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Fast Fashion's Impact on the Planet

By: Grace M.

During the pandemic, online shopping has become increasingly popular due to its easy accessibility. Numerous clothing brands have new deals each week, with incredibly low prices, 1-2 day shipping, and fast production rates. Clothing brands such as Shein, Romwe, Zaful, and Forever 21 are all relatively inexpensive, however, they do more harm than good. Fast fashion is highly unsustainable as well as unethical, and consumers may want to reconsider how much money they spend on these immoral practices.

The concept of fast fashion promotes overconsumption, leading to excessive amounts of waste as it values quantity over quality. In fact, 85% of textile waste in the United States ends up in landfills every year. Because the majority of fabric fibers are synthetic, they will not break down and will remain in those landfills for years. This is damaging to the planet and these fibers end up in oceans and other bodies of water which causes water pollution. The fashion industry emits more carbon dioxide into the air than that produced by international flights and shipping. If we cut back on consuming fast fashion, we could cut back on carbon emissions and reduce pollution.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as other greenhouse gasses plays a large role in climate change. CO2 is the number one contributor to the Greenhouse effect, causing the earth to warm up, natural disasters to become more frequent and extreme, and several species to go extinct. All of these factors contribute to harming humans and if we don’t slow down climate change, we could face irreversible damage. In order to truly slow down the effects of climate change, we need to put an end to certain industries that play a large role in carbon emissions like fast fashion.

Not only is fast fashion harmful to the environment, but it is socially unethical as well. Fast fashion depends on the exploitation of cheap labor and sweatshops in countries like China, India, and Bangladesh that often have unjust working conditions. Some factories even exploit child labor. When production targets are high, workers can be forced to work overtime with little to no pay and without many breaks. They may face abuse for taking too long of a break, even if they use it to go to the bathroom. The majority of garment workers are women while most management roles are run by men, which creates a unbalanced power structure where men control a female workforce. This means that these women are more likely to face physical, sexual, and emotional abuse without feeling safe enough to report the misconduct.

Sweatshop workers are paid extremely unfair wages, forcing workers into an inescapable cycle of poverty. They are paid just enough to buy food and barely support their families, being paid to survive rather than make a living. This cycle can be even more difficult to overcome as a child forced to work in a sweatshop. Children as young as 5 are exploited in these factories with unfair conditions and treatment, interrupting their education and stripping them of their childhood. 48% of children forced into child labor are 5-11 years old. These working conditions cause mental, physical, and emotional trauma as well as affecting their adult life as they struggle to find well-paying jobs with little educational background. As children are more vulnerable to workplace hazards than adults, they are more likely to be hurt or even killed, with an estimated 22,000 children losing their lives at work each year.

As consumers, it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves on the effects of fast fashion on both workers and the environment. The next time you go to shop online, do research on how sustainable the brand is as well as if products are ethically sourced. Here are some great sustainable and ethical brands you can shop from that are budget friendly:

Alternative Apparel

  • this brand makes over 80% of their clothing items with sustainable materials and processes; they also protect and value the rights of their workers, making sure they work in safe conditions and in accordance with the Fair Labor Association guidelines.


  • This brand uses 100% cotton, which is better for the environment as well as for the farmers that grow it. They make sure that their supply chain is responsible in all aspects starting from harvesting the cotton to the final stitching without cutting any corners through their certified B Corp. This is a corporation that takes everything into account including how all their decisions impact workers, consumers, suppliers, and the environment.


  • ABLE is actively working to combat and bring an end to generational poverty and creating economic opportunities especially for women in order for them to be able to provide for themselves. They also provide free shipping in the U.S. for returns to be able to get the exact color or size you desire.


  • Kotn uses fair and safe working environments to create their clothes as well as helping suppliers change to organic within the next 5 years to have an even greater impact on the environment. The quality of the clothes is great and made from Egyptian cotton which will last a long time.

Thought Clothing

  • This clothing line makes sure that every worker that helps produce clothes are treated with respect in safe working conditions with fair wages. They use all natural materials and organic cotton

Discussion Questions:

  • Has this article changed the way you view the fashion industry and will it influence how you shop in the future?

  • Has this opened your eyes to how you’ve participated in the practices of fast fashion and does this convince you to shop from more ethical and sustainable clothing brands?

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