How Sustainable Is The Fashion Industry?


When we talk about protecting the environment and sustainability, for the most part we do not talk about the fashion industry. Instead, we focus on factories and industries that produce cars, household items, and materials used in production. However, the carbon footprint of the fashion industry is sizeable and should not be overlooked.

Fast fashion has seen quite the rise recently, with famous store chains spreading far and wide across all continents. They churn out one collection after the other, always on trend, and always encouraging consumers to follow said trend. However, what of the impact this kind of business model has on people and the environment? How can such business models ensure ethical sourcing of materials and fair working conditions for their employees? Simply put, they do not.

As put in an article on fast fashion “according to the Institute of Sustainable Communication, the clothing industry is the second-highest polluter of water. Retailers of fast fashion dump toxic chemicals into clean water supplies because clothing production is a land- and water-intensive industry, and according to Forbes, responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions globally”. Even after the clothes are produced in factories, they can still affect the environment; for example, polyester, which is used to make clothing, can release plastic microfibers into the water system, which contributes to the already existing plastic problem.

The traditional fashion industry is indeed causing great harm to the environment; moreover, the clothes being made are not meant to last. In most cases, the quality is not there, and the clothes are only used a few times before being tossed away. Before the rise of fast fashion, clothes were made to last and were not meant to have the high turnover that clothes have now.

Not only is the process of making the clothes detrimental to the environment, but the industry is known to overlook the safety of garment workers, as well as not providing fair wages for their labor. Yet, as more and more people become aware of the problems and issues involved with the fashion industry, some ideas and movements are coming to the fore in an effort to correct the wrongs being done.

An alternative to fast fashion is slow fashion, which promotes environmentally-friendly production of clothing, good quality products made to last, and provision of fair wages and working environments to those making the clothes. It also encourages re-purposing and recycling older garments, as well as fighting the mentality of “more is more”.

There are many designers who are committing to manufacturing their clothes in sustainable ways. Some big brands are also trying to make improvements in the materials they use and the manufacturing process, but big efforts are needed if we are going to see a change. What we as consumers can do is shop consciously and consider how the clothes have been made and whether we truly need that piece or not. Real change will not happen without real effort.

To learn more about fast fashion check out the following report:

To learn more about slow fashion check out the following report:


*You might also be interested to read Green is the New Black.

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