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Why Fast Fashion is Unhealthy for Everyone


“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness” – Mahatma Gandhi


Why Fast Fashion is Unhealthy for Everyone

“Fast Fashion” refers to low-cost clothing production that mimics current fashion trends. The clothing is usually made out of lower-quality materials, by people on very low wages and in poor conditions. Trends change quickly, meaning new styles emerge and previous trends become obsolete in a matter of weeks.


Clothing is an industry that involves millions of people around the world; from the communities who grow the raw fibre all the way to the people sorting discarded garments in charity bins. The fashion industry has even been stated as now being ‘the world’s second most polluting industry in the world, after oil’!


We may not consider ourselves ‘fashionable’, but the choices we make everyday about what we wear has long and far spanning implications. When we purchase an new item of clothing we are voting with our dollar. But what exactly are we voting for and how can we use our consumer power to create change? How can we clothe ourselves more sustainably and ethically?


To act, think, shop and live in an ethical way we first need to reflect on why we want to.


The Institute’s sustainability policy, ‘An Integrated Approach to Sustainable Living’, urges us to educate ourselves about the impacts of our everyday lives. It states: ‘This knowledge is vital if we are to care for our common home, “a care which breaks with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.’ (Pope Francis: Eighth Work of Mercy).


The third key area of focus in the policy is “Procurement”, meaning the things we choose to spend our money on. Our consumption, linked to our economic growth model, is called into question when we consider the ethical implications (both for people and planet) involved in the procurement of what we wear.


Where does the fibre come from?

Producing fast fashion consumes precious resources. Among the most resource-intensive offenders are commonly used fabrics. Cotton plants use high levels of pesticides along with using large amounts of water. The cotton industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, using 24% of the world’s insecticides. It also takes about 10,000 litres of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans. Synthetic fibres aren’t any better – they are made from oils, petroleum and coal. These fibres don’t break down as they are made from plastic, creating tonnes of pollution.


Where is the fibre processed and how?

Textiles leave one of the largest water footprints on the planet with clothing companies using toxic chemicals in their production processes. Dye houses in India and China are notorious for not only exhausting local water supplies, but for dumping untreated wastewater into local streams and rivers.


Who is making the clothing?

Sweatshops, characterised by exploitative wages, excessive work hours and unsafe working conditions, are widespread are the norm rather than the exception. Cheap clothing externalises the costs and creates poverty and exploitation of the human workforce creating the garment. By voting with our dollar we can improve the wellbeing of the people and communities behind what we wear.


What can you do?

We should all look towards a world where the Earth community is respected; where human rights are properly protected and animals are no longer cruelly exploited.


Below are some links to help your decision-making process:


How can you reduce the impact of your clothing choices?

1 . When purchasing new clothes, look for sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton and wool, hemp, bamboo (although some chemicals are used for production), linen and recycled polyester.

2 . Use Google, the resources on the Rahamim Website, and the links above to help make ethical or ‘triple bottom line’ decisions from now and in to the future.

3 . When clearing out clothes you no longer want try to:

  • give your old clothes away – instead of throwing away your unwanted clothes, why not give them to someone who’ll appreciate them again? Be aware that about only one third of all donated clothing is deemed good enough for re-selling; the rest is either exported, cut up into rags or disposed of. Donating textiles of higher quality is therefore essential to ensure your clothes don’t take the long route to landfill.
  • recycle and repurpose – textiles are versatile – wearing them is just one way of using them. The internet is full of amazing recycling tips.
  • swap your old clothes with other people – it’s a great way to meet like-minded people, exchange items, and save clothes from their landfill fate.


Messages to: Sally Neaves – Rahamim


29 May 2017