With summer vacation being right around the corner, students are saving up money to buy their Pinterest-perfect outfits for the new season and ensuring that they will be able to match with Emma Chamberlain or Kim Kardashian on a budget. This focus on keeping up with fashion trends while shopping for new clothes is powering the phenomenon labeled “Fast fashion” and increasing the amount of waste that pollutes our oceans.
Fast fashion is engineered to produce high volumes of clothing that uses low-quality materials, in order to make inexpensive styles. The clothes fit right in with the teenager’s fast-paced lifestyle– allowing for them to buy low maintenance clothing online for a price that complements their highschool paychecks, and within a week be able to twin with their influencer role models.
But what major resources are being utilized so that these clothes can meet the needs of their hungry consumers? James Workman, a science teacher at DGS and the sponsor for DGS Earth Action Club, said that the answer to that question is clean water.
“Plastics are accumulating in the ocean and the reason for this is humans use plastics for a lot of things and plastics will break down into smaller pieces but do not fully decompose,” Workman said.
The microplastics are found due to the fact that a majority of the fast fashion brands use to make their clothing products are Synthetic fibers, such as Polyester.
“Polyester is a material that is technically plastic,” Workman said.
One of the topics Workman focuses on while explaining fast fashion to his students is how these fashion wastes are being consumed by aquatic life.
“We know and there is evidence that microplastic is found actually in the fish that are harvested for human consumption so we’re finding plastics actually in the fish that we are eating,” Workman said.
Hannah Workman, a current DGS senior who took AP environmental sciences her junior year, believes that the best way for her peers to help decrease the amount of fast fashion waste put into clean water is to watch what they are buying.
“I say be conscious about what you are buying. I always ask myself if before buying [a piece of clothing] do I really need a new shirt right now? How long will I wear it before it isn’t trendy anymore,” Workman said.
Carly Zubrycki, a DGS graduating senior, spoke on why she bought into the Fast fashion and why she stopped.
“I used to buy clothes from H&M and Forever 21 because that was where my friends were shopping [at] and I really liked the style of clothing,” Zubrycki said. “The [fast fashion brand made] clothes were affordable for me, but [I learned] the clothes don’t last that long so they will end up in landfills or other places like the ocean.”
While fast fashion’s advantages are enticing for young students’ paychecks and instagram, Workman thinks it’s important for students to remember that hazardous chemicals in the ocean are likely to become even more challenging as our clothing addiction increases.
“We don’t need hundreds of shirts, we don’t need hundreds of pairs of shoes, we do not need hundreds of pants. We really don’t need that. Essentially it’s a consumption problem,” Workman said.