Nowadays, fast fashion is as popular and convenient as ever. However, fast fashion has constantly been correlated with a negative impact, but not many people talk about it. With a rise in Muslim fashion influencers, and the constant pressure to shop, it becomes difficult to be mindful of practicing sustainability when it comes to fashion. As Muslims, we are responsible for fulfilling sustainability but don’t know where to begin regarding fashion. So, let’s consider the pros and cons of fast fashion, how we can shop responsibly and reduce the negative impact.
What’s So Attractive about Fast Fashion?
The most attractive aspects of fast fashion include its affordability, the vast array of choices for all styles and tastes, and the immediate availability of the latest trends. However, this comes at an economic, environmental, and ethical cost. Understanding what this involves allows us to be better equipped to use our money and voices more wisely, resulting in a positive and long-term impact.
Perhaps one of the most concerning impacts involves the fast fashion industry’s environmental impact due to its reliance on mass production. These companies consume substantial amounts of raw materials, water, and non-renewable energy. For example, commonly used synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon cause microplastics to be released into the water systems as they are rinsed with tons of water. These microplastics can end up in oceans and rivers, negatively impacting aquatic life and potentially entering the food chain. Synthetic fibers such as polyester are also made using fossil fuels, exacerbating carbon emissions.
The cultivation and making of cotton clothing involve significantly more water, with an estimated 2700 liters of water used to make a single cotton t-shirt! The fashion industry is also responsible for polluting water sources through discharging contaminated wastewater, as it contains toxic chemicals from dyeing fabric, making their way into rivers, lakes, and groundwater, impacting both ecosystems and local communities. Production is also concentrated in countries such as China, Bangladesh, and India, where water supplies are already contaminated.
We are the Reason Fast Fashion is Thriving
In a nutshell, the fast fashion industry thrives off of inevitably wasteful processes. While some of these processes are necessary to create apparel, their overproduction creates various problems and results in a great deal of waste. However, there are many things we can do to reduce our impact, from using our dollars to encourage buying clothing made from recycled materials and supporting brands and products that utilize sustainable practices to raising awareness and petitioning popular brands and platforms to end unethical behavior.
The way we spend our money on products and services is, in essence, a portrayal of the kind of world we want. If we choose to spend money on things that are known to harm the environment then it is only fair that we are held accountable. It is time that we recognize that fast fashion industries are engaging in harmful practices because there is a demand for products. We are demanding a supply of excessive fast fashion items which is why businesses are supplying them and undoubtedly thriving as well.
What DOes the Quran Say?
Allah (SWT) encourages us to spend our money righteously and condemns wastefulness in forms such as hoarding and spending in excess:
“He is the One who produced gardens, trellised and un-trellised palm trees, vegetation of various tastes, olives, and pomegranate, similar and dissimilar. Eat from their fruits when it yields, and give its decreed right on the day of its harvest, and do not be excessive. Indeed, He does not like the excessive ones” (Quran 6:141.)
“Those who are miserly with what God has granted them of His favor should not think that it is good for them, but it is bad for them. They shall have their hoardings placed around their necks on the Day of Resurrection. To God belongs the inheritance of the heavens and the earth. God is All-Aware of what you do” (Quran 3:180.)
solutions to encourage sustainability
- Upcycling fabric through craft projects. For example, you can use scrap fabric to upholster furniture. There are plenty of crafty ideas on Pinterest!
- Donate your clothes to organizations such as Goodwill. H&M also offers the option of recycling your clothing!
- Ask others in your family or social network if they want to purchase your slightly worn clothes. You’d be surprised how many people will actually be interested!
All of these are great options to reduce the negative environmental impact. Not to mention that oftentimes donating clothes serves as a charity because you are taking something of value and giving it to a place that will benefit from it. Hopefully, sustainable fashion is something we can adapt in our everyday life and educate others who may not know the detrimental effects of it!