How to Make the World Better with Your Wallet!

Posted on January 16, 2017 by Maddie Willer

Where do the championship shirts of the losing team end up?

We will get back to that question in a minute, but first, let’s talk a little about a subject you may not think about as you get yourself dressed in the morning.

Image: Wall of Clothing telling us to buy clothing smarter
Source: Su–May // Flickr

The average American trashes right around 65 pounds of textiles (clothing, sheets, towels, etc) yearly.  In real terms, let’s say you have a house of four, your family alone would throw away somewhere around 260 pounds of textile waste per year! Do you think you’re over-consuming? 1

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed fashionisto/a or have no desire to step foot in the mall, we all consume. The coffee you grab as you’re running late to work or the newspaper you pick up on Sunday morning all add up.

The impact of the fashion industry alone is much greater than usually assumed. Unsafe labor conditions, wasteful water usage, harmful dying processes, and emission-producing transportation are just a few harmful effects of the apparel industry.

As an undergraduate, a professor of mine, Elisabeth Reed, truly opened my eyes to the toxic effects of over-consumption. One day in class she staged a question that changed my perspective, “Where do the championship shirts of the losing team end up?”

The ease of picking up the winning teams gear next day has become a norm, not to mention the T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats the winning team tosses on seconds after that final victory. The World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals, Super Bowl – that is four mass orders of shirts yearly that never see the light. Where do those end up?

Image: Clothing Drop Box
Source: Mike Mozart // Flickr

She assured us all of these garments would be sent overseas but cautioned us to not forget the large amounts of clothing donated into the secondhand market.  Did these countries really need boxes and boxes of T-shirts? Humanosphere says, “poor people don’t want or usually need-donated clothing. They have clothing. What they actually need is economic assistance, improved education, better food, medicines and the like” 2

Unfortunately, this only stirred more thought; how could we produce mass amounts of clothing with ease and dispose of them almost mindlessly?

I wasn’t the only one with this question. It turns out organizations across the globe, are pushing us to look more closely at how the clothing industry is having an impact on people and the planet.

Take a look at this short video from the Fashion Revolution, a project working to educate us all!

How you can make the world a better place!

This video proves that this is still an amazing world for you and I because we can be empowered by knowledge. Fashion Revolution hits the nail on the head: people care when they know.

Image: Clothing hanging on clothes line
Source: Pexels

Initiatives like the Fashion Revolution are starting the conversation, educating and creating conscious consumers while working to become part of the solution. Asking the question of #whomademyclothes has individuals all over the world pressing some of their most beloved brands to run a transparent business.

If you’re looking to see if some of your most shopped brands are doing business in an ethical and sustainable fashion, check out a website called Project Just.  Project Just educates customers about brands by compiling information like; environmental impact, company innovations, social responsibility, labor conditions, and pretty much anything under the sun.

For example, you can search the brand H&M (a popular men’s and women’s fashion brand worldwide) and see the pros and cons of the brand from all kinds of angles. For instance, “according to the Textile Exchange’s Organic Cotton and Preferred Materials Benchmark Report 2015, H&M is the second biggest user of organic cotton by volume, the fourth biggest user of recycled polyester by volume” 4.

The fantastic thing about Project Just is that it allows you to see the positive and negative aspects of a company, allowing you, as a consumer, to make smarter choices, and in some cases demand change from the companies you love.

Image: Textile workers in a factory
Source: Musamir Azad // Wikimedia

 

In H&M’s case, “a report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) revealed that H&M admitted to identifying Syrian child labor in 1 supplier factory in Turkey in 2015.” 5 Although it can seem overwhelming to weigh the positives and negatives, the more brands have this kind of transparency, the more we can do to impact change!

Patagonia stands as a star example to use as a model comparison to others. From recycling materials, to reduce environmental impact, to their seamless transparency, they are definitely a brand to look out for when you are doing any shopping in the future.

Websites like Project Just and movements like Fashion Revolution make it possible for us to consume in a sustainable and more conscious way.

Each year more and more initiatives like these are coming forth to pioneer empowering customers to make educated choices. Every one of us has a voice as consumers. Let’s use it to support transparent companies and change the world with our choices.

Shop less frequently, shop smarter, and shop secondhand!

-Maddie


WANT TO BE AN EWC GUEST WRITER?

A special thanks to Maddie, our newest guest writer for this great piece!

You, too, can be an EWC guest writer. We are always looking for new perspectives and new voices to share here.

If it’s one article you have in mind, or you want to become a regular contributor, please, get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!

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