Julie Jeong / Hanalani Schools 11th Grade
News about the increasingly negative impacts of the fast fashion industry has already emerged. As I continued to learn more about fast fashion, I took a look at my life and the role clothes played in it. My private school requires uniforms. I’ve continued to wear the same three shirts since 6th grade, but I’ve had to purchase new shorts a few times. Though the amount may seem small, clothes have a bigger impact on the environment than one may imagine.
The fashion industry is the 2nd largest polluter in the world, behind big oil. This is no surprise considering it produces about 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, according to The Business Insider. According to WWF, 2,700 liters of water are required to produce one t-shirt. Simply put, the uniform mandate commonly seen among private schools is harmful from an environmental viewpoint. Although school uniforms may not be labeled as “fast fashion,” it is just as detrimental.
The main problem is the production of clothing, not the purchasing of clothes itself. The process of producing a single shirt is polluting. When analyzing clothing made of a pure-cotton blend, we find that the production process is quite water-intensive. The production of cotton garments also includes the use of pesticides and other chemicals, which often leak into the poorly regulated wastewater. Via Greenpeace, several toxins are found in most textile factory wastewaters, prompting an alarming danger to both aquatic and human life. Other types of clothing made of synthetic fibers or a blend of cotton and synthetic material, are not as water-intensive, but require immense amounts of water nonetheless. The biggest issue with synthetic fibers is the microplastics that escape during washes. According to a report by Francesca De Falco, Emilia Di Pace, Mariacristina Cocca, and Maurizio Avella, microfibres released during washing ranged anywhere from 124 to 208 mg for every kilogram of fabric, depending on the type of clothing. Microplastics, however small, significantly pollute large bodies of water, harming both aquatic and human life.
There are many ways in which uniforms harm the environment; the two I have mentioned are simply examples of the myriad of ways the fashion industry pollutes the earth. Some may argue “uniforms help to improve the school climate,” but do its benefits outweigh the environmental cost, especially when these clothes are going to be discarded after a few years? I asked my peers, Kaydie Isaacs and Leigh Carr, about their opinions. They both agreed that while uniforms may help the school climate by eliminating distractions and creating a sense of solidarity, the environmental effects must be re-evaluated. Leigh suggested schools implement recycling programs to reduce the amount of clothes that would likely end up in landfills. Should schools completely abandon the use of uniforms? I say yes, and I urge you to say yes as well. For the sake of future generations and the environment that freely offers its services, what reason is there to not consider our actions and their consequences?
<Julie Jeong / Hanalani Schools 11th Grade