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Save the Trees or I’ll Break Your Knees: Consumers of fast fashion are not to blame

Clothing production alone produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the aviation and shipping sectors combined, and nearly 20% of global wastewater is from textile dyeing. Within the fashion sector is fast fashion, referring to the quick and inexpensive production of low-quality clothing up to date with trends and dependent on sweat labor. Some of the most recognizable fast fashion companies are Boohoo, Missguided and Shein.

The reason fast fashion has become so popular is because of how inexpensive it is as a result of its questionable production. Fast fashion companies rely on unethically outsourcing labor as an inexpensive method of production, thus making the fashion company more money while exploiting workers.

Along with outsourcing labor, immense amounts of discarded clothing textile are dumped into other economically vulnerable countries, producing an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste per year. 

These textiles are often made out of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, which are all derived from fossil fuels. These then seep into the soil and water nearby.

The fashion industry, specifically the fast fashion sector, is bad for the planet. That is essentially undisputed. 

Many environmental activists argue that it is worth it to spend a little more on something that will last, but when it comes down to purchasing a more sustainable pair of jeans or providing food for your children, it is clear what comes first. Highly sustainable clothing is simply not a realistic option for a large portion of people.

Another aspect of fast fashion that has made it so popular is the ability to cycle through various styles for very little money, which is appealing to young people, especially college students who want to keep up with trends but do not have much money.

While attempted boycotts of fast fashion companies frequently circle the internet, it would take an enormous portion of consumers to make enough of an impact on such prominent companies with such an aggressive and boldly unethical business model that they would make any sort of change. The hordes of infographics that go around Instagram explaining the wrongs of online sites such as Shein may get people thinking but are more performative than anything.

The people who purchase fast fashion are not to blame: it is the government that has failed to acknowledge the fashion industry’s impact on the planet as they have other sectors, let alone sanction the fashion industry’s waste habits. To start, there should be caps on how much textile waste can be dumped and where, stronger laws around importing exploitive labor to the U.S. and incentives for clothing companies who use more eco-friendly materials.

It's ultimately fashion companies that time and again fail to make affordable clothing without crippling the Earth in the process. For a $2.5 trillion industry, this should not be too much to ask.

Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug. 

Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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