Fashion Industry Problems: How Fast Fashion Is Making You Go Broke

Fashion Industry Problems: How Fast Fashion Is Making You Go Broke

Fashion Industry Problems: Why Fast Fashion Is Making You Broke, World Threads Traveler, Cait Bagby, Sustainable Fashion

Talking about personal finances is right up there with politics and religion when it comes to acceptable topics to talk about at the dinner table. In the past few years the barriers surrounding politics and religion seem to have weakened but finances – still a bit too uncomfortable to discuss with those close to us. Thankfully finance gurus such as Dave Ramsey and online sharing communities where individuals can post somewhat anonymously, retaining the specifics and whole picture even if their name is out there, have helped many of us pay more attention to our money troubles. Do we have a financial plan for retirement? Are we putting enough money into savings? Could we afford our children’s education? These questions nag at so many of us and keep us up late at night with a mixture of worry and hopelessness.

What is the most common financial advice we hear from gurus and forums alike? Remove any debt and cut out non-essential items. Forgo those daily lattes or cancel your subscription services to Netflix or Pandora. Whatever you do just make sure you are saving for the future. But there’s one thing almost no one is talking about when it comes to your finances because it may not seem obvious: your closet. The fast fashion industry problems are many but could it also be making you broke?

The State of Our Finances

According to a 2018 study by Northwestern Mutual twenty-one percent of Americans have nothing saved for their retirement. An additional third of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings. With dwindling social security and the current state of politics, younger generations are doubting they can rely on that as a source of income in their older years. With all that said, it’s no wonder that individuals are turning to financial gurus and online platforms in panic to sort out their financial predicaments.

Where is our money going? Housing, transportation, and food take the top three spots closely followed by personal insurance and healthcare. After that things get a bit murkier with money going towards personal indulgences such as beauty, entertainment, alcohol, and of course clothing and apparel. While many of these costs can’t be avoided – only minimized – the fashion industries problems are leading us to some unhealthy spending habits.

What are the Fashion Industry Problems that are making you broke?

Spending on Disposable Clothing

Data suggests that American families spend on average $1,803 a year on clothing and apparel. Along with the purchase on new items this includes laundromats, dry cleaning, and tailoring. How many of those purchases are actually put to good use? “More than 50% of women claim 25% of their wardrobe sits in the closet collecting dust. This equates to around $600 thrown out the window.” What’s more is that 73% of women say they update around 25% of their closet every 3 months. That is more than money being simply thrown out the window. This is the equivalent of burning your paycheck before its ever deposited.

In the era of fast fashion, we have been told by brands and advertisers that clothing can, should be, and is disposable. It’s this mentality and attitude that since the 1980’s has led us on an environmental and social decline. A recent article in the Guardian outlined our obsession with wearing items only once which was most notably showcased around the holidays when 3.5 billion pounds were spent on Christmas party clothing. Many of these items will end up in landfills shortly after their intended one wear comes to an abrupt end once the holiday parties wind down. It’s this approach to fashion – especially fast fashion – that is drying up our bank accounts without us even noticing.

Due to the nature of fast fashion – low price, micro seasons, and advertising which tells us our clothing is already out of “trend” the week after we bought it – we end up spending more on clothing than we did just a few decades ago. While a T-shirt may be cheaper than a latte these days, it’s adding up even quicker.

Health Costs

I’ve talked a bit about the hidden health risks of cheap clothing and with medical insurance being unpredictable in the US market many families fear any kind of medical emergency will bankrupt them. A Chicago Tribune article found that “25 percent of Americans have less than $100 in savings for medical expenses, and nearly half have less than $1,00 saved”

No one ever wants to be put into the position of deciding between a hospital visit which could mean going broke or saving money but letting health decline. Chemical compounds in clothing could be adding to these health risks. While, it is advisable to create an emergency fund to deal with the unexpected, cutting down on potential health risks such as skin absorption of formaldehyde which is leached from fabrics, can help to maintain good health. With many chemical compounds unregulated and commonly found in cheap clothing it is wise to choose brands that use natural fabrics and dyes. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.

Taxes through garbage collection and disposal

If we’re not paying the price of fast fashion upfront with a five-dollar purchase here and a ten-dollar purchase there which is slowly draining our accounts, then we are certainly paying for it on the other end. In the United States 85 percent of the 25 billion pounds of textiles discarded each year end up in landfills. That works out to approximately 21 billion pounds per year.

