The Cost of Fast Fashion

As I mentioned in my last post, fast fashion is out. It leads to millions of tons of clothing being manufactured at unsustainable rates, taking it’s toll of the environment, factory workers, and our closets. It creates an impulsive need to stay on top of the trends and always buy more. It means we are filling our closets with low quality items that we see as disposable and ultimately end up in landfills or back in the third world country that they originally came from.

There is a lot of information out there about the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment, the workers, and the communities in which they are being produced. So instead of overloading you with enough facts and statistics to fill a book (those already exist - check out this one and this one), I’m going to keep this simple and share some of the most personally staggering statistics I’ve learned on this journey so far (all quotes from The True Cost documentary).

  • In the 1960s, 95% of clothes were made in America. Now 3% is. 97% is outsourced to developing countries.” That number is staggering. This just reaffirms the need to buy and support local! 
  • The average American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste a year, adding up to over 11 million tons of textile waste from the US alone.  Most is non-biodegradable, which means it sits in landfills for over 200 years, emitting harmful gasses into the air.” 82 pounds of waste? From clothing? Per person?? Avoid being part of the problem by shopping with more intention. Really think about each item. Do you really love it? Or will it be added to your 82 pounds of waste next year?
  • Only 10 % of donated clothes are sold in thrift stores. The rest is shipped off to third world countries, like Haiti, where the castoffs could conceivably end up being worn by the very people who made them.” These second hand pieces aren’t being given away for free. They are being sold (at prices that are still difficult to afford). This has also dramatically effected the local textile industry, which is now disappearing because of the flooding of second hand clothing. These economies are no longer importing garments because most of the workers are selling our used clothing. 
  • Fashion today is the number 2 most polluting industry on earth. Second only to the oil industry.” Our disposable habits are destroying the environment. Period.

These facts do a damn good job of showing how our wastefulness effects our environment. But what about the people creating the clothes? They - and the communities in which they live - are the ones who are effected in real time, every single day. Clothing is not made in a factory by machines. Clothing is made by people. Men and women who are literally dying because of the overconsumption of first world countries.

  • In 2013, the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh killed over 1000 workers - workers who had called attention to the failing infrastructure of the building, but because of the lack of rights, fair wages, and labor laws, their concerns were ignored.
  • Workers in Bangladesh - where most of our clothing is made - get paid the lowest minimum wage in the world, making less than $50 a month. So the people with the worst working conditions anywhere in the world are making the least amount of money. Making our clothes. 
  • The toxic chemicals used to produce are clothes are skyrocketing the rate of cancer and other health related issues in the areas making our clothes. Children, surrounded by the toxicity, are effected and are getting sick and dying. And guess what? Those toxins also get absorbed into the people who end up wearing the clothes - people like you and me.

To sum it all up: “The price of clothing has gone down, but the cost has gone up.” Our addiction to overconsumption and fast fashion is costing us so much more than the $9.99 Forever21 top.

So you're probably thinking now what?? Where do I shop? Can I shop? How to I get the most value out of my wardrobe? Can I shop ethically on a budget?

It's unlikely that most of you are going to give up shopping. And it's even unlikely that most of you will give up fast fashion. But there are smarter ways to do it, ways that can work for everyone, regardless of your budget or stance on ethical fashion. So stay tuned as I share ways to shop with intention.

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