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The True Cost: Shopping Ethically



Originally I had decided on posting a DIY for this week’s blog post, but have since decided that this is something I feel strongly about and wanted to share with all of you.

We all shop for clothes, and it’s even better buying a lot of clothes without dropping our whole paycheck to buy them. Stores like H&M and other fast fashion industries make this even easier for us. That cute blouse is only $10?! Hell yeah! Well yes, you are buying a blouse for $10, but at what cost? I recently found a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost, and what I saw was shocking. The prices of our clothing have been decreasing, and this seems great. However, in contrast, the human and environmental costs have been growing rapidly. This film takes you into the world of factory workers in Bangladesh, who are made up of mostly women who make many of the clothes we buy so cheep for barely $30 a month. This is supposed to be their living wages – what they take home to feed and take care of their children. Bangladeshi factory workers also face terrible conditions. Many are forced to work 14-16 hours a day seven days a week, with some workers finishing at 3 a.m. only to start again the same morning at 7:30. On top of this, workers face unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions which often lead to work injuries and factory fires. In 2013, a factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,000 workers. This was the deadliest disaster in the history of the fashion industry. The factory owners urged workers to return to their jobs despite evidence that the building was unsafe. If a woman is sick and unable to come to work, she is fired. They are allowed only 2 bathroom breaks a day, and must meet a quota of 100 garments per hour. I am so shocked to think that I am contributing to this industry. More and more clothing stores are lowering their prices, forcing factory workers to keep up with the demand.


The environmental impact is also a huge part of this problem. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone. Textile waste is not decomposable; so many third world countries have piles and piles of clothes that they cannot get rid of. Cotton represents nearly half of the total fiber used to make clothing today. More than 90% of that cotton is now genetically modified, using vast amounts of water as well as chemicals. In order to keep up with the modified cotton, more and more pesticide is being produced. These chemicals are beginning to have an effect on the land and on human health. Many people think about solving these problems in foods we consume by only purchasing organic produce, but they don’t relate it to clothes. Skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it absorbs the chemicals from the cotton in the clothes we wear. Leather production is also a very costly operation. The amount of feed, land, water and fossil fuels used to raise livestock for leather production come at a huge cost to the health of our world. In addition to raising the livestock needed, the leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain. Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals on the job, while the waste generated polluted natural water sources leading to increased disease for surrounding areas.


So what can you do? Here’s a list of 5 ways to start being an ethical shopper:

#1: Shop locally and from small businesses.

Chances are, anything sold locally is made by the owner or has an easily traceable history of where the product came from. And who doesn’t love to support the local community?

#2: Get Thrifty!

Most of the problem is the amount of clothes that get wasted after just a couple weeks of use. Buying from and donating to second hand stores helps reduce textile waste. Go a step further by checking if the clothes you want are made with organic cotton.

#3: Research your retailers.

It’s ok to shop for new things! Just make sure you do your research!

#4.: Support Fair Trade!

GoodGuide is a website where you can see popular items such as makeup and bath products that are fair trade. Unfortunately, sweatshop-free clothing is hard to find. American Apparel is a good option because clothes made in the United States and other first world countries often have better working conditions for factory workers.

#5: Boycott!

I know it sounds like a harsh word, but avoid shopping from companies who turn a blind eye to the humans making their clothes. The fastest way to get their attention is to decrease their sales. You don’t have to go grab your torch and pitchfork.

I really would love it if you guys took a look at The True Cost on Netflix. “The film isn’t meant to bum you out or make you feel guilty about what you wear,” director Andrew Morgan says. “It’s supposed to pose the simple idea: There are human beings who make what we wear.”

Read more on ethical shopping and the war on harsh working conditions below.

War on Want: http://www.waronwant.org/

Fashion Revolution: http://fashionrevolution.org/

Ethical Shopping Guide: http://theartofsimple.net/shopping/

Who Am I? I am a woman that God made, sustains, and loves. I am a woman stumbling in the darkness of this world, blinded by my anxiety and fear. I am tripping over flat ground and running into walls society has built for me because I am an introvert who needs to come out of the shell I feel perfectly fine in. I am a college student alone in a state I am unfamiliar with, thrown into this strange world of responsibility without my parents to guide me. I am a child, wide eyed and innocent, constantly asking the same questions over and over because my mind doesn't understand. I am Veronica, a woman in love with her God and the red rocks of the deserts and the mountain air he created.
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