The real cost of fast fashion

Fast fashion is a term coined to explain the growing trend of cheap, high street clothes. But, with such a cheap price tag, what is the hidden cost?

We all love finding a great deal on ASOS or Missguided, with sales and cheap products constantly being promoted.

But, the massive amount of cheap clothing we’re buying is having a huge impact on our planet.

Heading onto virtually any online shopping website, you’ll be inundated with cheap dresses, tops, trousers and shoes – highly appealing if you’re a student and don’t have much money to spend on clothes in the first place.


With so much pressure to always look your best and the fear of being branded an outfit repeater, it’s no wonder fashion brands are marketing such cheap products: they know people will buy them, wear them once and then return to their website for the next cheap outfit – Pretty Little Thing currently has 86 £4 dresses in its sale.

Though the cost of these new items of clothing may be minimal on our bank accounts, it’s having a huge cost on our planet.

If we continue buying and throwing clothes away at the rate we currently do, it will have an irreversible effect.


Fast fashion is the fast production of cheap clothes, to keep up with ever-changing trends, while also being affordable for the average consumer.

However, buying cheap products often results in wearing garments a handful of times, if not less, before it becomes broken and unwearable, and ends up in a landfill site amongst thousands of other discarded items of clothing every year.

When you think of the massive polluting industries – transport, agriculture, tourism, mining, fracking – you might not think about fashion as a major contributor.

A recent report by MPs found that the fashion industry contributes 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, which is more than the CO2 produced by all the flights and ships that take place in the same year, combined.

This makes fashion the second largest polluting industry in the world.

It’s also estimated that 35 per cent of the microplastics in the ocean are caused by synthetic clothing.

Not only does the fast fashion industry have a damaging impact on the planet, but the human cost is overwhelming, too.

Factory workers are often exploited, in the UK and around the world, working in unsafe conditions and earning far below the minimum wages.


We all have a responsibility to look after the planet and think about the ways we can live ethically – making the world a better place for the environment and other people alike.

And the good news is, there is plenty we can all do to cut down our own carbon footprints and stop buying into fast fashion.

Shopping in charity shops can have a massive impact: buying second-hand goods stops them from going to the landfill and decreased the demand for clothes from big companies, meaning they have to produce less.

Donating your unwanted clothes also means there are fewer products heading into the rubbish and means someone will be able to wear them again and again.

It’s also advisable to wear your clothes at least 30 times before throwing them away or donating them.

If we all doubled the length of time we wear our clothes for before getting rid of them, we could cut fashion emissions by 44 per cent.

With only 12 years left to prevent irreversible damage to the climate, we all have to play our part – individuals and big fashion corporations alike – to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet.

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