How is Fast Fashion Ruining the Planet?

Shopping can be difficult, especially if you’re shopping for plus-size clothing. If you already have limited options, it can be easy to justify purchasing something cute and trendy on that popular fast fashion site. That’s especially true if an ethical fashion brand has something cute, but more expensive.

Ethical plus-size fashion companies aren’t trying to rip you off. In fact, they’re doing just the opposite. Some brands, like MAYES NYC, are using sustainable products and paying their employees a living wage. This makes their prices more expensive than the fast fashion brands.

Still unsure you should invest in high-quality plus-size fashion rather than fast fashion? Read on to learn how fast fashion is ruining the planet.

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is the mass production of disposable and cheap clothing. Continual new trends make us feel like we need to keep purchasing new clothes to stay “in style.” Since we have to purchase so much to keep up, we can really only afford to purchase the inexpensive versions, which wear out after 5-7 wears.

Here are some fast fashion statistics:

  • 80 billion garments are produced each year
  • 52 micro-collections are introduced each year, instead of the usual 2 seasons
  • Fast fashion companies produce 400% more clothes compared to 20 years ago
  • Women are only wearing 20%-30% of their wardrobes
  • Each US citizen generates 35 kg of textile waste a year
  • Garments are worn an average of 7 times before they’re thrown away

Plus size women often have a more difficult time shopping for clothes, since their sizes are not as accessible in both fast fashion or eco-friendly stores. That’s why MAYES NYC clothing is working to change that, by making beautiful plus-size clothes in sustainable working conditions.   

There are lots of reasons to avoid fast fashion, whether you’re plus-sized or straight-sized. Accumulating so many clothes is harming not just our wallets, but our planet. It even causes workers to suffer through poor working conditions, and sometimes even physical and emotional abuse.           

Unsustainable Fabrics and Materials

Oftentimes, ethical fashion is more expensive than fast fashion. There’s a lot of reasons for this, and one of the big reasons is the quality of fabric they use for their clothing. Sustainable fabrics are more expensive to produce, so they cost more.

Any garment you purchase, fast fashion or otherwise, has a tag that lists the clothing’s materials. Clothing that lists synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester shed microfibers, also called microplastics, every time you wash the garment.

The problem is that those microfibers make their way into our oceans and are eaten by fish and other aquatic organisms. Later, when we eat the fish, we find those microfibers introduced back into our food chain.

Another issue with fast fashion is that these fabrics are disposable, and an American family throws away a lot of their clothes. Only about 15% is recycled or donated, and the rest goes straight to the landfill. Synthetic fibers are non-biodegradable, and take up to 200 years to decompose. Synthetic fibers are used in 72% of our clothing, and most fast fashion is made out of synthetic materials.

Fair Wages and Working Conditions

Fast fashion is made by people in countries where workers’ rights are either non-existent or very limited. Oftentimes, the exploited workers are women and children.

One of the excuses people say is that “It’s better than nothing,” and “At least they have a job.” To a certain extent that’s true, but is it right to exploit people with miserable working conditions and poor wages? That’s why prices for garments are so low, because production sites are paying for very cheap labor.

Fashion brands would have you believe they’re paying the minimum wage. But in most manufacturing countries, the minimum wage is about a half to a fifth of the living wage. A living wage is calculated by the bare minimum a family needs to survive, such as food, rent, and healthcare. In reality, the minimum wage is not ethical whatsoever.

Some other ways manufacturing sites exploit employees is by making them work 14-16 hour days, sometimes days a week. They also don’t provide a safe working environment, and the employees breathe in toxic chemicals and fiber dust.

Rainforest Destruction

The fashion industry cuts down thousands of hectares of forests to make room for plantation trees. The trees are used to make wood-based fabrics, such as viscose, modal, and rayon. 30% of rayon and viscose clothing come from ancient and endangered forests. The loss of the forests is devastating to the ecosystem and indigenous communities.

Toxic Chemicals

Fast fashion uses chemicals in every part of textile production. It makes bleaching and dying fabrics quicker and easier. Even clothes made out of natural fibers still contain lots of chemicals by the time they reach the shops and touch your skin.

Your skin is the largest organ and can absorb what we put on it. According to some studies, chemicals from clothing can still be found in urine 5 days after wearing those pajamas for one night.

In another study, 63% of the items tested from 20 textile brands, including popular brands, contained hazardous chemicals. These chemicals contain carcinogens, toxins, and hormone disruptors.

Greenhouse Gasses

The clothing industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Part of that is the energy used for production, manufacturing, and transportation of clothing each year. Another reason for that is the synthetic clothing so popular in fast fashion uses fossil fuel to produce, so they require more energy than natural fibers. Cheap synthetic fibers also emit gases that harm our atmosphere.

China, India, and Bangladesh are all powered by coal. Our reliance on these countries to produce our clothing isn’t helping. Coal power produces a lot of carbon emissions. 

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Fast fashion won’t change until consumers change their spending habits. Finding eco-friendly plus-size fashion can be difficult, but there are options out there. Choose ethical fashion companies like MAYES NYC to enjoy quality clothing that doesn't harm our planet.


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  • Fast fashion
  • Ethical fashion