Fast fashion, in its simplest terms, is trendy, cheap and rapidly produced clothing. These clothing items live short lives. They are quickly produced, purchased and thrown away.
Dr. Jacob Lanphere, professor of environmental science, shared the alarming effects of fast fashion production.
“(These clothes are) probably made from a warehouse or factory in another country,” Lanphere said.
“Clothes bought at the mall are typically coming from foreign countries that don’t have the same environmental regulations (as the U.S.).”
The two main environmental factors affected by the production and distribution of these clothing items are air and water.
Lanphere explained that new clothes release harmful nanofibers and dyes.
“You don’t want to be always buying brand new things because the minute you wash them, you are purging all these loose fibers and dyes,” Lanphere said. “That waste stream then enters into our potential water bodies.”
Lanphere also said that the long travel of these items from foreign countries emits large amounts of carbon dioxide, leading to air pollution.
Furthermore, after these clothes have been produced and distributed, they are often thrown away quickly.
“When people are chasing fashion trends, they discard old clothes and a lot of the time they just throw them in the trash,” Lanphere said. “(These clothes) can end up in a landfill and now in the U.S. we are trying to clear space in the landfills for these clothes.”
He stated the alternative option to fast fashion is local handmade items or secondhand clothing, which often offers better prices to consumers, as well.
“I guess the reverse of that would be slow fashion,” Lanphere said. “Buying things that are handmade, that are local, reduce carbon footprint, or buying things from a thrift store. That is already a lower discounted price and also it has arrived at the destination, so you aren’t paying for that travel for it to come.”
Lanphere also explained the potential of slow fashion to benefit the environment.
“(Thrifted items have) already been washed, it’s already been delivered, it’s reduced in value,” Lanphere said. “You are saving it from going to a landfill, so you are benefiting the air, water and soil — and your pocketbook — by buying thrift store clothes.”
Mikayla Morehead, senior art therapy major, spoke about her passion for sustainability and her love for secondhand shopping.
“I try to buy all of my clothes secondhand or thrifted,” Morehead said. “This is because I want to avoid supporting fast fashion brands as well as keep reusing clothing items rather than buying cheap clothes that I’ll use once and then throw away.”
Morehead explained that her conviction to avoid fast fashion is not purely environmental, but spiritual as well.
“I think God calls us to be conscious consumers,” Morehead said. “So much of the Old Testament law as well as Christ’s ministry was to aid the poor and vulnerable. Shopping secondhand is one small way to do this today. While it is very difficult to be totally conscious with everything we buy, we can certainly start somewhere.”
Cynthiana Rangel, freshman sustainability major, shared her advice and personal convictions regarding the fast fashion industry.
“Fast fashion is incredibly wasteful,” Rangel said. “It’s crucial to know that our actions have a significant impact. The clothing might be cheap, but the environmental cost isn’t.”
Rangel explained thrifting is the main way she seeks to reduce clothing waste and do her part in decreasing the dominance of fast fashion.
“A cheap option to shop sustainably is buying clothes from secondhand stores,” Rangel said. “I see (it as) a great way to reduce waste and build a unique wardrobe.”