When overwhelmed with the realities of climate change, it can be difficult to understand what the average person can do to reduce their carbon footprint. One major aspect of not only carbon emissions, but also human rights issues, is in the fast fashion industry. You can tackle this problem on an individual level―instead of purchasing new clothes from unethical fast fashion retailers, you can thrift clothes!
Research by the Bureau of International Recycling shows that rescuing 2 pounds of used clothing from dumps can help to save close to 8 pounds of carbon emissions. Conjointly, thrifted clothing is oftentimes more fashionable than fast fashion clothing items. Recently, mainstream media is incentivizing thrifting, providing a useful catalyst for a discussion on the necessity of fast fashion. When clothes are purchased second-hand and used to their maximum potential, this anti-consumerist mentality is furthermore sustainable. More use out of a single purchase can effectively save money and produce less waste.
From an ethical standpoint, fast fashion is damaging to workers. Sweatshops, which are often used to keep up with the fast paced nature of the fashion industry, often have poor working conditions, unfair wages, unreasonable hours, child labor, and a lack of benefits for workers. These awful practices disproportionately affect minority populations, people of lower socioeconomic status, and those who have intersecting identities who are often unable to find other jobs.
In an article documenting how sweatshops exploit immigrants to make cheap clothes, it is noted that well over the majority of workers in Los Angeles’ garment industry are immigrants―a statistic which was reported by the Bureau of Labor. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated 77 garment companies in the city and found that 85 percent of the time, they cheated their workers. Immigrants sewing clothes for popular retailers such as Forever 21, Macy’s, and Nordstrom claimed earning as little as $4.50 per hour.
At times, it is necessary to by new clothing items; however, it is important to do so both ethically and sustainably. We rarely purchase new clothing items; when we do, we shop at local thrift stores before giving chain thrift stores our business—never fast fashion. Valentine applies the price of clothing to the amount of use she will get out of it. Specifically, if a shirt is $10, she asks herself if she will wear it ten times. This holds herself accountable for her purchase and reduces her consumption.
If it is necessary to buy new clothes, rather than thrifting for items such as jeans, we ensure that the company takes environmental issues into account and practice fair labor. Everlane is one of these companies. They visit their factories often and ensure that fair wages, reasonable hours, and environmental factors are being taken into account. Their clothes are designed to last―disrupting consumer culture.
It is extremely important to take a stand and protest these practices. Thrifting clothes is not only beneficial from an environmental standpoint, but it also calls attention to labor violations that disproportionately affect marginalized groups when different options are pursued.