Forty-five dollars is the estimated cost per ton your local municipality pays to have this waste sent to landfills. In NYC that worked out to be roughly $20.6 million annually in 2016.” Monies for the removal and disposal of textile waste is raised through taxes. Your hard earned dollars are being taken out of your paycheck and to state taxes to dispose of your shopping habit. This is the same as throwing a portion of our paychecks right into the trash. Do we really want our hard earned paychecks being spent on clothing we will wear maybe once, if at all, and then on garbage disposal? I would imagine many of us could think of better uses for that money.

How to change your shopping habits and save yourself some money

One of the biggest myths surrounding sustainable fashion is that it costs more. After looking at how much we spend on fast fashion and the cleanup effort, a small upfront increase for an eco-friendly sweater might not look so bad, especially if keeping in mind it’s meant to last a lifetime. How do you move forward knowing that your shopping habits are draining your bank account? Don’t make the fashion industry problems your own. Shop for what you need, only when you need it. Buy items of higher quality that are meant to last. Thrift and swap. Need a new holiday dress but don’t want to spend a lot of money because you might wear it only once – borrow it (ideally from a friend so it won’t cost a penny) or from a clothing rental company. Look at your clothing and apparel as an investment just like your bank account. With a few changes in spending habits you can not only get your finances under control but go on to create a timeless wardrobe that is truly yours. Don’t let your shopping habits and the fast fashion industry advertising giants prevent you from retiring.

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My Role as an Influencer – Working with Brands and Why It Matters to You

My Role as an Influencer – Working with Brands and Why It Matters to You

What does an Influencer do - World Threads Traveler

When I first started my blogging journey I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know where to begin. That was almost four years ago and I have learned a lot.

This article is a bit of a departure for me. You may have noticed I don’t write the most personal blogs. In fact, I much prefer to keep my personal life, personal. If I had it my way I would retreat onto my farm, sever my internet connection, and live a pretty quiet life. But, that’s not what I’ve chosen. I’ve chosen to be a blogger and an influencer, and I want to explain a little bit of what that entails, what my relationship is to you the reader, and my relationship with the brands I work for.

Influencing has become the new marketing. With the rise of the internet and social media sites, companies began to realize that individuals were influencing the sales of others. Ever been at a party and someone asks where you got that dress? Instead of vaguely saying at “so and so store” individuals can now, with pinpoint accuracy, provide the information via social media and personal blogs. Early influencers captured this momentum as a great way to earn a living. I mean hey – why should they help promote your store and not get any compensation? They are essentially working as your marketing and sales team. I applaud these early adopters and those who still dare to enter the world of blogging and influencing.

A recent report projected US advertising spending to sit right around 558 billion dollars for 2018. That’s a lot of money being spent just in the United States on advertising. Companies around the world compete for your hard earned dollars and influencers have now become a viable way of getting their product seen and sold. There aren’t precise numbers on the exact amount companies worldwide spend on influencer marketing but they spend a lot with figures increasing each year, and it works. It works for the same reason that you would ask a friend at a party where she got that dress. It’s because you trust that person.

This is my job. My job is to help influence your spending habits. That’s pretty blunt but it’s true. In order to do that I need to earn your trust and I work hard at that. On my About Me page I note that I use affiliate links and others forms of monetary compensation. With that, I also include my e-mail address in case you have any questions or want clarification. “We hold ourselves to the same standards as the brands we work with: transparency, honesty, and openness.” I don’t hide anything from my readers. It’s dishonest and quite frankly a terrible feeling – something I want nothing to do with.

I am contracted by companies to promote their product. As a contractor I am paid and often given products for free. (I don’t promote any company on WTT that I haven’t personally researched and tested. I don’t even allow banner ads from companies unless I have worked with them personally.) But here’s the thing: I chose to be a sustainable fashion blogger. My goal is to help reduce your spending, to help you navigate the world of conscious living, and to realize that quality is better than quantity. This makes my approach to promotions different than it would be for conventional bloggers. I don’t just support a single item but help to promote a set of values and a mission to change the current industry. This is the embodiment of sustainable companies that prize long term change and understand results will not be the same as those manufacturing a $10 Tee.

There was an interesting statistic another Sustainable Blogger once mentioned: it takes seven points of communication for an individual to actually buy a product. Traditionally this meant that you may see something you liked in a magazine, and then on a billboard, and then again on a friend, and then on T.V., etc. We may not even notice that we have seen or heard about it seven times but chances are you did before you ever made a purchase. At least that’s the average. I love this! I don’t want my readers making rash purchases. It defeats what I’m doing. It defeats the goal of the companies I work for – sustainability over fast fashion.

