Decoding the Impact of Fast Fashion and Navigating Towards Sustainability

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GRC 2023 Global Essay Competition Top 30

By Manjary Howlader and Samiha Islam Fariha

Fast fashion has gained popularity in the textile industry by bringing tremendous success to the apparel world with its low-cost and fast-paced production characteristics.The emergence of fast fashion can be traced back to the 18th and 19th centuries, marked by the advent of new textile technologies.Although the idea existed, it wasn't widely known until the term "fast fashion" was coined in the 1990s to describe Zara's objective of swiftly bringing a garment from design to stores.This implementation revolutionized the fashion industry by enabling the quick and cost-effective production of runway clothes.
However,beneath its surface lies unseen issues that pose greater harm to both people and the environment through the promotion of cheap and toxic dyes,disparities in wealth distribution,and exploitation of natural resources.This essay strives to uncover these perilous issues and tries to seek possible solutions in pursuit of a more sustainable future.
Among other emerging concerns,core issues impacting society and the environment are stated below:

1.Overconsumption of natural resources:
The fast fashion industry sits in a crucial position,utilizing approximately 93 billion cubic meters of water annually.For instance,the production of a cotton t-shirt uses 2,700 liters,equivalent to one person's drinking needs for 2.5 years.These practices have resulted in water shortages in some regions where one in three people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.Furthermore, the usage of cheap and toxic dyes is responsible for generating 20% of global non-recyclable and non-reusable wastewater.Moreover,commonly used synthetic materials such as polyesters ,require over 70 million barrels of oil annually through carbon-intensive processes.

Social Impact:
Fast fashion aims to attract consumers with low production costs while making huge profits.However,this manufacturing speed puts immense pressure on workers and creates hazardous conditions for them.Many industries fail to comply with necessary regulations,as evident during third-party inspections where discrepancies often go unnoticed. The consequences of this negligence are tragic incidents like the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka District,Bangladesh.In addition,workers receive meager wages as large corporations aim for maximum profits without investing much money into labor costs.According to data from the U.S. National Labor Committee,some Chinese workers earn as little as 12–18 cents per hour under poor working conditions.
The chart clearly illustrates that there is an inequality in the distribution of wealth as employees are being compensated inadequately despite working for extended periods.This imbalance not only creates instability in a country’s economic sector but also frequently results in women receiving lower pay than men.
Building a successful business aligning with sustainability involves integrating environmentally and socially responsible practices into various aspects of our operations.Here are some key solutions to adopt sustainability in this sector:

Sustainable Fashion:
Environmental and social outcomes due to fast fashion can be lessened by introducing green and ethical fashion which will come with the aid of tracking transparency of the origin of the materials.
2.Energy efficiency:
Investing in energy-efficient technologies and incorporating them will reduce the carbon footprint of cheap materials.Stella McCartney,a renowned fashion designer,shows commitment to energy-efficient fashion by using organic cotton ,recycling nylon,and innovative vegan leather alternatives which is commendable.

Alternatives of harmful synthetic materials:
Polyester,a staple of fast fashion,is one of the most harmful fabrics and is killing the planet’s environment with its high usage.Organic or recycled cotton(not conventional cotton ),natural hemp,tencel,organic linen,peace,or ahimsa silk are great alternatives to polyester.Furthermore,regenerated cellulose products are attracting increasing attention as sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based materials,especially in the textile industries.

Waste reduction & recycling:
A remarkable distinction between textile waste in landfills and recycled textiles has been shown in the data presented.We must take action to emphasize curtailing waste production by instigating recycling in the fashion industry and ensuring the continuous participation of employees,and customers in this process.

Consumer’s responsibility:
Sustainable practices must be followed by the consumers while purchasing only necessary high-quality,durable clothing and use of liquid detergent instead of powder to minimize water consumption as consumers are pivotal to fast fashion.

Community involvement:
A community plays an inevitable role in promoting sustainability following the example of "Hippy Feet",a sustainable sock and apparel company that provides transitional employment to homeless young people aged 16-24.This attempt will build a knowledgeable community that fosters sustainable practices in their everyday life.

Compliance with Standards and Certifications:
Adhering to industry-specific sustainability standards and certifications such as ISO 14001:2015 ,WRAP will build trust among environmentally conscious consumers.

Although sustainable fashion may seem expensive and requires patience from consumers,it holds massive weight when it comes to stating the benefits of sustainable fashion.This measure should be widespread from renowned fashion brands to local retail stores.It is proven by fashion brands such as Zara,H&M etc. that even after adopting sustainable fashion in the era of fast fashion economic growth,resource usage,and wealth distribution of countries,companies,or communities can be achieved.Hence, let all of us be involved in sustainable practices to ensure a better future for the fashion industry and the environment.

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Decoding the Impact of Fast Fashion and Navigating Towards Sustainability
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