Individuals can help curb the harmful effects of the fast fashion industry. Here’s how.

Today Friday, July 14, 2017 Photo Cat and Jack jeans and tops made of Repreve polyester fabric created from recycled plastic bottles, on display at Target store, New York. More and more major retailers are coming out with fashions that use all kinds of waste, including plastic bottles. (AP Photo/Mark Lenihan)

In an age of constantly cycling micro trends and online shopping, the fast fashion industry has exploded in popularity, with brands like H&M and Zara having a seemingly unbreakable stranglehold on today’s youth. Bright colors, up-to-date images, and most importantly, affordable prices, attract 72% of US college students (Forbes) and generate over $106 billion in profits (Statista). However, as awareness of sustainability grows, the harmful effects of fast fashion are becoming more visible to the worldview.

The fast fashion industry cuts many corners to keep costs to a minimum when it comes to the environment and health. For example, companies use toxic dyes in fabrics that are harmful to health in order to reduce the cost of materials. In addition, most of the clothes produced by fast fashion companies require large amounts of water and oil, which depletes resources and pollutes the environment. In addition, the fast fashion industry uses sweatshops to cut costs by paying workers very low wages and putting them in dangerous work environments. While the newest clothing trends and extremely affordable prices are convenient in fast fashion stores, the convenience comes from environmental damage and exploitative factory practices.

So what can individuals do to stop the fast fashion industry? The main issue with fast fashion is the idea that clothes can be thrown away. It is this cost principle that drives corporations into exploitative practices in the production of unsustainable and unethical clothing. For starters, simply keeping clothes out of your closet for long periods of time prevents clothes from ending up in landfills. Additionally, shopping at fast-selling stores keeps pre-owned clothes from going to waste while returning patronage from fast-selling fashion stores. These actions cannot solve all problems in a quick fashion; But changing your habits and the way you think about clothing opens the door to long-term systemic change in the future.

Jennifer Lee, Weston DeMordant, Aspen Mist Cobarrubias and Dennis Byrd, East High School

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