Fashion Industry’s Impact on Earth
Since 2000, the number of clothing items produced annually has doubled (WEF, 2020). This is the result of a modern, profit-driven business model which increases production and consumption.
This change in the fashion industry has made trend cycles shorter and more frequent. Rather than stores putting out a collection every season, we have seen brands launching collections often throughout the year. Newer garments are made of cheap materials, making a closet centered around these trendy items unsustainable.
Clothing retailer Zara produces 24 collections on a yearly basis, and similarly H&M produces 12 – 16 collections annually. These brands are commonly known as fast fashion retailers. According to Investopedia, the term refers to “clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to take advantage of trends,” (Hayes, 2022).
Fast fashion promotes the throw-away culture of clothing and exploits workers through abusive labor practices (Hayes, 2022). Although profits in this industry are rapidly growing, employees often face long hours while being underpaid and exposed to harmful chemicals. Beyond the poor working conditions, fast fashion also negatively impacts the planet.
Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
According to Earth.org, of the 100 billion garmets produced each year, 92 million tons end up in landfills (Igini, 2022). “To put things in perspective, the equivalent of a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfill sites every second,” (Igini, 2022). Therefore, fast fashion culture has created an outstanding influx of clothing going into our landfills.
Along with rapid accumulation in landfills, clothing production makes up 10% of total US carbon emissions (WEF, 2020). Carbon emissions directly contribute to climate change since the excess carbon in our atmosphere causes the planet to trap more heat. This causes extreme weather events, disruptions to ecosystems, and other environmentally devastating disasters.
Along with harmful effects to the planet, the quality of clothing produced has diminished. To keep up with demand, retailers have shifted away from traditional textiles to cheaper alternatives. Polyester, a common alternative, is a type of plastic synthetic fiber which creates two-to-three times more carbon emissions than cotton during production (WEF, 2020).
Along with production emissions, polyester and plastic-based textiles do not break down. Today, 35% of all microplastics found in the ocean are linked to textiles containing plastic (WEF, 2020).
Although traditional textiles like cotton do not have the same negatives as plastic fibers, there still are environmental downsides. The fashion industry is globally recognized as the secondlargest consumer of water, with the cotton industry being a major culprit (WEF, 2020). For example, 10,000 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of cotton (The World Counts, 2022). Similarly, it takes approximately 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt (WEF, 2020).
Fresh Water in the Fashion Industry by Alisha Ahmed. Source: WEF, National Geographic.
The fashion industry’s toll on the planet is currently visible and estimated to grow in the coming years. However, there are steps and solutions that consumers can take to minimize their negative impact.
How Supporting My Sister’s Closet Changes the World
Despite the fashion industry’s harmful effect on the planet, you as a consumer can reduce your impact by shopping at resale stores like My Sister’s Closet of Monroe County (MSC). By shopping at MSC, you can enhance your clothing collection and try new styles without buying into the exploitation of the planet. Therefore, MSC makes the switch to sustainability easy by providing quality clothing and cute styles without the negative impact!
Photograph: Alisha Ahmed
Along with the reduction of carbon emissions, shopping at MSC makes a tremendous impact on reducing landfill waste in the Bloomington community. Thousands of donated items find new homes where they could be appreciated again.
Photograph: Alisha Ahmed
MSC provides high-end and gently owned women’s fashion pieces in their storefront. Revenue from the boutique is used to better the Bloomington community through job skills training and mentorship programs. Since 1998, MSC has provided free tools and training to over 2,800 low-income and at-risk women.
This responsible stewardship to the planet, referred to as Green Side of Pink, funds MSC’s mission of compassion through fashion while providing fabulous fashions to shoppers throughout South Central Indiana.
WE Forum. “These facts show how unsustainable the fashion industry is.” World Economic Forum. 31 January 2020
Hayes, Adam. “Fast Fashion Explained and How It Impacts Retail Manufacturing.” Investopedia. 16 September 2022.
Igini, Martina. “10 Stunning Fast Fashion Waste Statistics.” Pollution, Earth.org. 2 August 2022.
National Geographic. “How Your T-Shirt Can Make a Difference.” National Geographic, YouTube. 13 January 2013.
The World Counts. “Global Challenges.” The World Counts. 2022.