Fast fashion: its impacts and alternatives

Fast fashion: its impacts and alternatives

By Jordan Wehlage

Fashion style is a highly personal choice that many people use to express themselves. The fashion industry, however, is a massive entity that has major impacts on the environment, humans and animals. Despite countless detrimental repercussions, fast fashion has become the dominant business model for the clothing industry. But what exactly is fast fashion and how can you avoid it?

According to Good On You, a resource on sustainable and ethical fashion, fast fashion refers to inexpensive, low-quality clothing that is manufactured quickly to follow trends. Fast fashion retailers often produce their clothing products in poor labor conditions with cheap materials that put strain on environmental resources.

Good On You reports that because of the inferior quality of the materials used in fast fashion and the speed with which fashion trends change, most of this clothing ends up discarded in landfills after only a few wears. Sometimes, excess product is even burned in large fires that create hazardous gas, according to Princeton University. This industry contributes to unsafe working environments, detrimental ecological impacts and an unsustainable culture of rapidly cycling through new clothing pieces.

How can you tell if a brand is considered fast fashion? It can be hard to tell sometimes. Some companies will post vague statements regarding their sustainability practices without any supporting evidence of their efforts to meet these goals. Many brands will launch a small clothing line that they label as eco-friendly, organic or recycled, but do not hold the rest of their products to the same standards.

These tactics are known as “greenwashing,” which is the effort to promote an environmentally friendly image to consumers without doing the work within the company to be truly sustainable.

Other indicators that point to fast fashion may be prices that seem too good to be true, rapidly rotating stock and vast offerings of hundreds or thousands of different styles. Extremely inexpensive clothes at these retailers are often made with low-quality materials and produced with underpaid labor, enabling the retailer to sell the products at a lower price.

If you are ever uncertain about the status of a fashion company, websites like Good On You offer evaluations of the sustainability practices of companies. Find their ratings here:

Fast fashion is clearly detrimental for many reasons. Luckily, there are a multitude of ways to avoid buying fast fashion whenever possible.

Looking into the sustainability ratings of brands can help you make an educated decision about where you choose to purchase from. For example, brands like Patagonia, Girlfriend Collective and The Classic T-Shirt Company receive sustainability ratings of “Good” or “Great” from Good On You.

Unfortunately, these environmentally responsible brands can often be unaffordable to the average college student. However, there are other alternatives as well. Shopping secondhand at thrift stores can be an excellent option to find high-quality, used pieces for affordable prices. Both thrift stores and other small, locally owned businesses can be great avenues for making a difference both economically and environmentally. You might also consider shopping at yard sales or even swapping clothing with a friend to refresh your wardrobe.

There are several locations nearby CI to find secondhand clothing at reasonable prices. Save-A-Life Thrift Store is a great option because their proceeds support the Herman Bennett Foundation, an organization that helps provide no-cost spay and neuter clinics to low-income pet owners. Camarillo is also home to Marcy’s Attic and a Goodwill retail location.

Many more locally owned thrift stores can be found scattered all throughout Ventura County. There is no shortage of options for thrifting secondhand pieces!

It is also helpful to be picky and commit to the pieces that you purchase. When shopping, choose pieces that fit you well and will last for many wears. If your pieces start to wear out, consider mending them before choosing to get rid of them.

Finally, when it is time to part with a piece of clothing, donate any items that are still in good condition and recycle what cannot be worn anymore instead of throwing it in the trash. Textile recycling is a great option that can give more life to old clothes. This helps keep textiles out of landfills, where they may release harmful chemicals into the environment.

Making small changes in your consumption habits can make a greater impact on the world around you. Avoiding fast fashion helps the environment, supports a living wage for textile workers and can help local businesses flourish. Show some love for the earth and swap your next mall visit for a thrifting adventure!

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