What is Fast Fashion?

Every year, we as a global society produce 92 million tons of clothing-related waste. This is enough discarded clothing to fill one garbage truck every second.  This wasteful practice is a result of the modern ‘fast-fashion industry’ which mass-produces inexpensive clothing in response to the latest trends. It’s inexpensive, it’s trendy and it’s disposable. However, this mindset towards fashion comes at a cost to both people and the planet. 

Fast Fashion & The Environment 

The fast fashion industry is the second-largest generator of pollution on Earth, after the oil industry, and the industry is responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions. This is more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. This concerns small island developing nations like The Bahamas who will bear the brunt of climate change if CO2 emissions continue to increase globally. 

These emissions primarily come from the production of synthetic materials like polyester. While cheaper to manufacture, these synthetic materials produce nearly 3x the amount of emissions when compared to natural materials, like cotton. Furthermore, synthetic textiles release plastic microfibres into the environment when they are washed, making up approximately 35% of all marine microplastic pollution.

Fast fashion is also responsible for up to one-fifth of industrial water pollution. Wastewater, containing chemicals, dyes, salts, and heavy metals used in clothing manufacturing processes, is commonly dumped directly into rivers and streams of producing countries, posing a threat to both environmental and human health. 

Fast Fashion & Social Justice

Fast fashion is primarily produced in low-income countries for consumption in high-income countries. Companies creating fast fashion items often exploit the lack of labor laws and regulations in these countries to increase their clothing production, leading to unfair wages, long work hours, and unsafe working conditions for garment workers. 

Water pollution caused by the fast fashion industry not only hurts the environment, but also pollutes essential drinking water sources and damages natural resources (healthy soil, fishing grounds etc.) that local people rely on. 

What can we do to mitigate the impact of fast fashion on our climate, environment and local community?

Wear, appreciate, and take care of the clothes you already own. Learn to mend and repair clothing instead of throwing it away, and if it can’t be fixed, find a way to repurpose it into something else. If you need new clothes, consider thrifting and buying second-hand, purchasing from sustainable brands, and or organizing a clothing swap with your family and friends. 

November 2021 was an exciting month for climate action for the world. With the COP26 (United Nations 26th Climate Change Summit) happening, The Island School staff and faculty were inspired to do some work in climate resilience here in South Eleuthera. As the climate continues to change drastically every year, we must ask ourselves, what can we do as a collective rather than as individuals to make a difference? 

Community Care as Climate Action

On December 4th, 2021 and March 5th, 2022, The Island School held Eco-Swap Meets as one way to answer this question. The goal of this was to introduce community care as a form of climate action. At the Eco-Swap Meet, people brought in clothes, shoes, hats, household items, and electronics to exchange with others for free, and also safely dispose of and recycle aluminum cans and dead batteries. In encouraging exchange of items from different households, we were able to upcycle and recycle, and give items a second life, discourage fast fashion consumerism and divert waste from local dump sites.

This event was part of The Island School’s mission to align with COP26 climate change goals and U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, community care is a simple way to combat climate change. This is just the act of taking care of all members of our community. In making sure that everyone has needs taken care of, such as being clothed and having food to eat, we help to create a more equitable society. This is a goal set by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Having more equitable societies where everyone’s basic needs are met is a direct way to fight climate change.