It has certainly been a long time since I sat down to write a blog. Life has been crazy and I have been working my little buns off. However, as I recently described in my latest video, I have made some big life changes that will hopefully allow me to dedicate some more time back into both my YouTube channel and blogging.
Since I started this journey in 2013, I have worked hard to examine the products I use in my life and learn about the impact they have on my body and the planet. From make-up to household cleaners, I now pride myself on making pure, healthy, conscious, informed decisions. The one place, however, where I still have a lot to learn revolves around those products hanging in my closet – fashion.
I have known for many years that the textile industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to oil. After high school, I went to college for Fashion Merchandising at George Brown and ended up dropping out after my first semester. I felt like I didn’t fit in and had very different values compared to the other women in my classes and when I learned about the environmental effects of textile production in one of my Fabric Science classes, I knew I could never dedicate my life to something that was so damaging to the earth.
I must admit though, even after learning this fact and doing a 360 degree turn in my choice of career path, I didn’t make a lot of changes to how I buy clothing. It has only been much more recently that I really started to think about the impact of my choice in fashion.
I try to be conscious of it. I hold swaps with my girlfriends to reduce waste, I often buy from second hand stores, and I try not to buy many pieces of “new” clothing. If I do, however, it does tend to be from the cheap, mass produced, department stores like H&M, Dynamite, or Old Navy.
I recently started working for a clothing store (more details to come about this later) that only sells fair trade, ethically sourced, sustainable clothing. I took the job because I wanted to learn more about the industry and the better choices that exist for buying clothing.
The owner of the store suggested I watch a documentary called The True Cost, which explores the impact of fashion on both people as well as the planet.
It begins by exploring the garment production and the working conditions of sweat shop factories. It breaks down the currently business model of the fashion industry that depends on cheap, highly disposable, mass produced goods. “Fast Fashion” is something that has only come about in the last 10 years or so. It is a way of getting consumers to buy more – reduce the cost of items, introduce new items more often (“Rather than four seasons, we now have 52”), and subtly encourage consumers to think of items as disposable. If something is cheap enough, I won’t care about how much it costs to throw it away.
Buy more & buy more often = more profits for corporations.
Proof that “Fast Fashion” exists? The average American throws out 82lbs of textile waste each year, most of which is non-biodegradable and emits toxic gases as it sits in the landfill.
As The True Cost explains, the price tag of most fashion goods has actually decreased in the last ten years, but the actual cost of production has not changed. What does this mean? It means that garment factory owners are being pressured to “squeeze” the cost of manufacturing, which means pushing employees to work more for less wages, ignoring health and safety regulations, and cutting corners on all sides. It means that textile farmers are treating the earth and their agricultural land like a factory, using genetically modified seeds and an increased amount of chemical fertilizers to try to pump out more product in faster timelines, with little thought as to what it is doing to their health, their community, or the land itself.
So what can we do about it? What is the solution?
Well, first – watch the documentary! Educate yourself about the cost of fashion and the items you are purchasing. It really is a must-watch.
Second – Stop buying cheap, fast, disposable items that you know you will only wear for a short period of time. Ignore advertising and fight back against current marketing propaganda that associates happiness with increased consumption.
Buy good quality pieces from conscious, fair trade companies that you will wear for years to come. Be willing to pay more for an item. The increased price tag will not only force you to think twice about throwing it away, but it will also hold you accountable for the true cost and impact of that item on the planet and the people who produced it.
Hold companies accountable for The True Cost of the items they produce. Make them pay the cost of the environmental impact that they have in the region that they operate. Speak to your local government represenatives and write letters to the CEO’s of your favourite companies. Demand more from them. Demand change. Demand that they take steps to prevent pollution and ensure sustainability of their production lines.
Do not think that donating clothing is an easy way out… Only about 10% of the clothing that we donate actually gets sold at second hand stores. The rest ends up in landfills or being shipped to third world countries. Instead, Freecycle. Hold swaps. Find other uses for older fabric and clothing. Be creative and think outside the box.
But mostly importantly – Stop buying and stop thinking of fashion garments as something that can easily be thrown away. Focus on the long term impact, rather than giving into short term needs or desires.
Here is a list of a few companies that follow a more sustainable, ethical model of fashion:
You can find a list of over 35 brands here.
My goal over the next year is to learn all that I can about sustainable, ethical fashion and pass that information along to you. I will be holding myself accountable for what I buy and will try my best to make better choices.
Let’s fight to make this world better for everyone. One step at a time. As I always say, the easiest way is to vote for change is by carefully choosing where you spend your money.
Have you watched the documentary? If so, what did you think? What are some of your favourite fair trade clothing brands?
Please share any tips or ways that you work to reduce your textile waste. 🙂 I would love to hear them and share!
See you all again soon,