The expectation that bloggers provide a direct and immediate return on a company’s marketing dollars strikes me as new. It may have to do with the rapid paced world we live in. We expect to get things immediately and I can understand why many companies would expect the same. But bloggers/influencers should not be seen any differently than a billboard or a magazine ad. Driving traffic and sales takes time. We work on long term brand awareness.  Sustainable consumers should not be regarded as the typical fast fashion shopper. This implies based on my blog alone you, the reader, probably aren’t going to buy something. In order for sustainable companies to truly compete with fast fashion retailers they need to have a multi-pronged approach which involves the use of not one, but several influencers, commercials, magazines, etc.  Just like I don’t contract out exclusively to one company or expect one reader to make or break my blog: sustainable companies cannot expect a single blogger to be the determining factor to their company’s success. Holistic marketing plans, which include several influencers and other promotional channels, along with long term measured sales over several months, is a great way to gauge the success of a campaign.

I recently posted an article: Timeless White Button Down. I was paid to write that article. I was given the shirt for free but here’s the other thing, which I make clear on my website to prospective companies: If I like your brand, believe you are working towards authentic sustainable practices, and actually enjoy your products then I will help to raise brand awareness. If not, we don’t work together. On top of that, I maintain complete creative control. This is how in the last four years I’ve been able to earn the trust of my readers. As a reader you have thousands of blogs to choose from and I won’t risk your trust by posting content I don’t stand behind 100%.

Here’s the thing though, if you read that article – thank you, but I don’t expect you to buy that shirt. At least not now. I don’t expect you to buy a white button down shirt until you need one. Maybe you have one that is amazing. Maybe you’re just not ready to commit. I’m okay with that and the sustainable brands I work with also need to be. My goal is not to have you impulse shop. My goal is to build a long term, trusting relationship so that when you are in the market for a white button down shirt, maybe a year or two from now, you will know where to look. I don’t promise companies specific rate of returns. I don’t promise them specific sales goals. I do tell them my reach (how many people read WTT weekly/monthly) but I won’t commit to specific sales numbers. It’s not fair to you or them.

The top fashion bloggers can earn over a million dollars a year. They do this by expecting their readers to spend at warp-speed. The brands they work with know this. Those are fast fashion bloggers. Sustainable influencers/bloggers will likely never earn that much. It’s not in the spirit of sustainable blogging. We can’t expect to espouse the virtues of buying less, saving the planet, and helping humanity all while pushing sales down your throat. We do not promote the typical fast fashion model in any sense: from our clothing, to our blog articles, to how we market our content. Sustainable companies need to know this.

What does this all mean? Essentially is comes down to this: I value transparency and am actively fighting to help change the fashion industry. I want consumers to make smarter purchases and I want sustainable companies to get more business. But if you’re reading my blog because you want to impulse shop then this isn’t the place for you. And, if you’re a company I’m working with who is pinning their weekly sales goals on me, then I’m not the influencer for you. My goal, and the goal of authentic sustainable bloggers around the world is to create a trusting, honest, and transparent place for individuals to learn about the industry and dive into sustainability well equipped. Unless we want sustainable companies to become the new fast fashion model we need to stop expecting immediate sales and value the life-long customer.

Want to read more about transparency, working with brands, our roll as influencers, and other perspectives from other insiders? Check out these articles by fellow EWC members.

Bless You, Pay Me: The 11 Non-Negotiable Reasons Why You Need to Pay Influencers for Coverage | Alden from EcoCult

The Business of Blogging: Why Fair Trade Rhetoric Must Include Bloggers | Leah from Style-Wise

Working With Bloggers & Brands: A Mini Guide | Francesca from Ethical Unicorn

 Why Bloggers Should Be Paid Fairly | Holly from Leotie Lovely

Paying for Promotion: In the Spirit of Transparency | Jen from Honestly Modern

 

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Let’s Talk Trash: Textile Waste

Let’s Talk Trash: Textile Waste

Textile Waste - World Threads Traveler - Cait Bagby / Sustainable Fashion

It’s spring time which means it’s time for the much loved (or much hated) spring cleaning. Time to sort through the items you no longer use and get rid of them. But, what really happens to all our discarded textiles? Is textile waste really a problem? Or, are all your unwanted goods going to a good place? Is there such a thing as clothing heaven? Time to talk trash and textile waste.

There are a couple of different types of textile waste. Waste created from surplus fabric production, textile waste from unsold clothing, and then of course, the clothing in your closet that you no longer need or find useful. Chances are you don’t own a textile manufacturing plant or a clothing store. Chances are you’re just an everyday consumer, like me, who every once in a while sorts through their closet determining what to keep and what to toss. And, because textile waste is such an enormous, often complex, topic let’s just focus on what happens once items leave your closet.

