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Truth & Character Thursdays

Debatable Issues & Moral Questions

The Truth About the Fashion Industry

We drink Fairtrade coffee. Buy local produce. Hear stories from around the world about slavery that so greatly impacts many countries. However, many of us are either unaware or in denial about the fashion industry we so willingly take part in.

 

Stores like Zara, H&M, Forever21, Victoria’s Secret, etc. - often known for their “reasonable prices” charge such costs because they don’t pay their workers anything close to fair or ethical wages. While they can be appealing because of the discount, it is simply not worth it to support such a sick industry. Fast fashion is toxic to the environment, the workers involved, and as long as we continue to shop at such places - we are encouraging it.

 

Someone argued with me recently that one person - even a small group of people - boycotting select stores will make no difference in the grand scheme of things. And that’s probably true. It would be naive to say that an entire industry could topple overnight. But - are we not individually responsible to make our own ethical choices? Can you tell me, honestly, that you feel okay purchasing from companies employing children and paying them almost nothing? Labor standards that would never hold up in the countries where they sell the bulk of their products, but they’ve gotten away with it for years.

 

With that being said, the power of the people is not to be taken lightly. Several of these stores have taken a significant hit in sales due to people boycotting their sales techniques and company’s dirty history. Over time, perhaps it is possible to populate our malls with stores that sell ethically made and produced clothing. 

 

After all, if we don’t try to change the world, how do we know it can’t be done?

 

Recommended Movie

The True Cost

Livia Giuggioli, Stella McCartney
2015

Interesting Fact #1

Producing a pair of jeans creates as much greenhouse gas as driving a car 80 miles.

SOURCE

Interesting Fact #2

Workers in the fashion industry in Bangladesh make an average of $96 each month. The country’s governmental wage board recommended at least 3 times that was needed to live with basic necessities.

SOURCE

Interesting Fact #3

As of 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor discovered evidence of child labour, some forced, in the fashion industries of Argentina, China, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and more.

SOURCE

Quote of the day

There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Article of the day - What Is Fair Trade Clothing and Why Is It Important?

Many people are under the impression that eco-friendly fashion is somehow reserved for the upper class. However, even though fair trade clothing may have been affordable only to the rich a decade ago, times have changed. With so many conscious brands emerging in recent years, the masses now have access to ‘conscious consumption’.

What is Fair Trade Clothing?

Fair trade applies to a wide range of products produced under a certain set of high standards. Just like food or crafts, brands design fair trade clothing to prevent and end poverty, environmental degradation, and sweatshop labor conditions. Fair trade seeks to overturn the current situation, which puts profits above people and the planet.

Purchasing fair trade certified products can help reduce poverty, safeguard humane working conditions, and encourage production techniques that are environmentally friendly. In addition to clothing, the fair trade label can also appear on other products, including chocolate, coffee, or bananas.

But what does the fair trade label mean? It means that an organization (Fair Trade USA, for instance) has certified that brands, producers and farmers adhere to fair trade standards. The organization also audits the product’s supply chain to ensure the workers have been paid fair trade prices.

Affordable Eco-friendly Fashion

When it comes to affordable fashion, many people expect prices that match those found at Forever 21. However, the whole point of developing eco-friendly fashion is to embrace a “less is better” mindset. Do not make a habit out of paying less for disposable and ultra-trendy items. Instead, invest in clothing that is high quality and durable.

 

If you want to become a more conscious consumer, here are some average prices for various clothing pieces you could afford each season. For high quality and fair trade clothing, you should be buying basic tops in the $15-50 range, fashion tops for around $100, and dresses for under $150.

For those who cannot work these prices into their budget, it’s time to experience the beauty of thrift stores. When it comes to shopping, thrifting will always be the greenest option (and not just for clothing). A combination of ethically-sourced fashion apparel and thrifted items sounds like the best shopping philosophy.

Damages Caused by Fashion Industry

Some suggest a fix-all solution would be for all of us to wear a uniform of sorts that could be endlessly recycled. However, human beings have been using their clothes as one of the oldest forms of expression. Woven Mohawk tribal patterns, Irish donegals, Peruvian embroidery, or African kente prints are the result of thousands of years of human creativity. And why would anyone want to do away with personal expression?

What we can do instead is shop ethical and vintage fashion, buy less clothing, and recycle and upcycle where we can. Even swapping clothes among your family and friends is better than participating in the current fashion junkfest. One of the most important things to remember is that cheap clothing is generally made by people who aren’t paid or treated well. These are the modern slaves, working in environment-polluting factories. And seeing that these clothes aren’t made to last, they take a quick route to the landfill.

Here are some of the reasons why you should support ethical fashion and fair trade practices instead of the cheap fashion industry:

1. Fashion Industry Affects Young Women in Developing Countries

More often than not, the clothes you buy from unethical brands are sewn by women in developing countries. It should be common sense for these people to receive a fair wage they deserve for their work. You are what you wear, so why should you associate with clothing companies that care more about profits than about basic human rights?

2. It Pollutes Local Ecosystems

Fashion – including the sewing and dying of clothing, and textile production – is one of the most profitable industries in world. It’s also one of the biggest users of labor and polluters, so we need to make some changes. If you buy new clothes from responsible designers or gently used clothing, it means your money does not encourage the heavy-metal dyes that flow freely in the rivers of Vietnam. Fresh water is a dwindling resource, so we should preserve it with our best efforts.

3. Most Clothes Create Waste in Landfills

Unfortunately, we recycle only about 25 percent of our clothing. This accounts for the items resold on the racks at Goodwill, those downcycled into industrial rags, and the clothes sent to developing countries as usable clothing. And we have the fast fashion retailers to blame for the fact that textiles account for more than 4 percent of the waste in landfills. Almost 95 percent of textiles are recyclable, so this means we’re throwing away plenty of usable material.

Why Buying Certified Fair Trade Is Important

1. Fair trade helps the world’s poor. Thanks to free trade, large subsidized companies take over the industries, leaving small-scale producers behind. As large contracted farms sell commodities at lower prices, local farmers, who have been supplying these products for a long time, are driven into debt. Competing with subsidized farms often becomes a matter of life and death for many. Farmers are forced to lower their product prices to the point where quality of life is unsustainable.

2. The fair trade license fees generate money, which is then poured into the fair trade communities. These funds are specifically designated for economic, social, and environmental development projects. Each community can benefit of schools, scholarships, quality improvement organic certification, and leadership training. Democratic systems set in place help them determine how the funds will be use.

3. Products certified as fair trade entail transparency and a high level of traceability in global supply chains. They also ensure equitable trade practices, starting from the farming groups, which receive a guaranteed minimum floor price. Certified organic products also entail an additional premium. Farming organizations also are eligible for pre-harvest credit.

4. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited on fair trade farms. The workers enjoy safe working conditions, freedom of association, and sustainable wages.

5. To be fair trade certified, products have to be free of genetically engineered ingredients. Farmers also have to produce them with limited amounts of fertilizers and pesticides, and proper management of waste, energy, and water.

Question of the day - What’s your favourite store to shop at?

Debatable Issues & Moral Questions

What’s your favourite store to shop at?