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Fast Fashion’s Impact on the Environment

Fast Fashion’s Impact on the Environment - FRANC

 Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

It’s funny to say, but fast fashion is the reason Franc exists. Fed up with unfairly made fashion, we created a business to bring you ethical, sustainable clothing made in Canada. We are so proud to be part of the slow fashion movement and feel privileged to keep you comfy all year round. Every piece of clothing we make is a response to the global issue that is fast fashion. 

Fast fashion is defined as: “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” Awareness of how fast fashion is harming our planet is spreading. This isn’t a light topic. If your heart is already heavy with what’s happening in our world, take some time for yourself. This post will be here when you’re ready. There’s only so much we can carry. 

So here we go . . .

Fast fashion has created a vicious cycle from the start by causing pollution, contaminating water, and overproducing. The overproduction piles up in landfills where it sits, creating even more pollution and contaminating water. The hard truth is that there is nothing sustainable about fast fashion. 



Fashion is the second-largest polluter in the world after oil. Emitting over 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year, fast fashion creates more emissions than air travel and international shipping combined.

Fast fashion’s business model is a quick turn-around with non-stop new styles pumped out multiple times a season. It’s a system that doesn’t stop to consider the effects it has on people and the planet. It was here that the “throw-away” fashion mentality was born. The $5 T-shirts and $20 jeans make it easy for consumers to toss and buy again at the first signs of wear, which happens quickly due to the lack of quality.

Along with emitting harmful greenhouse gases, the fast fashion industry uses large quantities of fossil fuels. To keep up with the international goal of remaining under two-degrees of warming, the fashion industry needs to cut emissions by 80% by 2050. The current rate predicts that the industry’s emissions are set to increase by more than 60% in the next ten years. 

The fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater. Textile dyeing holds second place for global water pollution, with agriculture being the first. The chemicals used while dyeing works its way back into freshwater, contaminating rivers and streams, destroying access to clean water in developing countries where the majority of fast fashion is made. It’s common for factories to dump their untreated wastewater directly into the nearest river. The Citarum River in Indonesia is the most polluted river in the world, thanks to fast fashion. Wastewater contains toxins like lead, mercury, and arsenic. Not only is this harmful for anything or anyone living by the river, but the contamination eventually reaches the ocean.  



Synthetics (polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex) are often favoured by fast fashion brands. These fibres are lightweight, durable, and cheaper to manufacture. Synthetic fabric is man-made from a chemical process that releases greenhouse gases—specifically nitrous oxide (N2O) which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Synthetics are not renewable and are classified as a type of plastic. Every time synthetic clothing goes through the wash, microplastics are released into the water system, polluting the environment. Microplastics are already toxic to wildlife. They also absorb other toxins in the water. Being “micro” they are ingested by all kinds of marine wildlife and end up in our food chain. 


Disposable but not decomposable. 

The fast fashion industry makes over 80 billion articles of clothing a year. With the lack of quality, what choice do consumers have other than to toss their worn-out-too-soon clothes? Fast fashion has created a disposable mindset. What it’s not communicating is that clothing is not decomposable. 

North Americans send ten million tonnes of clothing to the landfill every year. Sometimes these items can be recycled, repurposed, or donated. However, whatever process old clothes go through, they end up in a landfill eventually. 

When clothes end up in the landfill they release methane gas, polluting groundwater and air. Depending on the fibre, it can take clothing hundreds of years to breakdown. Synthetics never biodegrade. 

We can’t afford to treat clothing like it’s disposable. Each municipality has a different recycling process, so please check with your city about where to send your damaged clothing and spread the word to your friends. 


What can we do? 

The straightest answer to this question is to not buy fast fashion. 

  • Shopping second-hand keeps clothes out of the landfill and gives you a unique outfit at a discount.
  • Support your local makers—There are so many amazing people who have caught the slow fashion vibe and are creating sustainable things.
  • Buy from ethical, sustainable sources that carry a certified B Corp label.

When you shop small and slow it comes with a higher price tag, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a much smaller price to pay. Every dollar spent ethically and sustainably is another dollar demanding more ethical and sustainable practices.

We promise we don’t bring up these topics to cause panic. Rather, we talk about the hard stuff to empower you to live your best life. Together we can change the way we treat fashion—one slowly made, ethical basic at a time. And you know we’ve got you covered—literally 😉!


Written By Jade Paxton for FRANC


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