In households around the US, according to the Council for Textile Recycling, an estimated 80lbs of clothing and other textiles are thrown away, per person annually. Do your old jeans have a stain on them? Your old sweater a tear? Your underwear that you would never, ever donate – you probably ended up tossing them in the nearest bin with the thought no one else could ever wear this and/or I’ll never make any money trying to sell them. And you wouldn’t be wrong with these thoughts. But, textile waste accounts for 5% of all landfill waste. Approximately 70lbs of those 80lbs you’re probably going to discard this year will end up in the landfill. To put that into numbers that is 21 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste PER YEAR and that number isn’t showing any signs of shrinking. In fact, between 1999 and 2009 the volume of post-consumer textile waste grew by 40%.  A recent article in the LA Times by Elizabeth Cline demonstrated that even as some fast fashion retailers are closing their doors this is not indicative of a low price – high turnover – fashion slow down. In fact, it signals the exact opposite, with consumers turning to online, bottom price, “warp-speed” fashion. Our clothing spending isn’t slowing down which means all those facts and figures just mentioned will only continue to rise at a disastrous rate.

The problems with textile waste ending up in landfills are many and money is only the tip of the iceberg. Forty-five dollars is the estimated cost per ton your local municipality pays to have this waste sent to the landfill. In NYC that worked out to be roughly $20.6 million annually in 2016. That is your tax money being spent on just transporting and discarding unused clothing. I don’t know about you but I can imagine a couple other good uses for $20.6 million. Money aside what happens to those textiles once they reach landfills across the globe is becoming an issue of great concern.

Many of us falsely believe that if we buy an all-cotton shirt and throw it in the trash it’s not a big deal. After all isn’t cotton a natural fiber and sure to break down? Not exactly. Before a garment ever reaches your closet it goes through several processes that involve bleaching, dying, being printed on, and if it is anti-wrinkle or stain resistant went through a couple chemical baths. These chemicals leach from the textiles onto your skin the same way they will eventually leach into the ground, water and in the case that the textiles are incinerated – into the air. Synthetics, on the other hand, have the same environmental drawbacks while also being made from a petroleum based plastic which will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

Maybe you don’t put any of your textile waste in the bin. Maybe instead you send it all to charity, even those pieces you think nobody can wear. On average only 20 percent of clothing donated to charity is ever sold at their stores. The remaining 80 percent is sold off. Clothing that the charity shops cannot sell in their retail stores is then sold onto textile merchants, “who sort, grade, and export the surplus garments…” Textile merchants come in two forms – those who breakdown the fibers to be reused as cleaning rags, car upholstery, building insulation, carpet padding, or other miscellaneous uses. The second are those who then sell the clothing overseas. A quick google search on “second hand clothing sold overseas” renders numerous results telling of all the positives our clothing is doing when it is sent to other countries. But is this really the case for all our textile waste?

Before sent overseas the clothing is sorted. If there was anything the charity shops missed of relative high value it is sent to local vintage stores. The second nicest items are sent onwards to Japan, third to South America, and African countries get what’s left.  In 2014 alone, “a handful of East African countries imported more than $300 million worth of second hand clothing from the United States and other wealthy countries.” In turn this devastates the local clothing economy preventing local designers, manufactures, farmers, weavers, and stores from thriving. You know the saying – give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime? Our textile waste is providing a daily meal while denying the “world’s poorest ‘ways to climb out of poverty’“ While many of these countries have banded together to try and block the vast number of textile waste imports it is unlikely to succeed due to international pressures and potential political repercussions. (Highly recommend you check out Clothing Poverty by Andrew Brooks which goes into depth about the second-hand clothing market.)

Textile Waste – You Still Don’t Want it in Your Closet

I don’t blame you. It’s only natural to look through your closet and no longer find items that fit your current body, lifestyle, fashion choices – I get it! But armed with this information, facts, and figures what to do? Obviously my first piece of advice is going to be slow down your shopping habits. Evaluate where your clothing is coming from, how it is made, and what is your plan for its end of life. But, that’s not going to help you in the exact moment when you have piles or bags of clothing ready to be disposed of. To properly dispose of your textile waste there are a couple of different options.

1.     Use what you have: You don’t have to wear it but can it be reused? Can you use it as a cleaning cloth? Can you swap with friends? Can you sell it online to someone who has been looking for that skirt that got pulled off the shelf 12 months ago?

