The clothes we wear say a lot about who we are. They tell our story. And while our story might seem amazing, the underbelly of the clothing industry begs to differ.
In a fast fashion world where the only important value is price, the environmental and social impacts of clothing are not only ignored, but also shrouded and concealed.
It’s only through massive outbursts that the public is made aware of the unfathomable wrongdoings within the industry. Take the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh or Nike’s past sweatshop disasters for example.
From a social standpoint, the industry is failing us greatly. Between the disillusioned marketing stigmas that we encounter on a daily basis and the maltreatment of garment workers worldwide, the only ones prevailing are the shareholders. We fall victim to the glamorous feeling that marketing convinces us we can attain through clothes, so we keep buying to find that feeling but instead find emptiness. Prices are kept low to keep us shopping, fueling our endless search for that feeling. As prices drop, increased pressure is placed on the shoulders of factory managers, which in turn carries over to the garment workers themselves as they are subjected to poor working conditions and lower wages.
It’s not only a social issue, the environment is suffering too. Our out of control shopping habits have inherently increased the demand for cotton, forcing farmers to rely on pesticide heavy practices to meet our impractical desires. It’s an issue with exponential consequences that impacts both the environment and us, as we are wearing the very chemicals that we try to avoid on a daily basis.
Tanneries contaminate local water sources by dumping dye runoff directly into rivers and streams, leading to sickness and disease among local populations.
‘Old’ clothes rot in landfills, eventually finding themselves in our oceans and natural landscapes.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you’re interested in learning more about it, check out the documentary – The True Cost. It’s really well done and extremely touching!
Enough about the depressing stuff, what can we do to clean up this mess?
Well, for starters, we can stop viewing fashion as a disposable product and only buy what we need. This by no means jeopardizes our ability to look fly, however it does put constraints on our closets. I live by the code of ‘buy 1, give 1’. That means that I can only buy an article of clothing if I give one that I currently have to the local secondhand shop. This keeps my closet small and really makes me think about whether or not I ‘need’ a new garment.
On top of that, buying organic clothing from fair trade brands and shopping at secondhand stores can make a big difference. Shopping at secondhand stores can be really fun too as you just never know what awesome gems you’re going to find! You also don’t have to feel remorseful about not liking something that you bought because you can just take it back if you really don’t like it, which will allow for someone else to enjoy it. It’s a win win.
Furthermore, research reasearch reasearch. Dig up some dirt about the clothing company before forking over your hard earned cash. And if the information is hard to find, shoot them an email about it.
Just remember, your clothes tell your story. Whether that be a story of sorrow or of a better tomorrow, you decide with what you buy.
Until next time, the Sustainable Guy out.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/glenscott/