The other day I watched the documentary “The True Cost,” which talks about the ethics behind the global fashion industry and the environmental consequences, which inspired me to write my first post dedicated to this topic where I focused more on the psychology behind shopping and how we got to where we are now.
Now that I’ve had some time to come up with an organized post and found a wave of motivation to put the facts and research together, I present to you my first actual post regarding ethical fashion and how the fashion industry is quickly killing the planet.
I’m not going to summarize the entire documentary because that would deter people from watching it, so, go watch it! It’s on Netflix and it will leave your mind swirling.
There are many different alarming components behind the fast fashion industry. I am going to focus on two of them.
The first concern is the lack of respect for human decency when it comes to the global fashion industry. When you’re a person that can afford to buy new clothes, you don’t think of where they come from. You never consider how you’re able to find some clothing items for super cheap “great deals” and on sale etc. You’re only concerned with getting a nice piece of clothing for dirt cheap. What you don’t give is a single thought to the fact that every single clothing item has been touched by someone else’s hands. It could be brand new, but someone made it. Clothing is an area where we still need people to make it happen.
All of the major retail companies locate their factories in third-world countries where they can make the clothing for as cheap as possible, disregarding the welfare and lives of the workers who make them. When they need to sell an item at a cheaper price, they offer the factory two options. One, you make it for a cheaper price, or two, we’ll find someone else who will. Factory owners are concerned with their own profit, and not what they have to pay their workers. So, garment workers are paid even less.
The documentary focuses primarily on the garment factory workers in Bangladesh, which is a major hot-spot for “big brand” clothing factories. I don’t remember the exact wage, but the people who work tireless hours making our clothes are paid so little that if you heard it it would make your mouth drop, I swear.
Their wages are by no means able to sustain adequate living, and this economically traps a third-world country further into its third-world country title.
There is an argument that even though factory workers are paid painfully small wages that can’t support anything, it is still economically beneficial to the country because of the intense first-world interest, and the fact that the majority of garment-factory workers would not have jobs otherwise. I can’t explain economics well enough to go into detail with this, but basically, who cares about whether or not our people can get out of poverty when the factories are making money for the country?
While I see how this argument can be supported, there just has to be a better way. First-world countries have the money to pay the factories higher amounts so that the people that slave away at our clothes can make livable wages, but corruption and consumerism are taking away from human ethics.
Fun Fact: Until about 1960, 90% of American clothing was made in America. Now, 97% of clothing in America is made elsewhere. Crazy.
The other concern that the global fashion industry doesn’t seem to care about is that clothing is helping to destroy Earth! Fashion is the second largest polluter behind oil. What???
The world consumes 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, and only 15% of donated clothing actually ends up being sold. So, where does it go? (source)
Well, either to landfills where it takes an extreme amount of time to even come close to decomposing, or it’s shipped in big boxes to markets in developing countries where it then kills the local industries.
Think of all of the clothing that you have thrown away or donated in your life. Take that and imagine it just sitting in a landfill somewhere. What a big fat waste! Your money, equating essentially to garbage.
But of course, we just need to buy new clothes all of the time for the lowest prices we can find for each new season and it goes on.
Clothes polluting the earth, who knew?
I challenge you to really think about the next item of clothing that you throw out or buy. Is it worth it?
To bring some positivity into this post, I’m now going to talk about Everlane, which is a super rad clothing company that truly cares about where their clothing comes from, and makes sure that you do, too. You can look at all of the factories that they source their clothes from, see the production costs of every item, and know that they truly care about what they’re selling. “Radical Transparency,” as they say.
After watching the documentary, my first thought was, “Wow, I need to replace my entire closet with ethically sustainable clothes.” Specifically Everlane because so far that was my favorite ethical brand, but then I though to myself? Did I learn anything? Replacing my closet with all new clothing completely defeats the purpose of trying to be more ethically sustainable in regards to fashion because most of it would go to waste. What I should do is make use of what I have, and if I want new clothing, then I should shop somewhere like Everlane.
(Everlane clothing is timelessly classic and fashionable, but I will say that their clothing is a little boring for my taste. I’m still embracing being able to dress like a teenager while I can. But I definitely see myself buying more from them in the future.)
After roaming through the website and seeing Everlane all over social media, I ran into their t-shirts, which are super cool. I had been looking for new t-shirts, and when I found t-shirts that supported things that I cared about, I was sold.
These two t’s are from the 100% Human Campaign, which is awesome.
The first one I bought, the Human Pride Unisex Crew in Double Print, donated some of my purchase to the Human Rights Campaign, which is America’s largest civil rights organization working to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community. I bought this shirt because I liked how it looks (unimportant in the grand scheme of things) and firmly believe that EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE should be able to love whoever the frick they want to love because it’s their choice and no one else’s and we should just be able to be accepting and peacefully coexist, ya know?
The second shirt I bought, the Human Woman Box-Cut Tee in Large Print, supports and donated $5 to Equality Now, which really hits home because gender shouldn’t be something that causes inequality and I don’t understand why this is still and issue we’re all HUMAN and should all be EQUAL and the longer I spend writing this the more I understand the 100% Human Campaign. (also #girlpower)
BONUS-the package came with stickers and a pin, so you know I’ll be a returning customer the next time that I need some clothes.
To wrap this up, watch the documentary, think more about where your clothes come from and where they end up, and consider transitioning into buying clothes from more ethical brands.