3 reasons to say goodbye to fast fashion
Photo by Polina Moroz, titled "Askold island. Vladivostok/ Russia 2018"
Hi, it's me, Joëlle, the party breaker.
It's time to be honest with yourself. To tell the real things. The statistics you are about to read are not cool to hear, but they are necessary, believe me. See you on the other side of my list.
- Clothing consumption is expected to increase from 62 million tons (2017) to 102 million tons in 2030.
- Carbon dioxide emissions from the garment industry are expected to increase to 2.8 billion tonnes by 2030. In other words, the equivalent of 230 million vehicles in motion for one year.
- Half of workers in the garment industry are paid below minimum wage.
- About 300 million of the people who produce cotton live below the poverty line.
- In Pakistan in the clothing sector, 87% of women are paid below the minimum wage.
- Around 1,900 synthetic microfibers break off from each item of clothing when they are washed, and because of their tiny size and shape, our systems fail to filter them out, allowing them to easily reach our oceans.
- 60% of all clothing produced globally ends up in landfills or incinerators within a year of its creation.
*Source right here .
Obviously, you will have guessed that I am talking about fast fashion. With the March 15 March for Climate Change, Revolution Fashion Week (April 22-28) and Earth Day (April 22) fast approaching, the Marigold team and I felt that with all this activism in the air, a candid portrait of fast fashion and all the reasons why it is urgently needed to get it out of our lives, was in order.
*By the way: my goal is not to sound preachy or moralistic, but I do think that in an environmental and social emergency like this, you have to tell yourself the truth. Even if it is not always pleasant to hear.
- The clothing industry is the second most polluting in the world
Yes, just after oil. When you know that the entire planet consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing per year, it's not so surprising. Here in Canada, the average citizen throws away 32 kg (and by "throw away", I mean "put in the trash") of clothes annually.
The polluting consequences do not appear just at the end of a garment's life, but from the first fiber harvested or manufactured. More than 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used around the world to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which end up in surrounding waterways, threatening the health of nearby residents, wildlife and vegetation. To give you an idea, it takes 1/3 pound of synthetic fertilizer (yes, I'm temporarily changing to the metric system to make it easier to understand) to produce one pound of cotton. And it takes a little less than a pound of cotton to make a t-shirt. Its impact doesn't stop there: it takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE t-shirt. The average water consumption of a person for… 900 days.
On the side of synthetic fibers, like polyester, spandex and nylon, they are all equally harmful in their own way: they take 20 to 200 years to decompose. No wonder the dumps are full to bursting.
- Fast fashion doesn't care about human rights
April 24, 2013. A factory in Bangladesh collapses and takes 1,100 workers with it, in addition to injuring 2,000 others. The Rana Plaza housed the production of several fast fashion brands, from Joe Fresh to Mango. Immediately, the companies absolved themselves of their guilt by claiming that they were not aware of the poor conditions of the building. Their excuse? They were relying on reports from third parties that were clearly wrong. Unsurprisingly, we learned later that the foundation of the building was weakened by cracks, that bars were placed on the windows and that the emergency exits were blocked. I ask myself the same question as you: how did we get here?
Everything indicates that the situation took a devastating turn when quotas for textile imports and for clothing manufactured in developing countries were lifted in 2003 in Canada and in 2005 internationally. This new reality has allowed a ton of companies to move all of their production to places where workers' rights are virtually non-existent and created a particularly repugnant race for discounts. Since they launch new clothes every two weeks, brands like Zara and Forever 21 must react quickly to new trends and produce at high speed. To achieve these manufacturing feats, they set up auctions among their suppliers: who can produce the fastest, at the lowest price? In survival mode, manufacturers accept and thus create unsustainable precedents (for them and their employees, not for Zara who is getting rich during this time) and cut spending elsewhere, from wages to maintenance and inspection. (adequate) of their building.
Before the Rana Plaza disaster, the average monthly wage in Bangladesh for a worker in the garment production industry was $38. Following the tragedy, the government pledged to raise the minimum wage to $68 per month. Today, 40% of factories still do not comply with this law.
I'm talking about Bangladesh here, but it's a widespread reality across a host of underdeveloped countries. Remember that clothing companies don't give gifts to ANYBODY. The goal of these companies is and always will be to make as much profit as possible. If after buying the fabrics, the labor, the shipping, the packaging, the rent and all the rest, they are still making a profit on a $10 shirt, you can be sure that they have cut the round corners elsewhere.
Of course, workers' rights are violated beyond the factories, into the fields and the chrome tanneries. Emanation and toxic pesticides, the effects on the health of farmers and workers are harmful: cancers, respiratory diseases, painful deterioration of the skin… The list is long.
- Fast fashion is destroying our local economy
As I said above, the lifting of quotas on the import of textiles and clothing made in underdeveloped countries has really dealt a fatal blow to the local manufacturing industry, both here and elsewhere.
For example, in 2003, Bangladesh sent $330 million worth of clothing to Canada. In 2012, this figure was $1.2 billion. Gross domestic product from the clothing manufacturing industry decreased by 8.5% between 2007 and 2011, from $1.9 billion to $1.3 billion.
On the labor side, the number of Canadians working in apparel manufacturing fell from 94,260 in 2001 to 19,340 in 2010.
Same thing with our neighbors to the south. In 1960, 95% of clothing sold in the United States was made in the USA. Today? 2%.
Consumers have become disconnected from the true cost of clothing. In the 1960s, the average American household spent 10% of their income on clothing and the average citizen bought less than 25 items a year. Now, clothing expenses represent 3.5% of the average American's salary, but he buys about 70 clothes a year!
Fast fashion companies have made us addicted to low prices, completely distorting our scale of the value of things. By continuing to buy at ridiculous prices, we are sending them a very simple message: that we have the same values as them.
Do you want to change your habits? Check out my article on the capsule wardrobe and the one in which I explain to you why buying ethical clothing is a much better long-term investment .
By Joëlle Paquette for MARIGOLD