Due to the hectic schedule and tight finances that come with being a college student, we rarely get the chance to splurge on nonessential items, like clothing. When we do we often find ourselves reaching for the cheapest option available at fast-fashion stores, such as Forever 21 and H&M. But before you buy another low-quality sweatshirt, take a minute to consider what takes place in the manufacturing process. Many companies outsource the production of their clothing to poor countries in factories known as “sweatshops.” In the past two decades, the immense growth of these “sweatshop” practices in underdeveloped countries has lead to the death of over 1,600 workers, along with salaries below minimum wage, poor factory conditions, and companies refusing to take responsibility for employees injured on the job. When workers attempt to protest these situations, they are often oppressed with police violence and then fired. Sustainable clothing, on the other hand, is an alternative that offers reasonable working hours for employees, safe factory settings, and little to no waste being released into the environment.
Not only are many companies cultivating an environment that emphasizes mass production over the safety of their workers, but they also produce much more chemical waste from manufacturing that contributes to water and air pollution, as well as textile waste from production. Because of the large amount of young consumers in today’s society, cruel practices like these in the apparel industry are being brought to the attention of the general public, and more people are demanding a change. You can become part of the movement toward sustainable and ethical apparel production. Next time you are reaching for that cute, inexpensive dress in the mall, take a look at the tag to see where the item was made. Companies that practice corporate social responsibility will often advertise this and label their products as ”green” or “conscious.” Another option is to take the initiative to research your own wardrobe. One resource is fashionrevolution.com, which provides consumers with the ability to take courses on sustainable apparel and learn the names of the people responsible for making their clothing with a project called #whomademyclothes. It is up to us to make smart decisions, not only in the classroom, but in clothing stores as well.