That $5 T-shirt you’re wearing may have been a great find for your wallet, but the impact of such thrifty threads is far-reaching. A globalization-fueled glut of cut-price clothing has inspired many consumers to think of their duds as disposable. It’s a phenomenon some are calling “fast fashion” — the apparel equivalent of fast food. Most fast fashionistas are oblivious to the downsides of the trend, including the energy-intensive, polluting process of creating synthetic fabrics; the fact that cotton fields are heavily water- and pesticide-dependent; the emissions implications of sourcing labor overseas; and the health effects on workers of processes such as blue-jean distressing. The average American throws away more than 68 pounds of clothing a year, and castoffs that aren’t tossed often end up in developing countries, where some worry they interfere with local textile economies. So think about keeping that T-shirt around for a while; after all, you wouldn’t want to be clothes-minded.

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