Fashion for the Earth

Fast Fashion: Why governments need to take action

The term fast fashion has been coined to describe the rapid production of inexpensive clothing by mass-market retailers. The approach used to design, manufacture, and market these fashion trends revolves around making the garments as quickly and cheaply as possible. Fast fashion appeals to customers who want to get their hands on up-to-the minute trends. Despite the accessibility to evolving trends, fast fashion comes at an enormous environmental price. 

Apparel and footwear are responsible for a massive part of the climate crisis, occupying nearly 9% of the world’s global greenhouse gas footprint, conservatively more than France, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined. Currently, there are no legally binding environmental standards enacted through government regulation. Left unregulated, the industry will be responsible for more than 25% of the world’s global carbon budget by 2050.

The industry produces 100 billion garments a year for 7 billion people and almost all of it (87%) will end up in a landfill or an incinerator. The production of synthetic textiles (60% of our clothing) is responsible for 35% of all ocean microplastics that are now in our own food chain.  It contributes 20% of all industrial wastewater and pollutes freshwater systems from the use of toxic chemicals, dyes, and heavy metals that harm the environment and people.  

Accountability and systemic change are crucial in reducing the irreversible footprint this industry is making on our planet. It can be argued that responsibility for these problems lies in the hands of the brands and of the consumers. However, there is one last seat at the table of responsibility for fashion, one that up until now has made no meaningful attempt to change the industry but has all the power to do so: governments.

On January 7th, 2022, The New Standard Institute – backed by a coalition that included EARTHDAY.ORG – announced The Fashion Act, a groundbreaking new bill introduced by legislators in the New York State Senate and House of Representatives. The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act addresses the social and environmental toll taken by the industry. By requiring mandatory due diligence, companies will be required to actively engage in improving standards in their supply chain. Under the bill, all apparel and footwear retailers with global revenue of at least $100 million selling its products in New York State would be required to map their supply chains, disclose environmental and social impacts, and set binding targets to reduce those impacts. Impact reductions include mandatory science-based targets, ensuring the fashion industry operates within the bounds of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Creating a sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry is an important but complex challenge for government, industry, and the public. We must seize this moment by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. Kathleen Rogers, president of EARTHDAY.ORG, states: “The fashion industry has a massive impact on our planet. It has faced virtually no regulation, which has tipped off a race to the bottom where the companies with the least regard for the environment and for people have the greatest competitive edge. This needs to end. New York is the fashion capital of the United States. It needs to support its own industry by ending the race to the bottom. We call on our legislators to act on fashion and pass the Fashion Act.”

Overall, the fashion industry ultimately thrives on innovation and newness, but with the overproduction and overconsumption that characterize fast fashion, regulation needs to be established to reduce the devastating environmental impact. 

Sign our petition to show your support to enact legislation that will hold the fashion industry responsible for their actions here: Show Your Support: The Fashion Industry Must Change (