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Every weekend as my friends and I get ready to go out, digging through drawers so full they won’t even close, we somehow still come to the conclusion that we need to go shopping. We wore this shirt two days ago and that one a week ago, we can’t wear it again.
We were born into the era of fast fashion. Stores can create a superabundance of styles, all for the same low price. If you can’t afford the brand that started the style, you can afford the knockoffs. This means that almost everyone in a first world society has the luxury of choosing what they wear. That is how we have become a generation of shopaholics.
While we try to keep up with the fast-changing trends, scrolling through websites like Forever 21, H&M and American Apparel, we don’t think about what fast fashion does outside of our closet. It might seem like a victory to buy a few shirts at $5 each, but there is a story behind each one of those shirts.
An article posted on environmental magazine Ecowatch’s website in 2015 named the clothing industry as the second largest polluter in the world. The fashion industry’s production lines are longer and more complicated than you might imagine. Let’s look at the facts:
Fact #1: It can take over 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
India is currently facing its worst water crisis in generations, but it also homes so many international factories it has been dubbed “the world’s workshop.” With severe droughts going on in nearly every corner of the world, some societies are struggling to maintain their agriculture and their food supply. Meanwhile, we are (almost) literally pouring it into our wardrobes.
Fact #2: Eighty percent of our clothes are made by women ages 18–24-years-old, according to Forbes. These workers might take 18 months to make the salary a fashion brand CEO makes in less than a day.
Reportedly, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour makes $2 million dollars each year. The average salary per month at Viyellatex factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is $17. So, if you’re not on board with the whole climate change thing, don’t worry. You’re still in the right place. This is a humanitarian issue, too.
All of these problems are caused before that Urban Outfitters box hits your doorstep. And for those who, like I did once, believe that donating your clothes to the local GoodWill or Salvation Army will help the cause, think again.
Fact #3: Ten percent of donated clothes in this country are resold. The rest are thrown into landfills, where they sit for years contaminating soil and water sources. The U.S. alone dumps about 13 million tons of our clothes into these landfills each year.
So, what can we do to change the facts? First, we can figure out which stores are feeding into this industry and support sustainable industries. These are industries that follow the labor laws of the first world and don’t use globalization as a way to hide from the environmental restrictions placed on companies in the Western world. Many of them also support domestic economies and are based in the regions they sell to. You can find stores at sources like The Good Trade, a website endorsing fair trade and ethical brands worth your support, like People Tree (U.K.), Everlane (U.S), PACT Apparel (U.S.), Alternative Apparel (U.S.), Fair Trade Winds (U.S.) and Encircled (Canada).
And lastly, we can begin turning our backs on this new culture that tells us wearing the same outfits too many times in too little time is uncool. If you’re wearing the shirt today that you wore three days ago to help this cause, I think that’s pretty cool.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Staff Writer Julia King at email@example.com.