Think before you buy

Rachel Nadolny, Herald Contributor

When buying clothing, the price of the piece of clothing is often a determining factor of whether or not to purchase it. But what we don’t think about is how it was made, and by whom? I know I never did, until I became aware of the effects of the current clothing industry. The clothing industry has severe environmental and social impacts.

According to the documentary “The True Cost,” it is the second most polluting industry on Earth, and is the most labor dependent industry in the world. Some factors that impact the environment include the burning of fossil fuels for production, toxic chemicals used to treat materials, toxic chemicals released in the water, and textile waste that ends up in landfills. Social issues of the industry include unsafe working conditions, low wages, and long working days. The environment or people’s lives should not be harmed just so other people can buy low priced clothes. The current global clothing industry is not sustainable. A movement towards a more sustainable clothing industry requires change in consumer behavior, increased awareness of these issues, and increase in sustainable practices in companies.

There are two approaches to sustainability in the fashion industry.  There are companies that incorporate sustainable practices into their business, and there are companies that build their business based off of sustainability. A sustainable clothing brand takes into consideration economic, environmental, and social impacts with every action. An example of a sustainable clothing brand is Reformation. Reformation is a Los Angeles, California based clothing company that builds its business based around sustainability. A few examples of their sustainable practices include paying fair wages, offering health insurance to employees, using plastic free packaging, and using Tencel instead of cotton, which requires 80 percent less water use than cotton. Large companies, such as H&M, have started incorporating sustainable practices into their business. Both types of approaches are needed in order for the clothing industry to progress.

Individuals can work towards a more sustainable fashion industry by reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill. They can recycle clothes by dropping them off at textile recycling bins, repurposing clothes as something else, such as rags or other pieces of clothing, or by donating clothes. Utilizing apps, such as Poshmark, is also a way to support sustainability in the fashion industry. On Poshmark, you can buy and sell new, like new, and used clothing to other people. I personally like this app because I can purchase clothing that would have otherwise been thrown away at a lower price.  

If you want to learn more about the clothing industry, the documentary “The True Cost” is free to watch on Netflix. The documentary discusses the effects of the clothing industry and portrays the side of clothing you never thought of.