By Bing Chen ’17
Shopping is a common pastime among adolescents. With constantly changing fashion trends, it’s hard to stay in style without buying new clothes frequently. It may not seem harmful to buy a few items here and there, especially if they are cheap, but there are consequences that result from buying excessive amounts of clothing. Such consumerism leads to environmental problems and violations of the garment factory workers rights.
America is the largest consumer of textiles. Other countries follow closely behind. Some have paralleled the overabundance of clothing to “fast” clothing; this label mirrors the fast food industry. It contributes to consumerism because clothes that are relatively cheap are often not made from long lasting material. Thus, it forces consumers to throw it away and purchase new items.
Consumerism leads to environmental harm. The production man made materials requires a lot of energy and crude oil and results in poisonous chemicals into the air and water. Use of natural materials such as cotton leaves a huge carbon footprint with the heavy use of water and pesticides. Many materials are non-recyclable and often end up in landfills.
Cheap clothing is often manufactured in developing countries where workers are paid little and often work in horrible conditions. There have also been reports of child labor and dangers of garment factories.
These issues have been brought to light in tragedies, most tragically, one in Bangladesh with the collapse of the Rana Plaza building where more than a thousand workers were killed. After the event many companies have vowed to make their overseas garment factories safer, but there are still problems with workers’ rights and safety.
There has been some efforts made in part of people who donate clothes to organizations like Salvation Army and goodwill. Also people selling items online on EBay or Amazon. That prevents a small amount of clothes from ending up in the landmines.
Some clothing brands are working to make recyclable clothing such as Dutch aWEARness creates clothes with recyclable polyester and works to use less water and energy when manufacturing clothes.
There has been a movement of simplifying life by owning less material objects called minimalism. The idea that many clothes in closets remain unworn is a problem that many face. The solution to such problem would be to clean donate or sell, buy less, and own quality items that are more versatile and durable.
“There’s a movement for simplifying your life: purchase less stuff, own a few things that are very high quality that last a long time, and that are multifunctional.”-Yvon Chouinard
Claudio, Luz. “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry.” Environmental Health Perspectives 115.9 (2007): A449–A454. Print.