The fashion industry has developed a dangerous system of production with its rise in popularity and it is having a detrimental effect on the people who are at the bottom of it. Every time we get dressed, we become part of one of the world’s most polluting industries that is killing the planet and the people. 40 million people worldwide live a life controlled by the trends of the fashion industry and live a life of desperation, hunger and modern day slavery. This essay exposes the dangerous effects the fashion industry is having on the planet and the people in it.
Consumption effects the environment. From food and petrol to the pigments and cotton we wear on our skin, everything has a footprint. These effects are minor, such as the decomposition of a cotton shirt, and major, like the destruction of habitats for cotton growing land. However, these effects are not accounted for in the $49.99 we pay for our t-shirt. Peoples ignorance regarding the effect their purchases have must change if this environmental damage is to stop. Here are the facts: It takes an average of 15000 litres of water to produce the cotton for one pair of jeans. That’s enough to half fill a shipping container; In one non-organic cotton t-shirt, 500 grams of pesticide is used, which will pollute both the soils and the runoff water, poisoning the habitats of frogs, insects, and fish; As low as 4 cents from the total cost of a shirt will have gone towards the workers who made it.
The minimum wage in Bangladesh is NZ$90 a month. In New Zealand that is earned in 8 hours, and it takes them 216. Campaigners claim this is one-fifth that of the countries living wage, a salary which provides the workers comfortable are desirable lives. But this cannot be provided by laws set by the government because the Bangladesh economy cannot afford this. What must change is us, the first world citizens who are driving this unjust system of consumption and leaving lives in its path. On the 24th of April 2013, 1134 garment workers died in the Rana Plaza building collapse. Media reports and widespread information on the lives of the garment workers in Bangladesh opened the first world to the dangers of the industry. The multi-use building was evacuated of all other sectors, and the 2000 garment workers were sent back, with the building collapsing with them inside. The clothes marked not only with “Made in Bangladesh” but almost any developing country are brought into the world through an unfair method of production where rich white men put financial gain before the fair treatment and safety of their workers.
Fast fashion is a rising trend in western consumers where clothes are treated as disposable items. People are no longer conscious of how much energy, water, human hours, chemicals and environmental damage an item of clothing has anymore and it’s a damaging habit. There is an attitude within first world communities allowing people to exert the blame for things such as global warming on others. 100% Pure New Zealand right? How could our country be blamed for all this ‘global warming’ and unjust treatment of workers Well guess who recently got its first H&M and Zara retailers? You guessed it, New Zealand. H&M and Zara are two of the most profitable clothing companies on earth and are so because of the fast fashion mindset they advertise and the negative effects their production lines have which they like to ignore. New Zealand is part of the group of first world countries which are driving this damaging industry and are to blame for the negative effects it has. But it’s not only fast fashion, it is the purchasing of excess goods that is making our carbon footprint and the effect our consumerist life is having on the planet much larger than it could be.
Sustainable fashion is no longer about hemp pants, crocheted bags, tie-dye shirts and sandals. Companies have begun to recognize their effect on the environment, creating outlets for us consumers to buy better clothes. Kowtow, Patagonia, New Balance, People Tree, and Stella McCartney are a few some of the world recognized brands who are creating better options for people to suffice their shopping craving while minimising their effect on the planet and the people in it. That doesnt mean you should go home and replace your whole wardrobe with more ethical clothing because that would do more harm than good. Next time you pick up a shirt from a clothing rack or click on a $50 pair of jeans, think. Are the benefits you will get from buying this enough to justify the effect it will have on others? We have to responsibility of fixing this unjust system of production not only in Bangladesh but throughout the whole. A way to cut down on unnecessary consumption is to ask yourself “Will I wear this at least 30 times?”, factoring in both how much you like whatever it is your looking at and if it will last that long before it starts to pill, wear away or just fall apart. This prevents excess purchasing, cutting down on you carbon footprint and is the first step to abolishing this wrongful system of production we first world citizens take for granted.
Sustainability is a choice, but by making more conscious consumers who are able to think about their effect on the world they can spread this awareness. Starting the chain which can end this unfair treatment of workers and begin the fight against climate change which will reap benefits for the future of us and the generations to come.