Summary: Clothing and the Fashion Industry


Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It pollutes ecosystems across the globe during clothing production, and has additional impacts during and after use. As a whole, the fashion industry accounts for approximately 5-10% of our global GHG emissions – and the industry’s emissions are projected to rise by 49% by 2030.

Fast fashion refers to the fact that certain clothes can trend for a very short period of time. Essentially, it’s about putting an ‘expiry date’ on clothing to increase sales. The problem is that these expiry dates significantly increase clothing production and waste. And since producing or disposing of any type of clothing has impacts, this fast fashion mentality can seriously damage ecosystems in little time.

In a world without fickle fashion trends, we could all pick our clothes, keep them as long as we wear them, then dispose of them appropriately. To get to that point, companies and individuals will have to adopt the 3 Rs – with the help of better government policies. Additionally, while better recycling systems will certainly help recover clothing materials that are currently being thrown out or exported, it’s not enough. What we truly need is to reverse fast fashion, which can be accomplished by relying on the first 2 Rs heavily.

There are plenty of other large-scale solutions that can help reduce the fashion industry’s impacts swiftly. In particular, setting up better second-hand and waste management systems will be crucial to allow individuals to dress more sustainably. There are also numerous individualized solutions at our disposal that can help individuals reduce their personal impacts. If all scales decide to abandon fast fashion and move on to more sustainable second-hand systems, then we’ll have a shot at decreasing the industry’s water consumption, GHG emissions, pollution, and waste.