Fast costume fashion raises concerns over environmental impact

Experts in eco-friendly techniques say dyes, horrible fabrics constitute problems with last-minute dressup

MADDY BEAN, Evergreen reporter

With Halloween just around the corner, it seems like the time to finish browsing those Spirit Halloween stores for the newest, flashiest costume. Or maybe this year, it is better – or spookier – to shop at the nearest thrift store instead, as the environmental impacts of cheap Halloween costumes come to light.

The costumes seen in those convenient Halloween shops in plastic packaging are considered fast fashion, a term used to describe cheaply made clothing that is pumped quickly through stores based on trends. High production of this clothing has major impacts on the environment, some environmental experts say.

Kara Whitman, instructor in the School of the Environment, said she is concerned not only about the pollutants that will be released as all these costumes are made, but about how much water will be used and contaminated when they are made.

“It takes 700 gallons of water to make one shirt,” Whitman said. “Just think about WSU, and how many shirts we hand out all the time, how much water that will take.”

The dyes and pigments from the “horrible fabrics” are the problem, as they could potentially contaminate all that water, Whitman said.

Lindsey Schnelle, WSU senior and Environmental Science Club co-president, said she thinks more people should look to the thrift stores for their Halloween costumes. She is worried about the synthetic materials in these costumes, she said. Because they are made from fossil fuels and plastic, they emit heavy levels of greenhouse gases. With that, these synthetic materials take about 30 to 40 years to decompose in a landfill.

“Cheap products made in cheap ways,” Schnelle said. “Cheap products with no emotional attachment – you don’t care about it. So, you just throw it away … It’s crazy when you think about it. Price doesn’t reflect that, how much actually goes into making it, where it’s been.”

However, there are ways to help limit your part in the mass consumption of these temporary goods. Donating or shopping secondhand for higher quality and reusable products, or using what you already have to be creative, are great alternatives, Whitman said.

“I think some of the best costumes come from your own closet,” she said.

To learn more about fast fashion and what to do to be more conscientious, executive member of the Environmental Club Meagann Russell wrote a blog post on fast fashion, and how to be more sustainable. You can read it at, and be more green this Halloween!