March 2, 2020 News, Sustainability Tips

How we choose to dress ourselves has impact that goes far beyond personal functionality and image.

The modern-day fashion climate has shifted heavily towards inexpensive, short-lived products and styles, that enable increased production, consumption, and disposal of clothing. The increased rate at which fashion collections turnover, and at which individuals are buying and getting rid of clothing has resulted in profound, unseen impacts on the environment, the economy, and especially on human health and well-being. This article discusses the true impacts of the modern-day textile industry and provides steps that we can take towards a wardrobe that is healthier for us, our planet, and all those impacted.

“We have been brainwashed in the last fifteen, twenty years, to think that it’s democratic to buy a t-shirt for five dollars.”

-Livia Firth

Fast Fashion: A system in which inexpensive clothing is produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to latest trends. A fast fashion system, requiring minimal expense and production time, allows firms to react quickly to changing consumer demand by replenishing inventory and introducing more fashion styles.

Slow Clothes Movement: Buying, wearing, and passing on clothing in ways that allow for more time between the production and disposal of an item.

Metro Vancouver put 44 millions pounds of clothing into the landfill last year.1

Impacts of Fast Fashion


Total greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the textiles industry is 1.2 billion tonnes annually (more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined).2

Hazardous substance released during textile production affect the environment. 2

Fast fashion tends towards synthetic materials, which can be produced more rapidly and release plastic microfibers resulting in half a million tonnes of ocean pollution every year.2


Many textile workers are subject to unsafe working environments and the hazardous substance used and released during production unfair wages. High production demands can lead to workers suffering poor working conditions with long hours and low wages.2,5

“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”

– Lucy Siegle


More than USD 500 billion dollars are lost each year from clothing underutilization and lack of recycling. 2

Effects on You

It costs more

The high turnover of fast fashion results, individually, in more money being spent on lower quality items that have minimal longevity. (see below)

It can negatively impact health and well-being

Having too many clothing options can increase anxiety, resulting from the paradox of choice (having too many options to choose from).3

Clutter, resulting from too many clothes can also cause an increase in anxiety.4

The human health risks of a significant number of chemicals used to turn raw materials into textiles are unknown. 2

It takes more time

Shorter life spans of items means that individuals have to spend much more time shopping, managing, and disposing of their clothes.

“Clothes are so cheap today that buying them often feel inconsequential.”

– Elizabeth Cline

FAST-FASHION BREAKDOWN: The cost of a shirt over three years

Fast Fashion

Slow Clothes:

Option 1

Slow Clothes:

Option 2

Clothing Item  Shirt purchased from retail outlet known for its less-expensive options Shirt purchased from a boutique or retail outlet Shirt purchased from a consignment store
Inital Cost $20 $50 $30
Material Polyester Cotton-wool blend Cotton-wool blend
Longevity  6 months (requires multiple replacements) 3+ years 3 years
Total cost $120 $50 $30

One of the easiest ways to avoid fast fashion is to check the quality of the garments you are purchasing. Learn more about how to test a clothing item’s quality.


You can take an active role in stepping back from fast fashion, by extending the lifespan of clothing items and using the following steps when you obtain, use, and discard of your garments.

Bringing Clothes In
Be critical about if and how you obtain new clothes.

  1. Don’t buy It
  2. Buy previously-loved (a.k.a second hand)
  3. Buy high quality clothes that will last you at least a two years
  4. Go classic. Buy clothing with timeless looks that you don’t have to worry about going out of style.

Wearing Clothes Well
Extend the longevity of your garments by taking proper care of them.

  1. Wash it right
      • Wash in cold water
      • Air-dry/hang-dry
      • Don’t overwash
  2. Repair It
      • Make sure you know repair basics
      • Attend a clothing repair event to expand your skills and mend your clothes
      • Have your clothes professionaly mended

Learn more about how to take care of your clothing here.

Passing Clothes On
Be mindful about how you decide to pass on your clothes.

  1. Sell them
  2. Give them to people you know (or participate in a clothing swap)
  3. Give them directly to organizations that can use them
  4. Donate them to charities that are requesting those specific items
  5. Donate them to charities that sell them the the public

Only 20-25% of clothing that is donated in Metro Vancouver is re-used locally. Donating clothing items to profit and non-profit sellers should be the last resort when passing on clothing.1

Was this helpful?