2.     Donate: Donate good quality items that you might not find elsewhere. Many charity shops won’t even entertain the idea of selling a top or bottom from H&M, Forever 21, or Zara because the quality is poor. If they won’t sell it, don’t donate it. Don’t know? Give them a call.

3.     Closed Loop Systems: Look for closed loop systems and companies that will take back their clothing. Companies like North Face, Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and H&M all offer programs to send your old clothing in to be recycled and reused. But, be weary of green washing as big chain promoted closed loop systems are somewhat new and can be a breeding grounds for greenwashing.

4.     Go Local: Many states, cities, and towns now offer collection points for post-consumer textile waste. And even though it may be local no one is going to know if that’s your old pair of undies – although I highly recommend you wash before giving.

Even a small reduction in textile waste would bring about major positive environmental impact. The EPA estimates that by simply “diverting all those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road.”

I don’t know about you but some of the things I love most about spring is the fresh air, the smell of budding flowers, and the promise of warmer weather. It would be a shame to see it all disappear because our spring cleaning is actually doing more harm than good.

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*This post contains affiliated links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using some links. This does not add to your cost of the product purchased.

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Chemicals In Clothing: The Hidden Dangers

Chemicals In Clothing: The Hidden Dangers

Chemicals in Clothing: The Hidden Dangers & Why We Should Be Paying Attention to What We Wear / World Threads Traveler

The topic of chemicals is a heavy one to unpack. There are so many different rabbit holes one could pursue. But, increasingly consumers are paying attention to the topic so it’s worth discussing, especially when it comes to chemicals in clothing.

Without question the discovery and utilization of natural and synthetic chemicals have helped shape modern society. The term “chemical-free” is meant to assure us our products are natural and organic but there is no such thing as “chemical-free” and our clothing in no exception (everything we interact with is a chemical compound). Concern is required when distinguishing between useful and harmful, necessary and unnecessary additives. And, when discussing chemicals in clothing we need to focus on the synthetics which are an add-on such a dyes, wrinkle, water and odor-resistant. Then there are the synthetic materials.

Chemicals in clothing start with the materials in both natural and synthetic fabrics. Whether it is cotton being grown or plastic being produced to create nylon, many natural fibers (unless certified organic) are grown with the help of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Even those certified organic don’t mean there are no chemical additives to aid in the fiber growth. Many synthetic chemicals are used around the world in products labeled “organic” as they are subject to local governmental and international regulations. (Sustainable Fashion Certifications)

Why are chemicals in clothing a problem?

Skin is the largest organ in the body. We know what goes into our bodies matter but what goes on it matters just as much. The Green Beauty movement has been growing because studies show us that chemicals in our skincare and makeup products can and do get absorbed into our skin. The same is very much true of our clothing. When these chemicals are absorbed into our skin they find their way into our blood steam with direct access to all internal organs. And, while we do excrete some of these chemicals through our pores, with new ones constantly introduced through direct contact with our daily wears, our bodies aren’t able to properly cleanse.

Impact to the Wearer

The range of side effects run from dermatitis to endocrine disruption to cancer. Different chemicals in clothing affect different organs in our bodies and while scientific study is scarce several of the chemicals used have clearly noted side effects. Formaldehyde is one of the biggest offenders. While many countries restrict the use of it the United States is not one of them and China is one of worst. Formaldehyde has been linked to an increase in lung cancer, difficulty breathing, itchy eyes, nose and throat among other side effects. Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) are known to disrupt the endocrine system and affect fertility. It seems that for each garment solution found (wrinkle free, water repellant etc) the associated list of side effects only increases.

Impact on the Environment

Using chemicals in the production of clothing not only effects the wearer but also the environment. At the current volume clothing is produced and the heavy reliance on synthetics and chemicals, water and air pollution have been a common concern. Without strict regulations in many countries where most clothing is produced it is not unheard of for manufacturing plants to dump their waste water into local waterways, contaminating local livelihoods but also the larger global community. (You can read more about the environmental impact in “The Dangers of Fast Fashion”)

Harmful Chemicals in Clothing to Watch Out For

There are a few chemicals which have been verified as carrying significant dangers to both the wearer and the environment. (Original article written for Mochni. You can read the rest at Toxic Fabrics: Are We Ignoring the Largest Organ In Our Body)

Phthalates

This commonly seen word is a group of chemicals used to make plastic and vinyl more flexible but can also be used to make some items softer. For clothing Phthalates are mainly used for plastisol printings – think t-shirts with images on the front. There has been a call to limit or eliminate their usage due to its known prosperities leading to endocrine disruption which could cause birth defects or contribute to breast cancer. The good news about Phthalates is that they are biodegradable but prolonged exposure could mean bad news especially when rubbing on your skin.

