By Scout Jacobs
With the approaching holiday season, consumerist ideals promote the production of fast fashion.
Fast fashion, the production of mass produced, cheap, and unsustainable clothing, is typically unethically sourced and produced in sweatshops. Throughout the holiday season, companies promote their products with the allure of sales, influencing customers to buy even more.
With increasing sales in these fast fashion shops, such as Forever 21, the production of cheap clothing that harms the environment and factory workers increases. Mrs. Kuenz, Associate Director of Ecological Justice & Global Networking, talks about the constant habit of supporting fast fashion companies, as well as how students can break this cycle.“It becomes our norm. It’s the habits that are hard to break...I think it takes a conscious effort,” Kuenz said. “We talk about inertia in physics and it carries over to other things. The natural momentum is to buy and if we see something on sale it’s a good deal, like why don’t I get it? But then you get home and it’s like where do I put it? What do I do with this? Do I actually need it? ”
Along with breaking the habit of supporting fast fashion companies, shopping in other ways and through other stores, such as shopping locally or from second-hand clothing stores, makes an impact on the environment in more than one way. The rate of discarding clothes has increased significantly as the average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept garments for half as long (World Resources Institute). Activities such as participating in clothing swaps and doing research before shopping at a store are simple ways highschool students can make an impact.
Ms. Case became interested in the topic of fast fashion through researching about affordable, yet high quality clothing. This exposure to information about fashion led to her further learning about human rights violations of fast fashion companies.
“Second hand shopping is awesome,” Case said. “Consigning old clothes instead of giving them to Goodwill [helps] because Goodwill only takes 10% of what we donate, and then everything else is shipped overseas to typically poor countries in Africa. What ends up happening is that clothing comes in and it’s so cheap that it ends up destroying the local people who are making clothing. We are destroying their economy by doing this, and we’re sending cheap stuff that doesn’t last.”
According to the World Resources Institute, 1 garbage truck of clothes is burned or landfilled every second, demonstrating the detrimental impact of fast fashion on the environment. While fast fashion also has unethical impacts, numerous fast fashion companies are geared towards high school students due to their low prices and trendy styles. Anna Dellit, a member of Green Team, hopes to further inform high school students of the effects of fast fashion.
“I don’t think students know enough,” Dellit said. “I didn’t know about it until a month or two ago. I think the way that students can learn more is through obviously education. So putting up more posters in the school, social media, and what helped me is having teachers talk about it. Also, we had a brown bag about it two weeks ago, but I think just getting awareness out about it because our generation wants to make change, but I think without the education or knowledge to do so, they aren’t aware of their responsibility.”
While fast fashion is typically advertised for younger consumers, fast fashion also appeals to numerous other consumers, as buying fast fashion further promotes the habit of doing what is easy and simpler.
“I think that there is such a push to fit in fashion-wise and so I think that drives students to shop at the same places,” Case said. “I think...generally we have a tendency to do what’s easy and what’s popular, and so I think that steers students typically away from sustainable fashion because of what is publicized, affordable, close by, and what’s easy.”
With the holidays further promoting consumerism in the form of gifts and presents, Kuenz stresses the importance of relationships during the holidays.
“As we enter into this season, what most of us need is not more stuff, it’s relational time with people,” Kuenz said. “So it’s making that shift in our minds [because] it doesn’t seem like that same sort of a gift, but it really is the most important one; having opportunities and experiences.”