A 101 of how fast fashion is impacting the planet

(Image credit: 2019 Edward Berthelot)

A recent study revealed that we're over fast fashion, but whilst we know a sustainable approach to everyday life, including your wardrobe, is the way forward, not many of us know the exact impact cheap clothes can have on the planet.

So Oxfam decided to shed a little light, and as you might've guessed, it's quite terrifying. New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times, and it's believed that more than two tonnes of clothing are bought each minute in the UK.

That produces nearly 50 tonnes of carbon emissions - the same as driving 162,000 miles in a car. To put that into perspective, emissions from clothes bought in the UK every second are equivalent to driving a car from London to the Costa del Sol and back, and per hour this equates to driving around the world 360 times.

As an example, buying a 100% white cotton shirt produces the same amount emissions as driving a car for 35 miles, which amounts to 10.75kg of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

That's because an item of clothing could travel 21748 miles - from a cotton field in the U.S, to production units in Bangladesh, to the shipment of the product to Germany and finally to the customer.

The study was commissioned by Oxfam for its Second Hand September campaign, where consumers pledge not to buy anything new for the whole month. Each week, 11 million garments end up in landfill in the UK.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam’s Chief Executive said: 'We are in a climate emergency - we can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work. As consumers, it’s in our power to make a real difference. Buying second-hand clothes helps to slow the ferocious fast fashion cycle, giving garments a second lease of life.'

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.