Alkyphenols (APEO’s)

This group of chemicals is used for wetting, emulsifying, detergent, printing, and softening. The EPA has noted a rise of Alkyphenols in US water systems as a result of washing them from our clothing. The good news is a Green Peace study found that washing our clothing can help reduce the amount of APEO’s on our clothing. The not so good news is that it can lead to skin and respiratory problems and act as an endocrine disruptor. The other downside is the life cycle. Indicators show a long term continued environmental contamination. They are slow to biodegrade and as they degrade produce byproducts that have a higher toxicity.

AZO Dyes

Are just that: dyes – used in clothing. Some of these compounds, mostly the benzidine-based chemical, are considered carcinogens. This is largely due to the aromatic amines that are produced upon breaking down. They are already banned in Europe but countries in Asia where large scale production occurs often do not have regulations concerning Azo dyes. They can easily rub off on your skin – ever worn a pair of blue jeans that leaves your legs blue? When this rubbing occurs the aromatic amines, some of which reportedly cause cancer, are released. Respiratory and dermatitis problems have also been reported along with high levels of sickness among factory workers.

Formaldehyde

If you see an item of clothing touting wrinkle free, chances are it has been treated with formaldehyde. Also used to prevent mold and mildew during shipping this chemical can cause contact dermatitis along with nausea, coughing, burning eyes, nose, and throat. It has also been linked to cancer in test environments among rats.

Tips to Steer Clear of Chemicals in Clothing

Look for Natural Fibers

Synthetics carry a heavier harmful chemical load as it requires more to produce the fibers. Opt for organic natural fibers such as cotton, linen, jute, silk, and hemp. Avoid clothing labeled as wrinkle, stain, odor, or water resistant. These are all chemical additives.

Natural Dyes

Choose items that focus on natural dyes or non AZO dyes. If no information is given opt for pieces that are lighter in color. The darker the color the more dye that is required to achieve that look.

Wash Before Wear

Dermatologists recommend washing any garments before wearing. This helps to eliminate surface chemicals used during the shipping process to help prevent mold, staining, or other incidents which may occur during transit. Washing also helps to reduce the chance of contact dermatitis.

Check But Verify

Not all companies are straightforward with what is being used in their textile manufacturing. Make sure you check the labels and brand pages. But, be weary that many companies do not publish this information as in many countries, including the USA, it is not mandatory as noted by Emma Loewe: How Worried Should You Be About Chemicals In Your Clothes

“The Federal Trade Commission asks U.S. clothing retailers to share only fiber content, country of origin, and the identity of the manufacturer on labels. They are not required to disclose any of the chemicals used in the production process, even though by some estimates there are upward of 250 “restricted substances” used in textile manufacturing that pose potential health concerns.”

Look for independent certifications and verifications, Sustainable Fashion Certifications, to ensure your garments are chemical free.

 

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Eco Burn Out

Eco Burn Out

A bad case of eco burn out

Just over a week ago I did something that if you had asked me the day or even the hour before I would have said “never would I ever!” But I’ll get to that in just a bit.

Originally I had planned on writing an article about why eco fashion is so confusing. The more I worked on it, the more I lost interest in writing about it. What is eco? What is sustainable? What is green? What is ethical? What is slow? What is capsule? What is fair trade? What is living wage?… I could go on for a few more lines but I’ll spare you. In the end the article never got finished, mostly due to the fact that I was sick of talking about it and I’m pretty sure you are sick of hearing about it. *If you aren’t I know I will be coming back to it in the future, so stayed tuned* It was only after reflecting on an article written by the absolutely on point Leah Wise of Style Wise Blog (Article Here, definitely give it a read!) that I realized I was suffering from, what I will call, Eco Burn Out.

“…I didn’t want to talk to anybody about what I was wearing or explain the nuanced principles of eco fashion…I should have seen eco burn out coming”

Signs of Eco Burn Out

In retrospect I probably should have seen it coming. Blogging has slowed down, I didn’t enjoy looking at some of favorite companies anymore, I didn’t want to talk to anybody about what I was wearing or explain the nuanced principles of eco fashion, lost interest in social media, I wasn’t enjoying getting dressed as I felt uninspired by a lot of my clothing, and to top it off my husband said I was acting like a crazy person (to his credit I absolutely was). One night while scrambling my brain to come up with new blog topics I couldn’t sleep and finally got out of bed at 3am to make blueberry muffins. Baking has always been a stress reliever for me. Unfortunately for my husband, I managed to eat almost all of them. (Life happens). He suggested I take time out and reflect about moving forward with WTT. If it was driving me this crazy was it really worth continuing?

