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Fast Fashion Takes a Huge Toll on the Environment

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Keagan Henman / unsplash

New York, London, Milan, Paris: the fall fashion weeks are over, the newest trends have been declared. And the whole cycle will repeat in a few months, with the winter - and then spring - fashion shows.

The pace of change in clothing trends has picked up exponentially in recent years. The good news for style-conscious consumers on a budget is that high fashion has gotten a lot less expensive. The bad news is that fast fashion takes a huge toll on the environment. In fact, clothing manufacturing is one of the most polluting industries on the planet.

Growing the cotton necessary to make one t-shirt uses the same about of water that a person drinks in two and a half years. Cotton farming accounts for a quarter of all insecticides used globally. And dying and rinsing natural textiles accounts for a fifth of all water pollution globally.

And then, there’s the fact that much of the clothing we buy ends up in the trash.

In 2018, Americans buried 14 million tons of fabric in landfills.

Nik Anguelov is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy at UMass Dartmouth and the author of “The Dirty Side of the Garment Industry: Fast Fashion and Its Negative Impact on Environment and Society.”

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.