We are addicted to fast fashion.
The problem is that our constant desire for "something new to wear" adds to the waste problem. It is estimated that 80 billion pieces of clothing are bought each year, and, on average, we only wear 20% of the clothes in our closet. The average American also throws away 82 pounds of textiles each year, adding 11 million tons of textile waste to the landfills in the U.S. alone.
The environmental impact of this behavior is significant: the clothing and textile industry is depleting non-renewable resources, emitting huge quantities of greenhouses gases and using massive quantities of energy, chemicals and water. The synthetic fibers often favored by fast fashion brands, such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, are basically a kind of plastic made from petroleum, which means they could take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.
Even the simple act of washing synthetic clothes is harmful—according to a 2011 study, a single synthetic garment can generate more than 1900 micro plastic fibers in one washing machine cycle.
And the toll on our humanity is far worse. According to an April 2016 Oxfam report, more than 60 million people work in the garment industry to fuel fast fashion: more than 15 million of those are based in Asia and more than 80% are women, often young and from poor rural backgrounds working for extremely low wages and in poor and dangerous conditions.
But there is a way to shop that we can feel good about, although, you might find that you have more than you need already.
If you are going buy clothing, ‘buy to last’ - buy an item to be treasured, to last a lifetime and be passed down generations. Buying less and buying quality means spending less time shopping and more time living, and you never know - that quality item could even be waiting right around the corner in your local charity shop, so you might not have to buy it new. Wearing second-hand clothes instantly extends the life of the clothing, reducing the carbon footprint and reducing waste being sent to landfill.