposed textiles. The average American throws away 82 lbs of textile waste a year. Most of this in non-biodegradable which means it will be in the landfill forever, all while offsetting harmful gasses.
But you donate your old clothing? Only about 10% of the clothes we donate actually get sold. The rest eventually make their way to third world countries, but the amount being sent there is so astronomical due to our fast fashion that they can’t possibly use all that comes. This has many impacts, among them, the destruction of any local clothing manufacturing that cannot compete with the clothes coming into their markets.
And fashion has a huge humanitarian impact with many garment workers toiling in terrible conditions for unfair wages, while the companies dump thousand of pounds of chemicals and offset tons of toxic fumes in countries with poor environmental standards.
This is all because of our acceptance of fast fashion. The whole idea: shift more product through your stores in any given year or season to make as much money as possible. And make the clothes cheap enough that people will buy in. But of course that cost still exists somewhere. The cost of unfair labor. Of the environment. Of farmers that don’t have access to education and healthcare.
The fast fashion industry has made us believe we are wealthy because we can afford to buy a lot of clothes, but they’re leading us to buy into a system that hurts other people, the environment, and ultimately ourselves. And the only people making out in this in the end are the companies. Prices of clothing have actually gone down over time, but the costs of making them have not changed. Ultimately, something has to give to have clothes at that cost. Once I understood that, I couldn’t participate in the system anymore.
Thankfully, there are tons of amazing options. (Cont in comments)