I've returned from my fist European vacation yesterday. My husband and I spent two weeks in London and Paris. I could not help but compare our way of living to the European one. What was saddening is that in the United States we are bombarded with advertisements of sugar-laden foods and fast fashion finds. We are evolutionary hard wired to make unhealthy choices. For the most part people are just not educated enough about what goes into production of the foods on the shelves and clothing in most stores. One has to put in a lot effort to find healthy pesticide-free foods and quality clothing that does not cost an arm and a leg and was sourced ethically. While in Europe sustainability is a way of thinking.
We are a generation that is fed artificial foods and cheap polyester clothes that do not bring any physical or spiritual satiation but aimed at creating a never ending addiction.
Fast food is at the low-end of the nutrition scale. You might be craving that double-cheeseburger because it is greasy – and every now and then we just want that junk food. It is also fast and convenient. And don’t forget cheap. If we can buy it through a window we probably won’t see a huge impact in our budgets – at first.
Those fast food stops do catch up with us. That first night maybe we get a guilt-laden gut ache. Over time we have to exercise more just to downplay the effects. And we see our money go out the drive-through window and not bring us much in return other than poor health.
Does any of this sound like how you shop for clothes? Just like what we put in our bodies, we’re making an impact with what we put on our bodies. Instead of fast food, we’re taking a look at what is known as fast fashion.
Fast food, which in general is quickly made from less than fresh ingredients, sold at cheap prices, and provides low (non-existent) quality nutrition, fast fashion is equally disappointing.
What is the problem with fast fashion?
Sure, just like the mini-meal with the cute toy or the bargain-priced menu, we can get fast fashion without investing too much of our budget. We get a quick fix and get to fill our closets. Fast fashion is easy to find, meets a basic need, and doesn’t make us feel like we’re spending too much.
But here is what fast fashion gives us in return.
· Much of the “disposable” fast fashion is made from polyester, which in turn is made from petroleum. We’re talking crude oil consumption and pollution of harmful emissions.
· The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act – in coordination with the EPA – considers a large portion of textile manufacturing facilities to be listed as hazardous waste generators. Sound familiar with what a lot of nutritionists think of fast food restaurants?
· You got an adorable top with gorgeous sequins, perfect for that party Saturday night, for an even more gorgeous price. The price is so fantastic that the shimmering sequins blind you to the reality check: the reason why that top is so inexpensive is because someone, somewhere in a dimly lit room, sewed those sequins and got paid diddly-squat. Even with industry expectations, the reality is that some manufacturers are still farming out work to people paid way too little.
· Each year in China millions of tons of unused fabric goes to waste when it is dyed the wrong color. Rivers in China sometimes run tinged with the trending colors of the fashion industry when the untreated toxic dyes leave as runoff from mills. This isn’t about piling the blame on China. It is about the reality of manufacturing on a global scale.
Are you ready to ditch fast fashion and fill your closet with a 5 star wardrobe?
Yes – the list of dangers posed by fast fashion go beyond these few examples. Fortunately, the list of possible solutions is growing. We can fill out closets with quality – and we don’t have to go broke in the process.
· Pay Attention to Who Gets Paid
Support independent designers who are a part of the process from fiber research to finishing touches. Some of them are even in on part of the manufacturing process for those fibers.
· Follow the Local Trail
Ask shopkeepers, designers, and suppliers where they are getting their products. If they don’t know or only refer you to the label, chances are there is a fast fashion component somewhere in there. Buyer, beware. Local designers who use local manufacturers tend to rely on local suppliers. The network of local providers of fashion not only gives high quality, but gives back to your community (and you know who is getting paid what).
· Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
It sounds cliché but it really does matter. If you’re buying clothing of high quality, when you no longer need (or fit) those garments, they are likely still in usable condition. Donating to thrift stores and non-profits, such as those that support women in need entering the work force are great places to start. But there are other ways to keep clothing from landfills. Companies such as Trans-Americas Trading Company are professional recyclers of discarded clothing – repurposing it into commercial cleaning rags, stuffing for upholstery, paper products, and even as resale to Japan’s booming market of collectible fashion.
· Read the Labels
It sounds simple because it is. Think of it like reading the ingredients list on your food. When it comes to eco-friendly clothing, look for cotton, hemp, linen, and other fiber crops. These are going to generally require fewer pesticides in production. There is also a huge range of textile products coming to market using polymers from plant-based materials, and there is an endeavor in Britain to make each clothing label include a carbon footprint.
When we start thinking of the impacts our wardrobes have on more than just our closet space, we realize that our fashion choices are about more than just what makes us look and feel good on Friday night. Time to get out of the fast fashion rut and skip the drive-thru. Our bodies, inside and out, deserve more.