Now more than ever, there is a fluorescent light being shed on the fashion industry and its thumbs-down impact it has on our beloved planet and people. While oil still remains the most polluting industry in the world, the fashion industry comes in at a close second. The reason for this comes down to two crippling words: fast fashion.

Sure, the low price points associated with fast fashion can be tempting for any consumer, but the overall price of fast fashion is wreaking havoc on our world, in more ways than one.


According to a recent study conducted by Greenpeace, around 400 billion square meters of textiles are produced every year, of which 60 billion meters are left as waste on the cutting room floor.  80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide, and 3 out of 4 of those pieces will end up in landfill or be incarcerated. Unfortunately, only one quarter will be recycled.

Water Consumption and Pollution

Water scarcity affects more than one billion people on a global scale and every drop of water should be precious. Disturbingly, just one pair of jeans requires 7,000 litres of water to produce, and 2 billion pairs are being manufactured every year.

A whopping 2,700 litres of water is used to make just one t-shirt… that’s the amount of water one average human will consume over 900 days!

And what about water pollution? Beyond a garment’s vibrant print, statement embellishments and glistening finish lies countless toxic chemicals. After agriculture, textile dyeing is the world’s second biggest polluter of clean water. 1.7 million tonnes of mixed chemicals are used in garment production – most notably, dangerous chemicals like PFCs, leaving a detrimental and lasting impact on our environment.

The People

A 2016 Oxfam report revealed more than 60 million people work in the garment industry to churn out cheap, replicated clothing. More than 15 million of those people are based in Asia and over 80% are female, underage and from poorer, rural regions. They work unbearably long hours and earn as little as 39 cents an hour to produce garments sold to fast fashion giants, for mere cents apiece. Their less-than-fair wages do not even cover basic living costs, like food and accommodation.

How You Can Help

The inconvenient truths about fast fashion, our endangered planet and unethical industry practices have finally emerged from under the rug, and are gaining media attention and becoming topics of conversation around the world.

New, informed and sustainable fashion labels are emerging every day and ethical fashion is starting to thrive. Pre-existing brands are joining the sustainable wagon to reduce their carbon footprint and improve social conditions, and more people are donating their clothing.

There are simple steps you can also take to help make a positive change to the fashion industry. If more people boycott fast fashion, there will be less of a market for it.

  • Invest in environmentally friendly materials. Learn more here.
  • Download Good on You – a conscious shopping app providing ratings on fashion brands based on their ethical, environmental and social impact.
  • Support ECA-accredited brands and encourage other brands to get accredited.
  • Shop at op shops and markets – one person’s trash is another person’s treasure after all.
  • Recycle, repurpose and buy garments on buy/swap/sell websites and on Etsy.
  • Learn to DIY or turn your old clothes into something new by altering them.
  • Shop sustainable brands! Well Made Clothes is a great online marketplace for local, sustainable and fair trade brands.

*The facts and statistics in this article were sourced from Greenpeace, Oxfam and Solidarity Center.

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