Why your back-to-school outfit could be bad for the planet

Saara Chaudry
Story by Saara Chaudry and CBC Kids News • 2019-08-26 15:29

Trendy, disposable clothes are filling up landfills

For many of us, the end of August means it’s time to buy that perfect back-to-school outfit.

With stores like H&M and Forever 21 offering trendy clothes at low prices, it's easy to think that updating your style is as simple as throwing away your old outfits and buying new ones.

But that simple action can have serious consequences.

Fashion is already one of the most polluting industries on the planet.

And the rise of fast fashion has only made the problem worse.

Fast fashion is the concept of quickly taking runway looks and putting them in stores at very affordable prices.

The clothes are cheap, trendy and are only worn a few times and then thrown away.

Fast fashion by the numbers

People are buying 60 per cent more clothing than they did 20 years ago, and they’re only wearing these items for half as long.

Amount of clothing being bought per year. Image shows stack of 10 t-shirts labelled 1999 and stack of 16 t-shirts labelled 2019. CREDIT: Fashion Takes Action

The average Canadian throws away 37 kilograms of clothing a year. That’s about the same weight as a German Shepherd.

Weight of clothing each Canadian throws out in a year. Garbage bag equals big dog. Both weighing 37 kg. Credit: Recycling Council of Ontario.


Global clothing sales are estimated to triple by 2050, which means fashion could take up 25 per cent of the world’s carbon budget.

The carbon budget is the amount of carbon we can emit and still have a chance of meeting our climate change goals.

Portion of world's carbon budget used up by fashion. Earth cut into four slices, one is coloured red. Credit: World Resources Institute.

Possible solutions?

Buy less, buy used, reuse or re-purpose!

Turn those ripped jeans into a sweet pair of jean shorts.

And push clothing companies and city governments to do a better job of recycling clothing.

Watch the video at the top of the page to learn more.

Get your class on the same page, add this to
Google Classroom

About the Contributor

Saara Chaudry
Saara Chaudry
CBC Kids News Contributor
Saara is passionate about having a positive impact on the world, whether it's within her community, on the big screen, or in her role as a CBC Kids News contributor. The Grade 12 student from Toronto played Little Cosette in Les Miserables, Howie on Max & Shred, Dana's older sister on Dino Dana, and Martina Crowe on The Mysterious Benedict Society. Outside of film and media, Saara is an award-winning international debater and public speaker. She is the current Ontario Debate and Public Speaking Champion. She is also a vociferous advocate for gender and racial equality, as well as girls' education. Saara was recently appointed a UNICEF Canada Youth Advocate in 2020.

Was this story worth reading?