The Impact of the 52 Micro-Seasons on the Environment

You read that right. No typo. 52 Micro-Seasons.

Where once there were only two fashion seasons (for me personally, summer and winter clothes) we now have created a monstrous 52 fashion micro-seasons. We live in a consumer culture that teaches us to buy more things every day to constantly stay on top of the latest fashions and trends. Clothing, technology, and many other goods alike are cheaply made and continuously improved upon or redesigned to get people to buy more and buy often. As stated in the documentary The True Cost, we find ourselves in a cycle of “careless production and endless consumption”. While people may not think that buying a new dress for every dinner party they attend is harming the environment in several ways, they should think again. From the creation of garments to the end of their fashion lifetime, fast fashion, while cheap on our wallets, has a huge environmental cost. In fact, fast fashion is the #2 most polluting industry second to the oil industry itself. Creating garments requires a large amount of unaccounted for resources like water, chemicals, and land that all contribute to the not so pretty and harmful side of fashion.

The environmental problem with fast fashion starts at the roots of the industry, the production of cheaply made garments. In order to produce garments you must grow the proper crops. In the case of cotton production, things have changed dramatically over the years in order to accommodate the need for an abundance of cotton to keep the fast fashion world afloat. Farmers around the world are spraying their cotton crops with extremely unhealthy amounts of pesticides that have been linked to tumors and other abnormal brain defects in those around the harmful chemicals, like the children of the Indian cotton farmers who lay incapable of living a normal daily life due to the effects of these chemicals on their developing brains. It is very rare to find a completely organic cotton crop in this day in age due to the increased need for cotton at our fingertips instantly. Even after the cotton has been produced, the industry continues to add more harmful chemicals to the garments via dyes to give them that perfect color for the trendiest garment for that particular micro-season.

Once out of production, fast fashion is still putting a major strain on the environment. One of the main concerns with the production and consumption of fast fashion garments is that consumers don’t look at their clothing the same way they look at the food they buy. While many people chose to shop local and organic for the food they eat in order to stay healthy and happy, they don’t seem to see a link with the clothing they wear. Because we aren’t directly ingesting the product doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. These chemicals continue to cause harm after the garment has gone through full production. Clothing is worn directly against our skin all day long. That means massive amounts of chemicals and unhealthy fibers just lying on our skin all day, which can lead to rashes, and many other concerns. Just because people are not directly ingesting these pesticide and chemical ridden products does not mean they are not paying the consequences of them.

Not only are we paying the consequences even after the garments have been produced, so is our water. In the case of synthetic fabrics like polyester, tiny microfibers are released every single time you wash the garment, even more so the older the garment gets. These tiny microfibers are so small water treatment plants cannot rid them and they end up in our water systems. Once in the water system they are ingested by small creatures like plankton, which are then eaten by fish, which are then eaten by us. The unhealthy plastic microfibers essentially come full circle and end up right in our bellies.

But it doesn’t stop there, because we are talking about fast fashion and the 52 micro-seasons there is a lot of room for waste. According to Livia Firth, the Creative Director of Eco-Age, the average garment lasts only about 5 weeks in our closets. Because of how cheaply made and inexpensively sold these fast fashion garments are, people can go out weekly to buy the newest trendiest clothing to fit into that particular micro-season. But what is happening to all of the clothes that are only used for 5 weeks? There are 80 billion pieces of clothing produced each year and in turn, 82 pounds of clothing are thrown out per person each year. Which adds up to about 11 million pounds of thrown out garments in the US alone. People often justify their careless consumption habits by donating their garments to thrift stores when they are no longer in style. And while in an ideal world, this would be a fantastic option, it simply isn’t cutting it. Due to the massive amounts of donations thrift store get daily from fast fashion lovers, only 10% of clothes are actually sold in the thrift stores. The rest of the clothes are thrown into landfills or packaged up tightly and transported to other countries where the clothing is dropped off and left for someone else to take care of.

Fast fashion comes at a huge cost when looked at in the big picture. What was once a two season industry has turned us into consuming monsters, always needing to buy something new to stay up on the latest trends. Saying no to fast fashion and yes to timeless treasures would aid in efforts to keep this beautiful place we call home a little nicer for years to come. Buying locally produced and organic products is not only beneficial to your local economy but will also benefit you in the long run. Local products may seem to give you sticker shock because unlike buying at big chain fast fashion stores, these are the TRUE COSTS of the garments and the hard work that goes into creating them in a sustainable way. These products will last, unlike the 5 weeks you can get out of a fast fashion piece. When you are done with a garment think of ways outside of the box to reuse them instead of just giving them to a thrift store. Perhaps you can sew up an old T-shirt you don’t use anymore and make it into a reusable bag. Or cut up another old garment and use is as cleaning rags or DIY dryer sheets. It is up to us to stop this unhealthy trend. For us. For the environment.