Fact: The fashion industry brings in $2.4 trillion a year.
Fact: The world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing a year.
Fact: Apparel manufacturers are the number one source of water pollution.
Fact: The new sweater you buy every season contributes to 10% of carbon emissions.
Now that thrifting is trendy and the ‘wokest’ YouTubers discuss fast fashion, most people are aware that fashion retailers have been getting away with murder for years. However, that minimal guilt doesn’t seem to sway students from buying a new dress for semi-formal each year or purchasing the trendiest white sneakers for that particular month that require weekly bleaching.
The pair of shorts bought by a WCI student for $50.00 was made for $00.50 by a third world child in a sweatshop. In fact, the Colombian mines, Bangladeshi factories, and Vietnamese textile mills pay less than 2% of their workers a living wage. The exploitation of these people who have never known any improved quality of life includes exposing them to lead dyes and many other toxic chemicals including pesticides which results in the workers (the majority being children) suffering from symptoms ranging from a lack of coordination to respiratory diseases to seizures.
The lust to stay in trend can make one feel very glamorous, however, when the glamour is covered in pesticides and lead salts used on mass-produced cotton; everyone needs to check their constant desire for more and start making more conscious decisions. Many WCI students work in retail and as individuals who constantly watch these processes unfold, they have something to say.
One individual who is a Winner’s employee mentioned that they receive shipments of clothing every few days, so much so that their racks overflow – the clothes aren’t even purchased. The employee who is surrounded by this abundance every day actually prefers to do her shopping at thrift stores. Thrifting is incredibly sustainable; buying second hand has next to no ecological footprint. Note that the outfits shown in this article were bought completely second hand.
Another WCI student, when questioned on the impacts of fast fashion, reasoned that they couldn’t find what they wanted at used shops and would probably continue to shop commercially as they were just one person and probably wouldn’t make a very big difference. WRONG. Not only are there ways to shop sustainably without buying second hand, but every person who consciously decides to make a change can sway the opinions of others and hopefully make a change. Some popular ethical labels are as follows:
- Levis uses 96% less water to make their jeans compared to other companies.
- Alternative Apparel, a brand which focuses on using organic cotton and recycled materials.
- Pact, a company which is certified organic and Fair Trade. This means they meet a certain standard in terms of wages and other conditions for third-world workers.
- For luxury wear, Eileen Fisher makes clothes which account for the entire life cycle of the piece of clothing and the company even buys back it’s own gently worn clothing to sell at a discounted price.
- Patagonia and Columbia are good options for athletic wear.
- Reformation, maybe the most popular sustainable fashion label calculates the environmental footprint of each garment taking into account factors such as water usage and carbon emissions.
Wow! Good job, you read this entire depressing article. Now that you are (hopefully) a little panicked, here are some things you can do:
- Buy pieces that are good-quality and timeless
- Educate yourself on the brands that you are buying from to make sure that they are ethical.
- Shop locally to reduce the carbon footprint of your purchases.
- Bring your own reusable bag and say no to additional packaging
- Treat items with care; wash them less to prevent fabrics from fading and stretching out of shape.