(Seab Benesh/Unsplash) According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it takes about 2,000 liters of water to make one t-shirt, which is about the amount of water we drink over a three-year period.
Victoria M Eluszkiewicz
The organization, Oxfam, has created a movement called Second Hand September to encourage people to shop at thrift stores for 30 days. Their goal in doing so is to bring awareness to the environmental and human rights crisis that the world is currently facing.
According to BBC, about 92 million tons of clothing are discarded in landfills globally every year, which is the equivalent of a truck filled with clothes dumping them somewhere every second. Many of these clothes are made with synthetic materials that leak harmful dyes into the water and produce micro plastics when broken down. Some of these tiny plastic particles can only be seen through a microscope, and they spread everywhere. They make their way into our ground, our drinking water, and even to our food through the fish and meat we consume.
Fast-fashion corporations carry much of the blame for this. Their primary and singular goal is to make a profit. They produce as many cheap clothing items as possible so they can be sold at a low price. The enticing price tag will then prompt consumers to purchase them, only for the items to be discarded after one wear because they are no longer “trendy” after a week.
These clothes are often destroyed after one trip to the washing machine. When something breaks, the first thing that comes to our minds is not to fix or repair it but instead throw it away and buy a new one. Thus, the vicious cycle of break, discard and buy continues.
When clothes are so easily disposable, people keep buying more. Every time this happens, a demand is created for more of that same item, which in turn demands more of Earth’s finite resources to make them, having a detrimental effect on our environment. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), for example, it takes about 2,000 liters of water to make one t-shirt, which is about the amount of water we drink over a three-year period.
The issue of ethics must also be mentioned since a lot of fast fashion is made abroad. Oftentimes, the clothes are produced by means of child labor and slave workers who receive extremely low wages and are harassed and assaulted by their higherups and owners for trying to form worker’s unions or asking for better working conditions.
The 2013 Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh should open our eyes to the harsh reality that fast fashion is killing people. No CEO or higherup thought to mention that the building structure of the factory was cracked and on the verge of collapsing. Over 1,000 Bangladeshis, with families and friends just like us, lost their lives in a crumbling factory for our clothes. We should hold these fast fashion corporations accountable for their abuses of human rights and call for a change so that, at the least, garment workers can receive a fair wage and a safe working environment.
I believe that change starts with us, the consumers. When we stop giving money to these greedy corporations and use our money to support thrift shops and lasting, high-quality sustainable brands, we are sending a message to fast fashion CEOs that we have had enough of their greed and their disregard for human life.
When we buy second hand, we are no longer creating a demand for new products which would exploit more of our planet’s depleting resources. We are buying something pre-owned and giving it a new purpose. Thrift shops are also good for your wallet. One can even find great brands for half the cost you’d find in regular stores. If there are no thrift shops nearby, eBay and thredUP are great options for online second-hand shopping.
Now I know these options may not be available for everybody depending on where they live. Not everybody has the luxury of second-hand shops close their house. I am fortunate enough to have that opportunity. However, I want to make clear that, for those in such situations, buying a fast-fashion clothing item and putting it to good use can be the most sustainable option to choose from and they should not be shamed for that.
I think Second Hand September should occur every month. Let’s normalize buying pre-owned items because lives are in danger and so is the Earth. We need to reconsider and reevaluate our shopping choices. We need to think, “do I really need to buy this item, or would it be just another impulse buy? Will it bring me long-term or temporary happiness?”
I may sound overly optimistic, but I firmly believe that if we each play our small part, we can set off a chain reaction that will lead to greater changes in the lives of others and our planet. We are not perfect, we will not do everything perfectly, but if we start small, we can bring about change. The consumer has all the power. It all starts with us.