According to a recent story from Quartz, the rate at which fast fashion is produced, consumed, and disposed, is officially “an environmental and social emergency.”
While that might seem hyperbolic, it’s not. As the article notes, the $2.5 trillion fashion industry is “the second-largest user of water globally,” and “producing one cotton shirt requires 2,700 liters of water — the amount a person drinks in 2.5 years.”
And despite all that goes into making them, the shelf-life of those t-shirts is shorter than ever. “Today, the average shopper buys much more clothing than they did a few decades ago, but keeps items half as long,” the story says, contributing to “a cycle of clothing made fast and cheap, worn out fast, and then discarded fast.”
Further compounding things is unavoidable population growth. A report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) estimated that by 2030 “there will be 5.4 billion people in the global middle class, up from 3 billion in 2015… [which] will lead to an increased demand for clothes and other goods that define middle-income lifestyles.”
And if we’re still consuming clothing at the current pace, “there will be three times as many natural resources needed by 2050 compared to what was used in 2000.” (Basically, all the world’s water could be tied up in shirt production.)
But because fast fashion is an equal-opportunity environment vandal, the impact won’t just be limited to resource-squandering. “In a report released in February, ClimateWorks Foundation and Quantis… calculated that the apparel and footwear industries together account for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and unless something changes fast, apparel’s climate impact will increase 49% by 2030.”
An asteroid killed the dinosaurs, we could be undone by t-shirts.
You can read more about it at Quartz.