Lecture Practice 2

Task 8

Main ideasWrite notes in each section
Lecture Outline

What is fast


Negative Effects


Polyester and
other synthetic





Key vocabulary

  1. Phenomenon.
  2. An impact.
  3. Chic.
  4. Big chain clothes companies / stores (Zara, H&M).
  5. To be worn, to be discarded, to be traced back to. 
  6. To differentiate.
  7. Fabric, garment. 
  8. To outsource. 
  9. A trend, trendy.
  10. Unjust labour practices, inhumane working conditions.
  11. Cotton, polyester, synthetic fibres.
  12. Microplastics.
  13. To launder/laundering clothes.
  14. Toxic chemicals: cadmium, lead and mercury.
  15. Dyeing processes.
  16. Untreated wastewater.
  17. To contaminate waterways.
  18. CO2 emissions, carbon footprint.
  19. To spin and weave fabric.
  20. Greenpeace (a charity).
  21. To throw away, to recycle, to burn, to dump in landfill.
  22. A rubbish truck.
  23. The circular economy.
  24. Production and consumption cycle.
  25. To cost the Earth (idiom).

Fast Fashion Lecture

TRANSCRIPT: Hello. In today’s lecture we’ll be talking about the global phenomenon of fast fashion, and how it has impacted our planet. We’ll start by looking at what led to the dramatic rise of fast fashion, and then look at the major environmental effects it has had, and continues to have, on the world around us. 

So, first of all, what is fast fashion? It’s a term used to describe the cheap, chic clothes available in the big clothing stores like Zara and H&M. These clothes are inexpensive and fashionable, but not made of very high-quality materials. Essentially, they are made to be worn a few times then discarded to make room in your wardrobe for the next most fashionable thing. 

You may think of this as a modern phenomenon, and it is, but its roots can be traced to the 1960s. According to Dr. Elizabeth Moreno, buying cheaper clothes was, back then, a way to be part of the youth movement and differentiate yourself from the establishment. In the 1970s, a lot of manufacturing of both fabric and clothes was outsourced to developing countries, which further reduced prices. Of course, it was in the 1990s that the big chain stores like Zara became international fixtures, and the 1990s also brought a major revolution in shopping: the internet.  Buying cheap clothes became faster and easier than ever, and this trend has continued until today. 

Great. So, you can afford to buy all the clothes you want, and then throw them away and buy newer, cooler clothes anytime. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. This trend has had extremely negative effects in a number of different contexts. Unjust labour practices and inhumane working conditions are very serious problems connected to fast fashion, but today I want to concentrate on the most significant issue concerning fast fashion: the extreme negative impacts on the environment.

So, it’s important to state that fast fashion is in the top five most polluting industries in the world. I’ll begin by looking at problems arising from the materials used to create fast fashion. According to an article by Sandin and Peters (2018), 63% of this clothing is made from polyester and other synthetic materials; essentially these materials are derived from oil products. Not only manufacturing them produces a very large amount of CO2 but laundering synthetic fibres has created 35% of the microplastics in the world’s oceans.  A Plymouth university researcher has found that these microplastics are in turn working their way back into the human food chain through the consumption of marine life, slowly poisoning us all with microplastic toxins such as cadmium, lead and mercury. 

ok, so moving on to cotton production. 24% of fast fashion garments are made from cotton, but while this is a natural fibre, there are still significant environmental problems. For example, cotton requires an enormous amount of water to grow. On average 1.5 trillion litres per year and to break this down to an individual item, one cotton t-shirt needs 2700 litres of water to produce which is equivalent to enough drinking water for 1 person for nearly 3 years. It is important to point out here that in many places where these clothes are made like India, 100s of thousands of people do not have access to drinking water. To make matters worse the harsh chemicals used in the production of garments and dyeing processes are often flushed untreated directly into rivers, contaminating waterways for local people.

The actual manufacturing of fast fashion has even more of an environmental impact on CO2 emissions. The machinery needed to spin, weave and create the fabric run on fossil fuels and are a major source of toxic emissions, predominately CO2. Moreover, the materials are grown or created in one place, moved to another to be turned into fabric, transported again to be made into clothes and then shipped around the world to actual stores, and all that transportation produces an enormous amount of CO2. Now according to Greenpeace (2020), the global emissions from fast fashion textile production per year are equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, a figure that outweighs the carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined, making the fast fashion industry the 2nd biggest CO2 polluter in the world.

The last major environmental impact is waste. We are making more clothes than ever before. Twice as many pieces of clothing were made in 2014 than in 2000, with more than 100 billion garments being manufactured in 2014. On average a person is now wearing a garment 7 times before replacing it. This results in a massive amount of waste. Some clothes are thrown away, and even clothes which are donated or recycled are unlikely to be worn. Instead, millions of tonnes of material is transported to developing countries where it may be used, or may become landfill, but because the material quality is so mixed, it is unlikely that they can be recycled. This is supported by Reuters News who reported that 85% of all fast fashion textiles go to landfill and on average a rubbish truck full of clothes is burnt or dumped in landfill every second.

So, if recycling isn’t a solution, and reuse is impossible due to the poor material quality of the clothes, what can we do to solve this problem? Well, the real answer is in each of our pockets. The only way to change this system is to actually stop buying fast fashion. I think now is the time that individually we need to be much more environmentally responsible for the products we buy and start supporting companies who follow the model of the circular economy. These companies are beginning to gain popularity as they take sustainable responsibility of the whole production and consumption cycle. In the future, we will see clothing products which involve sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling.So, let’s feel good about what we wear in acknowledgement that it hasn’t literally cost the Earth.

Thank you.

Written by C. Wilson (AEUK) / Spoken by S. Williams


Compare your notes with the model answer notes (ANSWERS)

  1. Did you identify most of the supporting ideas? What did you miss?
  2. Where could you have used more abbreviations and symbols?
  3. What do you need to improve for next time?

Digital Documents

Complete Lesson 2 Booklet

Listening Transcripts