“But, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. What had I done?”

Act of Rebellion

This brings me to my mistake, no I won’t call it that. I’ll let you decide what it was. I decided to go to the mall (shockingly I haven’t step foot in one in over a year and a half). The goal was to see if I could find some eco labels at some of my former favorite stores including Nordstrom. I knew they carried them online but in stores? Had to see for myself. Well, not surprisingly I didn’t find much of a selection (not to say that there isn’t any) but in the midst of my searching I found a sweater and skirt that called out to me. The problem: they weren’t eco, at least not in the traditional sense. But hey, I thought, if I’m going to stop blogging about eco fashion what’s the harm of trying them on? So I did. Which ended up with me purchasing them… (insert your judgements here) The sweater was made 100% of bio degradable fabric and the skirt was something I could mix and match different ways. Meaning it has closet staying potential and won’t be a seasonal discard. But, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. What had I done? Were they made in living wage factories? Were the farmers who produced the fibers paid fairly? Were the synthetic materials made from recyclables? Did they use non-toxic dyes?

“I could stop blogging at any point, give up eco fashion, and move on with my life.”

The Problem

The biggest hurdle I faced after purchasing these two items wasn’t that I didn’t know their true eco identities, although I’ll talk about this in just a couple lines down but, that I felt good. No, not good, great! My husband said when I was trying them on I was smiling like he hasn’t seen in years. It was the style, the fit, the color, the ease in which I felt I could find something that fit my style profile, and maybe possibly the fact that I was never a fan of online shopping (which is where most eco purchases happen). I felt a sense of control again over my closet and myself. So why was I putting myself through all this stress? I could stop blogging at any point, give up eco fashion, and move on with my life. The problem lies in the fact that I was drawn to eco fashion out of principle. I love what the industry stands for and that I, as a consumer, have the power of choice to make a difference. My voice counts and could potentially sway an entire industry. I want people to work in jobs that they are paid justly for and provides them security. I want to end water, air and soil contamination. I don’t want our clothing flooding other countries markets and killing their local economies. I don’t want to harm animals. I want to support women in the workplace. But most importantly, I want to be happy. To do that I had to get to the root of my eco burn out.

“In my quest to be an ethical purist I was ignoring what made me happy about fashion in the first place, the styles.”

Leah Wise: Style Wise Blog

When I saw Leah’s article “Why I quit being an ethical purist” a couple of days after my purchase it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was trying to be everything at once resulting in some serious eco burn out. She succinctly pointed out the reason I was feeling the way I was, trying to promote the entire eco industry at once. When I made the switch from high end fashion to eco fashion I did so because human rights have always been a focus in my life. And it seemed like a natural fit to bridge fashion and fair working conditions. But, this soon turned into fair trade, and then pollution, and then recycling, and then second hand, and then veganism. Now, before you say anything, I fully applaud and support the people out there who are able to conquer all of these topics with their wardrobe. I however, have discovered I am not one of them. In my quest to be an ethical purist I was ignoring what made me happy about fashion in the first place, the styles. Instead of wearing pieces I loved I was buying pieces that fit an agenda which in turn made me miserable. And, if I didn’t want to talk about it and didn’t feel great wearing it, what was the point?

“I am a full supporter of eco fashion in all its facets but I don’t think I can do it all and am doing a great disservice to myself and to the industries tenets by pretending I can.”

Thank you Leah

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to stop blogging. And, if I hadn’t have seen Leah’s article I would still be suffering from eco burn out. Her post made me realize I didn’t need to stop. I just needed to adjust my priorities. I am a full supporter of eco fashion in all its facets but I don’t think I can do it all and am doing a great disservice to myself and to the industries tenets by pretending I can. I wear dresses I bought years ago from fast fashion retailers. Try explaining eco fashion to someone when they ask you where you clothing came from and you answer (insert any fast fashion retailer here). Seems like it undermines your point, doesn’t it? But, here’s what I have come to realize. I love my clothing. Each one of them is bought with purpose. Not a one-time wear. I’m at ease with my recent purchases from the mall knowing I will wear them for years to come but also now know that my focus lies in factories, not the environment, not ethical fashion, and not the materials. That is not to say these aren’t important but for me they take a backseat to factories and living wages. I have long been a preacher of buy what you love, love what you wear, and treat it as if it was your only garment for the next 10 years. I’m not a capsule blogger because my style doesn’t allow me to be. I am okay with this.

