The Fast Fashion Epidemic

Written by Bryanna Howes, with research by members of LMC Fights Waste.


Bryanna Howes, Staff Writer

The fast fashion epidemic is hitting hard. 

You may be wondering what fast fashion is, why there is an epidemic, and why it even matters. Fast fashion is when clothing and accessories that are in high demand are produced quickly, and on a mass scale. This quick, cheap production allows for high in-demand items to hit shelves quickly. Online clothing sites like Shein are immensely growing in popularity due to their ability to quickly produce micro-trend products to meet the demands of consumers. 

The new, student-run, on-campus environmental group, LMC Fights Waste, has begun sharing information about waste production and how students can have a more sustainable hand in stopping it.

The fast fashion industry has been growing in popularity – people can go online and purchase pieces of clothing at a low cost, and receive them quickly; sometimes even overnight. While this seems really convenient, there are four main issues with the fast fashion industry; global emissions, ethics, sustainability, and trends. 

Believe it or not, fast fashion is the third highest contributor to global emissions on the planet, producing 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. And, that’s not even the worst part! Unused and discarded clothing items make up 14 million tons of waste in landfills each year, and as they degrade they release methane gas, which is 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. 

The next factor associated with fast fashion is ethics. This includes not only the environmental abuse that occurs, but also the abuse of people. Many fast fashion companies use sweatshops to produce products at a rapid pace, and some still use child labor to meet demands. Workers are barely paid, work long hours, and are put in dangerous situations all for the production of popular clothes. 

Sweatshops harm the children and people in Central America and Asia, as well as depleting their natural resources, such as water.

On average 93 billion cubic meters of water, or enough for 5 million people to consume, is polluted by fast fashion annually, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. There is also a huge consumption of oil in this industry, with around 1.3 billion barrels of oil used on an annual basis. This is not the full extent of how the planet is affected by fast fashion, either. Fast fashion is a large contributor to the wastes, including microplastics from textiles, which can end up in the oceans. 

Sustainability is another huge issue in the fast fashion industry. When the amount of resources that are being used are not able to, or are not as quickly, being replenished, the issue of sustainability comes into play. 

60% of the fibers being used to produce clothing now are the products of fossil fuels, and won’t degrade if thrown into landfills. The use of synthetic fibers is more harmful to the planet – 6 times more harmful than cotton. 

There are more issues with the production of these synthetic fibers, as well. Large amounts of pesticides and chemicals are used to protect the crops being turned into fabric, which ends up leaking into the soil. These chemicals leaching into the soil unfortunately leads to reduced diversity and fertility among groups of animals and their ecosystems, as well as being harmful to the environment and to the well-being of living things. 

Trends are yet another harmful factor related to fast fashion. Trends that are seen on social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, lead to impulsive purchases that buyers don’t even necessarily use or wear. There is a drastic increase in the upward trend in purchases by consumers, and the trend will continue to rise if we don’t do anything about it.

In the past 15 years clothing sales have gone up 60%, and are anticipated to rise to another 63% just this year. One of the huge issues with this is that the clothing and other items being purchased aren’t being used half as much as they would have in the past; they are thrown out, end up in landfills, and add to carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, fast fashion companies have moved on from the simple Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter collections – many companies have microseasons, 52 of them, one for each week in the year. This means that companies are aiming to change the trends weekly rather than by seasons, urging consumers to buy new products weekly to stay on top of every micro-trend.


Now comes the important question – how can we make a change when it comes to these issues? 


There are a variety of ways that people can make a difference in their everyday lives. People can spread awareness to let other people know about the harmful effects of over consumption and fast fashion. 

Many consumers lean to fast fashion because the products are far cheaper, but there are options that are more sustainable and can still help people save money. This includes things such as thrift shopping, donating clothes to people who need it, and even recycling your clothing. Some sustainable brands include People Tree and Patagonia, whose clothing is made up of 87% of recycled materials. Thrift stores are another great way to find clothing while saving money, and being environmentally friendly. There are even thrift stores online that you can turn to now if you prefer online shopping. These include sites like Depop and Poshmark.

Now that we’ve discussed ways as an individual to give back to the environment, let’s talk about what can be done by the campus community. 

Recycling is a really easy option for people to take part in on campus, with access to large recycling bins all around campus. This can include not only clothing, but also plastic bottles from shampoo, conditioners, drinks, and more.

Gardening club, and their on campus garden, is a great way to give back to the environment as well. I highly recommend taking a look into it, they are a great club to get involved in!

The newly organized campus move out program is a great way to get rid of items that are gently used that other people may be able to use. These were held at the end of the spring semester on campus where storage containers were set up outside of dorm halls for item collection. Students can drop off items they no longer need that other students could use.

The next option is to buy pre-owned and used books. Not only is it a great way to be environmentally friendly, but it is also a good way to save some money! This is particularly useful for college students considering the amount of textbooks we have to buy during our four years here. Save some money and practice eco-friendly consumer tactics.

At Earth Jam on April 22nd, LMC Fights Waste will be running a clothing swap; an event for people to bring their used clothing that they don’t wear anymore, in exchange for an item that they would wear and enjoy. Rarely should we be throwing clothing away, especially when it can be used by someone else.

Please continue to educate yourself on ways you can live a more sustainable lifestyle. If you find yourself buying clothes that you rarely wear, take a step back and learn to give life to these clothes by repurposing them or donating them. Old t-shirts can be turned into dish rags, cut jeans you no longer wear into shorts and save the extra denim for something like potholders, or spend a day following a tutorial on turning old sweatshirts into a blanket. Your individual contributions are helpful to start working towards a larger movement of sustainability, and moving away from the fast fashion epidemic.

For more information about environmental sustainability, follow @lmcfightswaste on Instagram.