The current consumer culture in the United States has perpetuated a system that allows for the destruction and depletion of our planet as well as the exploitation of workers in underdeveloped countries. This is both an environmental and humanitarian crisis, and one of the biggest causes is found within the fashion industry.
The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters and, according to UN Environment, the fashion industry alone is liable for 8% of carbon emissions. On top of this, there are roughly 60 million clothing and textile workers in the world, and 98% of them do not earn livable wages. It is crucial that consumers are not careless; the origins of our clothing matter. This is why everyone needs to begin to shop sustainably. Shopping sustainably includes shopping from ethical brands, as well as buying secondhand clothing, or thrifting.
When an item is purchased from a chain store such as Forever 21, more money is being drawn into a system that exploits textile workers. It is easy to buy a t-shirt that says, “Girl power” or “Feminist” and believe in those sayings. Yet, ironically enough, many of the countries those items were exported from do not even pay the majority of their female workers a livable wage. Some women are not even paid at all, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign.
When you shop sustainably, you are supporting systems that are ethical. Sustainable fashion brands use materials that are ethically made and sourced. Therefore, buyers can be confident that the makers of their clothing are paid livable wages and that the materials used for the clothing do not waste away but stand the test of time.
The most popular form of sustainable fashion, however, is secondhand shopping. It is far cheaper than buying directly from some brands. Thrifting gives a new life to old clothing that would have otherwise been thrown into a landfill. Only 15% of all consumer-purchased clothing is actually recycled (The Balance SMB). This means that 75% of the clothes purchased are sent straight to the trash, and you can imagine the environmental toll this creates. This is why it is crucial to shop secondhand, as well as donate/sell your used clothing.
When you shop sustainably and
secondhand, you begin to make a difference and aid in changing the way our clothes are made. It is true that large corporations are the ones to blame, but it is paramount consumers understand the impact they have on the fashion industry.
If we all begin to make the switch towards sustainable fashion, these large corporations will have to cater to us so that they can continue their cash flow. It is about being aware of the power our choices have and being more conscious of our decisions. If we succeed, we will create an environment where corrupt industries can no longer thrive in the way that they do today.
Written by Tori Waegele