Fast fashion is harmful to both environment and mental health

Summer Fitzgerald

SHEIN, an online store, has recently become a major source of fast fashion as it is heavily promoted through social media platforms through “SHEIN Hauls”.

In recent years, fast fashion has become a major problem, especially as social media has taken over it. You can’t open Instagram or TikTok without seeing someone in your feed showing their new wardrobe full of the latest trends. Trend cycles have accelerated dramatically and social media is constantly pushing it in our face.

This constant pressure to keep up with rapid changes has resulted in companies having no choice but to cut key corners, regardless of the damage it causes.

Fast fashion is defined as “cheap clothing quickly produced by mass market retailers in response to the latest trends,” according to Oxford Languages. Fast fashion is harmful not only for the environment but also for the mental health of young people.

Environmental cost

Textile plants generate more than a fifth of all water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, according to the Council for the Defense of Natural Resources. This puts the workers and the environment in very unhealthy conditions. Most textile factories are located in developing countries where the government cannot track or regulate pollution laws.

When companies are only concerned with keeping up with trends and making money fast, they take all the shortcuts they can. They find loopholes in the laws, exploit their workers and destroy the environment in their path. Fast fashion brand clothes aren’t made to be sustainable or last long, so cutting shortcuts like this is just the norm.

These brands are based on the concept of selling cheap, low-quality clothing that must be thrown away. In fact, 101 million tons of clothes are thrown away every year, according to BBC. These severe environmental effects far outweigh the low prices of fast fashion.

Damaging our mental health

The recent rise of fast fashion can easily be traced back to the similar rise of social media platforms, especially TikTok and Instagram. Many people regularly take to social media to share their purchases from stores like Forever 21, Urban Outfitters and Shein, despite their harmful contributions to the environment.

The fashion and social media trends on these apps are not only sensational and short-lived but also negatively impact users’ mental health.

Social media alone already has such negative effects on society. A recent study of women between the ages of 18 and 25 showed a link between Instagram and increased self-objectification and body image concerns, according to the National Association of Eating Disorders. It cannot be denied that body image and mental health problems are increasing exponentially and are damaging our youth.

Fast fashion alternatives

Conscious consumers should try their best to stay away from fast fashion, but how? Start right in your community. Instead of ordering cheap and badly made clothes, fill your closet with clothes from local small businesses. Donating and shopping at thrift stores also helps maximize the use of clothes and ensures fewer clothes end up in landfills.

You can also buy clothes from ethical brands that don’t contribute to fast fashion. Companies like Patagonia, Kotn And Winds of fair trade they offer a wide range of styles and budgets to suit consumers. They also make conscious efforts to keep their businesses ethical. For example, Patagonia uses renewable energy to make its clothes and is very aware of its own ecological footprint.

Fast fashion is an irresponsible industry that exploits consumers, workers and the environment. While it may all sound glamorous on social media, it’s not worth your money or your mental health.

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