The Fast Fashion Industry
a T-shirt’s Journey
The t-shirt’s journey starts on a cotton field either in China, India or the U.S.A. To grow the amount of conventional cotton, which is needed for one t-shirt, it uses up to 2,700L of water and an immense amount of pesticides. After the cotton is being separated from the seeds and pressed into bales, it is being shipped to China or India. In textile mills, the fibre is being spanned, twisted into yarn and woven into sheets; then heat treated, washed, bleached and dyed, and again being treated with hazardous chemicals.
This was the last step before the t-shirt got sent to wherever you bought it.
Cambodia and Fast Fashion
Work for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, a monthly salary on avg. 93,300 riel ($230), forced overtime and often dangerous working conditions in the factories are some of the reasons why Cambodia is an attractive market for large garment producers supplying for cheap fast fashion brands.
The Cambodian government needs to raise the minimum wage conditions for garment workers within Cambodia, so the producers need to adjust or change the location of their factory with less conditions and a lower minimum wage, which would harm Cambodia again, as garment production is the country’s biggest export.
Impact on Nature
The fast fashion industry has a profound negative impact on our planet.
- Most importantly the fact that this industry is creating “…more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.” (The Guardian. Dec 29.2018). Read that again. That is 7-billion tons of CO2 per year, or 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions.
- It is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and it pollutes the ocean with micro plastics. It takes about 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. That is more than enough for one person to drink daily for a time span of 10 years.
- Our clothes are also treated with toxic chemicals, either in the dying process or to create that “washed look” on jeans. These toxins usually go into rivers and streams near the factory and destroy all wildlife and unfortunately, make people who live nearby sick.
- A lot of clothing ends up in the dump. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. In total, up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. That’s enough to fill the Sydney harbour annually.
What can we do?
Gladly, there are some things we all can do!
- Try to use your clothing items longer. If you keep a piece for 9 months longer, you will already reduce your footprint around 30%.
- Buy less or second hand or switch to sustainable brands in order to support sustainable businesses.
- Try to repair/ recycle/ upcycle your items.
From the start of the fast fashion process until the item of clothing in your hand, there has been various stages which harm humans and the environment. We have learned that it is cheaper for fast fashion brands to produce in countries with a lack of workers’ rights and environmental regulations. Countries such as Cambodia rely on this industry though, so they will continue to attract fast fashion brands. So what can we do? If everybody would buy less clothes, buy responsibly and sustainably, we could create a more sustainable demand, which would then force companies to adjust to the market’s needs.
So, buy less, buy sustainably and if you can, start a conversation with your friends/ colleagues etc. to create an awareness to this issue.
McFall-Johnsen, M. (2020, February 05). The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.de/international/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10/?r=US
Stanton, A. (2020, April 24). What Is Fast Fashion, Anyway? Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion
What is fast fashion and why is it a problem? (2019, October 31). Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem
Cambodia is not a Waste Bin for Industrialised Countries
“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country”, Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for the Cambodian Environment Minister, said. After they have found 1,300 tonnes of plastic waste in 83 shipping containers in 2019. The waste containers came from the US and Canada, and they were being shipped back to these countries, Cambodian officials promised.
Cambodia has an immense problem with huge landfills which even provide work to so called “waste pickers”. Every morning, they wade through the landfills to find discarded, saleable treasures, which they can resell for little money.
Who and What and Why?
Mostly industrialised countries, such as Canada, the US, Australia and European countries export their trash to developing countries. The US and Canada remain major exporters of such rubbish, the even refuse to sign a UN treaty, allowing a country to block imports of contaminated plastic waste and which controls the movement of hazardous waste from one country to another. The amendments require exporters to obtain the consent of receiving countries before shipping most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste, providing an important tool for countries in the Global South to stop the dumping of unwanted plastic waste into their country.
We produce at least 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, and due to its nature (disposable, not degradable, often single-use), it mainly ends up in landfills and it often pollutes our seas and oceans.
Countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and consumers all over the world demand change and responsibility from companies and governments. What we need is a new “circular economy” for plastics, one that stops plastic from becoming waste in the first place. We need to shift to sustainable, non-fossil fuel sources for plastics (corn starch, etc), more so reduce unnecessary plastic use and invest in ways of recycling the plastics we can’t live without.
We have the responsibility to innovate and rethink the design and use of plastic, without creating huge landfills in developing countries or monstrous plastic islands in our oceans.
Convention, B. (2019). Overview. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from http://www.basel.int/Implementation/Plasticwastes/Overview/tabid/6068/Default.aspx
Endangered Species Conservation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/
‘Not a dustbin’: Cambodia to send plastic waste back to the US and Canada. (2019, July 17). Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/17/cambodia-plastic-waste-us-canada-send-back
Environmentalist Education in Schools
Designing environmentalist lessons for children in schools today is indeed designing for the future as well.
Various research has been done to proof that the alienation of children from nature is harmful to their wellbeing. But it is important to look at research that has been done to provide possibilities and opportunities for children to experience nature and rebuild their seemingly lost connection.
Connections between Experiences and Attitudes
A research paper examines connections between childhood involvement with the natural environment and adult environmentalism from a life course perspective. Approximately 2,000 adults’ age 18-90 living in urban areas throughout the United States were interviewed. They answered questions with respect to their childhood nature experiences and their current, adult attitudes and behaviours relating to the environment. Childhood participation in “wild” nature such as hiking or playing in the woods, camping, and hunting or fishing, as well as with “domesticated” nature such as picking flowers or produce, planting trees or seeds, and caring for plants in childhood have a specifically positive impact.
The pedagogical need for implementing these theories into practice is a challenge for teachers around the world. With relevance across the disciplines, sustainability presents a valuable paradigm for rethinking pedagogy.
Beth Conklin, Vanderbilt University Professor of Anthropology, offers various suggestions for teaching about environmentalism.
One of them is to make sure to involve contributions from a wide variety of disciplines throughout the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. This may be daunting for students and educators alike since it often requires us to think outside of our intellectual expertise. Doing interdisciplinary well can be a challenge, but it becomes easier with effective use of resources on one’s campus community and beyond, such as team teaching with a colleague from a different discipline or department, organizing guest lecturers, or bringing in guest speakers from the local community. Mostly, it requires a courage to step out of one’s comfort zone and explore topics that will enrich the learning experience and that will stimulate to think in new ways, for students and teachers.
Outside Play in Nature
Playing in nature is an educational tool, which supports children’s development on various levels (physical, emotional, social, mental), their problem-solving skills and creativity. Hence, it is important to provide students with play as means of learning, collaborating and developing. It teaches them to interact with each other in a relaxed and fun way, equally enhancing their learning experience immensely.
Another interdisciplinary teaching can be as simple as to care for animals at school. Children will learn how to be responsible through feeding and helping to maintain the habitats of the animals. Implementing a school farm will teach children conservation, environmental education, and organic gardening all through one project.
ACTIVITY IDEAS for teachers & schools
- plant plants (beans, sunflowers, chestnut, etc.) and garden (tomatoes, herbs, spices, sprouts, strawberries, etc.)
- small animals (ants, butterflies, etc.) or bacteria, fungi (mushrooms)
- create zero waste products (soap, plant-based milk, shampoo-bars, etc.)
Gelsthorpe, J. (2017). Disconnect from nature and its effect on health and Well-being: a public engagement literature review. Natural History Museum, London.
Louv, R. (2019, October 15). “WHAT IS NATURE DEFICIT-DISORDER?”. Retrieved from http://richardlouv.com/blog/what-is-nature-deficit-disorder/
Lovelady, D. M. (n.d.). Environmentalism. Retrieved January 15, 2020, from https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/environmentalism
Pilgrim, S., & Pretty, J. N. (Eds.). (2010). Nature and culture: rebuilding lost connections. Earthscan.
Wells, N. M., & Lekies, K. S. (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children Youth and Environments, 16(1), 1-24.