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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WVU chapter.

There is no doubt that we live in a very consumer-based world. Everywhere you look, be it social media, TV or even the ads on billboards and in magazines, there is an emphasis to consume more and more. Staying on trend and being up to date on the latest fashion/aesthetic is prioritized in our consumer-filled world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving fashion and wanting to serve “lewks” (as mama RuPaul would say), but let’s just take a step back and think about the bigger picture. With the vulnerable state that our environment is in currently, we really need to zero in on how fashion and our consumer culture affects our planet and turn to more sustainable and ethical choices.

The term “fast-fashion” refers to inexpensive clothing items produced rapidly in mass-market retailers and companies to reflect current and on-trend styles. Common examples include H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Fashion Nova and so many more. The cute and cheap clothing that is so readily available to consumers, unfortunately, comes at a high cost. Most of the items produced are extremely damaging for the environment and the mass-production leads to more pollution and landfill. Clothing and accessory items mass-produced by these fast-fashion companies are often made in terribly unsafe factory working conditions, where the workers are paid next to nothing in proportion to the amount they work. It has also been reported that factory workers have been subjected to physical and sexual abuse by working in these conditions.

In 2015, Andrew Morgan and Michael Ross directed and produced a documentary titled “The True Cost”, (the documentary is also on Netflix) which delves into fast-fashion and the means in which major retailers are able to mass produce their items, but most importantly the impact that it has. This documentary exposes the harsh reality of fast fashion, consumerism and mass media. It provides some ‘food for thought’ and offers raw insight into the truth behind your favorite brands and companies.

So, what is the solution?

It is easy to focus and highlight all the negatives, but finding a practical answer is where we as a society tend to fall short. You do not have to quit and reject every unethical brand cold turkey or go through your closet and throw out all your clothes. That would be counterproductive. Yes, sustainable and ethical companies tend to be more expensive (because they are fair-trade and using better materials), but there are still alternatives such as secondhand-stores, consignment stores, as well as the plethora of trendy and online Instagram thrift stores. Simply being more mindful and conscious of how we approach shopping and consuming is the first and most imperative step. There are a ton of ethical and sustainable clothing companies out there if you choose to no longer support fast-fashion brands. You can read up on unethical/unsustainable brands and find appropriate alternatives on blogs such as Good on You or even become familiar with social media influencers who promote a more conscious lifestyle, such as Kristen Leo on Instagram. Leo has a YouTube channel and an amazing blog that both revolve around ethical and conscious living, with a specific emphasis on avoiding fast-fashion.

Whatever you may take away from this, I hope that it at least has given you some greater perspective as well as the initiative to be more mindful and aware with what and how much you are consuming. We all have a footprint on this planet, so if we all make an effort to consume more wisely, we can definitely enact change for the better.

Zoë Skvarka is a senior MDS major at WVU. Zoë grew up living overseas, going back and forth between Turkey and Greece. Zoë is passionate about activism, fashion, alternative pop culture and art in all of its forms.
Her Campus at West Virginia University