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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Alamy Stock Photo Fast fashion is being blamed for increased textile waste accumulating in garbage dumps across most countries in the global south

Opinion The impact of fast fashion on climate is undeniable and Black Friday makes it worse

Labour senator Rebecca Moynihan says it’s time to turn your back on Black Friday and fast fashion.

FAST FASHION, DRIVEN by its insatiable quest for profits, perpetuates a cycle of exploitation and environmental degradation. While we will all love a bargain, it is worth buying consciously this Black Friday so our planet isn’t paying the consequences of the insatiable growth mindset of the fashion industry.

‘Fast fashion’, is the term used to describe the rapid production and consumption of clothing, which comes at the expense of garment workers, consumers and the environment. The fast fashion industry has grown exponentially over the last decade, meaning that we all pay more as the clothes we buy are not designed to last anymore, but rather are made in such a way that we need to replace them more frequently.

The production of fast fashion clothing requires a significant amount of resources. It also generates a large amount of waste, both in the form of unsold clothing and discarded garments. We know the fashion industry is the second largest polluter of water in the world, and it is responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions, more than aviation and shipping combined.

This is before we even mention the garment workers and the abhorrent conditions in which many of them work. We know the industry has been linked to murky supply chains, poverty wages and sweatshops.

Money talks

All the while, the profits of fast-fashion companies have soared. With revenue in the billions, Zara, Uniqlo, H&M Group and Shein are leading the pack.

While we all love a bargain, we also need to make sure that these highly profitable companies either change their business model and pay for the social costs they impose on the rest of us.

As a start, government and industry could support the development of repair services and other circular economy initiatives by providing financial incentives to consumers. For example, we could look to the French example, where local authorities will pay a bonus to encourage people to have their clothes and shoes repaired rather than throwing them away. Consumers will be able to claim €7 for mending a heel and €10 to €25 for clothing repairs.

Another way to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry is to encourage consumers to buy pre-loved clothing. One example of a successful circular economy initiative is Change Clothes Crumlin, a community-based clothing reuse hub in Dublin.

Change Clothes Crumlin provides a free clothing swap service, as well as workshops on how to repair and recycle clothes. This type of initiative could be replicated in other communities around the country with support from Government.

The fast fashion industry’s detrimental impacts are undeniable, and the impending Black Friday frenzy only serves to exacerbate these issues. We need to reset our relationship with our clothes. We need to re-learn useful mending skills, to generate affordable, sustainable clothing solutions, and finally, to reduce the amount of clothing going to landfill. But we need to lead on this because the fast fashion industry never will, as long as their profits continue to soar by exploiting workers and our planet.

Rebecca Moynihan is a Labour senator. 

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