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Environmental impact of “fast fashion” raises concerns globally and on campus
Sustainable Souls executive board members hold clothing exchanges every month on campus. From left to right: Stephanie Uviovo, Mahleah Richardson-Murray, Brandon Andrade, Jane Osowski and Kyle Dalie. Photo by Maya Washburn.

Environmental impact of “fast fashion” raises concerns globally and on campus

Cheap duds are likewise a dud for the planet

November 18, 2022 at 11:18am

The $20 designer knockoff you donned once and then threw away. The flimsy tee you knew wouldn't last but bought for its Instagram-worthy phrase.

Such "fast fashions" — inexpensive, poor-quality clothing often meant for a single wearing and manufactured for near-overnight delivery to stores — means big trouble for all of us.

So say an FIU professor and a growing number of students. The cost is there, they explain: in the carbon emitted in making and shipping the often-synthetic (not natural-fiber) items, in the waste created as they are quickly discarded and in the social injustice inherent in the low wages paid to workers, mostly overseas, to turn out the trendy threads that entice impulse purchases. 

The movement away from fast fashion and toward sustainable clothing is gaining traction on campus with clothing exchanges, a new sustainability hub and professors raising awareness of the issue in class.

Jesse Blanchard, an environmental science professor, teaches about the dangers of fast fashion, calling it one of the biggest environmental offenders out there.

“When you wear clothing once and throw it out, it becomes a solid waste issue that we currently have no real solution for. We just pile it up and that's pretty much it,” Blanchard said, while himself wearing a sport coat made of recylced plastic bottles.

The apparel industry is known as one of the worst polluting industries, generating a massive amount of greenhouse gases and making up 10 percent of all carbon emissions every year.

But Blanchard looks to the future with hope and thinks that things are moving in the right direction toward reducing fast fashion emissions with the latest wave of awareness and advocacy from young people.

“The middle economic class in the United States is the most powerful consumer in the world, and our students are part of that,” Blanchard said. “If they make a decision about something that needs to happen, it's going to happen. It's just a matter of, can they can be loud enough to make it happen?”


Genevieve Lafrinere and Natalie Concepcion teamed up with other students to launch the Panther Sustainability Hub as part of a fellowship that promotes positive change on campus. The hub is located on the northwest side of MMC near the 112th Ave. and 8th Street entrance, across from the Ziff Education Building.

Concepcion and Lafinere were particularly interested in decreasing the clothing waste among students, so they opened a closet at the hub.

“The closet is basically like a thrift store on campus,” said Lafrinere, who studies marine biology. “We accept donations of clothes, shoes or accessories from anyone.”

Students, faculty and staff are welcome to donate or take clothes from the closet, absolutely free of charge. The hub is open for a few hours every weekday.

“We don’t have any restrictions on the closet because not everyone has something to give,” said Concepcion, who studies political science. “You can take what you need.” 

They started the closet to encourage students to change their clothing shopping habits.

“I feel like I see lot of people who are not aware of this issue, especially college students,” Concepcion said. “If we can educate people about this more, that's a win for me.”

Another student group on campus, the Society of Sustainable Souls, hosts clothing exchanges in the Green Library breezeway every month to spread awareness and give second lives to used clothes. For every donated item, a student can choose from those on offer.

“I want to be a part of the change towards sustainability,” said Stephanie Uviovo, vice president and secretary of the club. “I personally study international relations, so I'm all about sustainable development. I want to be able to develop the environment and make a long-lasting important impact in any society or community I find myself in.”