As the spirit of consumerism continues to grow, especially in affluent areas like Orange County, it is important for buyers to be more conscientious and seek out the source of their purchases. I remember in middle school that I loved getting new clothes but at the time, I could really only shop with my mom. However, this all changed in high school once I got an allowance and could go shopping with my friends. Shopping turned into more of a past time than a privilege, and it wasn’t until recently when I started to question the rampant consumerist culture that has taken over Orange County.
Although it may not feel like it, consumerism is rapidly expanding. Globally, we buy about 800 billion new articles of clothing a year, which is 400% more than we were consuming two decades ago. This is partly due to the cheap manufacturing price provided by globalization. Now, large corporations like Zara and Urban Outfitters can bring a sketch to the rack in as little as one week. This large supply leads to a deflation in prices, making clothes cheaper than ever. This creates high competition among companies to sell a cheaper product, prompting the willful neglect of environmental and safety regulations. This is evident in the ever-increasing carbon footprint of the fashion industry. In 2015, this industry alone was responsible for 1,715 trillion tons of CO2, making it one of the top 5 most polluting industries in the world. An even sadder truth is that most of what we buy is only worn about seven times and then thrown out. This constant buying and replacing of clothes is completely unsustainable and contributes to a massive waste accumulation, which has a catastrophic impact on our environment
In my search to be a more ethical consumer I quickly found that there are many boxes to check off. In addition to looking for the source of labor, you must consider water consumption, water pollution, polyester microfibers left in the ocean, waste accumulation, chemicals in the dyes, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and rainforest destruction. Remember to avoid inexpensive clothing made in developing countries because odds are, it was most likely made under subpar working conditions and in disregard to any environmental repercussions. Also, whenever possible, choose organic cotton.
While there are little to no companies that are completely sustainable, some are better than others. It is our responsibility to actively seek out those companies that check multiple of these boxes because if we are not conscious about the clothes we choose to wear, there will be an irreversible, devastating impact on our environment in the near future.
So if you truly love our planet, next time you go out shopping with your friends, please think before you buy!
Tips for Being an Ethical Consumer:
- Don’t buy it if you don’t need it: This rule can be really hard to follow since clothes go out of style so quickly nowadays, but always keep in mind that you don’t need a new outfit every week. Don’t shy away from rewearing an outfit every now and then.
- The 30-wear rule: Before you buy anything, make sure the item of clothing you’re purchasing is something you would wear at least 30 times.
- Thrifting: It’s not just a fad; in fact the coffee-obsessed, 20-something YouTubers posting thrift hauls are ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability. Buying used clothes is a great way to combat the excessive waste produced by the fashion industry.
- Online Resale Platforms: Next time you find yourself shopping online try out Depop, Poshmark or Mercari. You can also filter your search and buy second hand clothing from stores like Urban Outfitter.
- Exchanging clothes with your friends: Why not turn ethical consumerism into a fun bonding experience? If a certain item of clothing doesn’t fit anymore, why not just give it to a friend?