The environmental price of fast fashion
Review article, 2020

The fashion industry is facing increasing global scrutiny of its environmentally polluting supply chain operations. Despite the widely publicized environmental impacts, however, the industry continues to grow, in part due to the rise of fast fashion, which relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent consumption and short-lived garment use. In this Review, we identify the environmental impacts at critical points in the textile and fashion value chain, from production to consumption, focusing on water use, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions and textile waste. Impacts from the fashion industry include over 92 million tonnes of waste produced per year and 79 trillion litres of water consumed. On the basis of these environmental impacts, we outline the need for fundamental changes in the fashion business model, including a deceleration of manufacturing and the introduction of sustainable practices throughout the supply chain, as well a shift in consumer behaviour — namely, decreasing clothing purchases and increasing garment lifetimes. These changes stress the need for an urgent transition back to ‘slow’ fashion, minimizing and mitigating the detrimental environmental impacts, so as to improve the long-term sustainability of the fashion supply chain.


Kirsi Niinimaki

Aalto University

Gregory Peters

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Environmental Systems Analysis

Helena Dahlbo

Finnish Environment Institute

Patsy Perry

University of Manchester

Timo Rissanen

The New School

A Gwilt

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

Nature Reviews Earth and Environment

2662138X (eISSN)

Vol. 1 4 189-200

The Future of the Laundry

HSB Living Lab (HSB Living lab forskningsfond), 2017-03-02 -- 2019-02-28.

Technical and behavioural change for a more sustainable textile life cycle

Formas (2016-01089), 2017-01-01 -- 2020-12-31.

Energy efficiency and the textile-energy-greenhouse nexus

Chalmers, 2019-08-01 -- .


Electrolux Professional Laundry (Laundryresearch), 2017-03-01 -- 2019-02-28.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance



Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering

Environmental Management

Environmental Sciences



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