“Even a single step forward is progress: progress towards a cleaner, more ethical, more sustainable landscape.”

Lessons Learned

Shop with a purpose. For me that means looking at who made my clothes and evaluating if a garment brings me joy or not. I want to feel that each time I get dressed it’s something special. That each garment is a celebration unto itself, in essence I will love it for years to come. Does it bring purpose to my life or am I just filling a void? In the end be you and don’t try to be it all. If you can, great! Let me know your secret. Find what speaks the loudest to you. What’s the cause you want to take up? Believe it or not you don’t have to take it all on to make a difference. The fashion industry is already starting to change thanks to you. They are seeing that consumers want more green/eco/ethical/sustainable options. But, just like we all don’t gravitate towards the same top, we all aren’t going to gravitate towards the same cause. And, that’s okay. If animals are you’re thing pursue vegan fashion. If pollution is your concern pursue nontoxic fabrics. If reducing waste is your thing pursue a capsule collection or second hand. Don’t feel bad for you. And, if I’ve learned any lessons from my eco burn out it’s that you don’t have to excuse or explain yourself to anyone. Even a single step forward is progress: progress towards a cleaner, more ethical, more sustainable landscape.

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Sustainable Fashion Ted Talks Worth Watching

Sustainable Fashion Ted Talks Worth Watching

Lately I have been on the hunt for some sustainable fashion Ted Talks. After combing the archives I found 6 binge worthy sustainable fashion Ted Talks.

1.Eva Kruse: Changing the World Through Fashion

“..ultimately, actually helping the industry earn more money by making you all want something new. A new color, a cut, or a new fit because that’s the nature of the business. And that’s creating jobs. It’s a good thing. It’s creating jobs all around the world from the cotton farmer to the shop assistant. However, lately building the industry and making it make more money is not all I have been doing because there is a flip side to it all. The fashion industry is also one of the worlds most polluting industries.” Eva Kruse

2. Clara Vuletich: How to Engage with Ethical Fashion

“The good news is I believe things are changing for the better. We are currently in a transition to a new type of fashion industry based on ecological and holistic principles – of closing the loop on materials. That prioritizes community, values and respect of all the people in the supply chain.” Clara Vuletich

3. Andras Forgacs: Leather and Meat without Killing Animals

What’s crazy is what we do today. I’m convinced that in 30 years, when we look back on today and on how we raise and slaughter billions of animals to make our hamburgers and our handbags, we’ll see this as being wasteful and indeed crazy.” Andras Forgas

4. Lucy Siegle: The Wardrobe to Die For

“We’re all a nation of fashion addicts. That’s how we’ve become and that’s been enabled really over the last 20 years by a phenomenon known as fast fashion.” Lucy Siegle

5. Christine Dean: You Are What You Wear

“You have an incredible power to reduce the pollution in the fashion industry.” Christine Dean

6. Maxine Bédat: The High Cost of Cheap Fashion

“In the 1960’s the average American invested in 25 new pieces of clothing every year. A generation later, today and we purchase 3x as much clothing as we did in the sixties.” Maxine Bédat

Hope you enjoyed these sustainable fashion Ted Talks as much as I did. Make sure to leave a comment and let me know which one was your favorite!

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A Thirsty Business

A Thirsty Business

The fashion industry is comprised of one thirsty business after another. With summer in full swing I can’t drive through a single town without seeing a water restriction or ban sign. As individuals we are all told to do our part in helping to conserve water but what about corporations? What about the fashion industry? Just how much water does it really take to produce our clothing?

By now you may have seen the statistical number 2,700 litres (approximately 714 gallons) floating around. This is the amount of water used to produce just one T-Shirt!  You read that right, a single shirt! But, being American I don’t exactly have an idea of what a litre is nor does such a large number really mean anything, so let’s break it down.

2,700 Litres for One Shirt is the equivalent to:

1,350 Days of Recommended Drinking Water Per Person (8, 8oz glasses per day)

or

569 Bottles of Wine

or

178 Weeks of Watering a Rose Bush Every Day

or

119 Dishwasher Cycles

or

41.5 Showers

I’m not sure what to be more shocked at, the fact that one shirt uses about three and a half years of personal drinking water or that 569 bottles of wine will never get produced because that water is going to a single shirt.

Now I know this seems a bit too simple and sure you don’t trade one product for another in production, that’s just not how things work, but fresh water is a finite source and sooner or later we will run out (sorry to burst your bubble climate change deniers) so, let’s take a closer look at exactly how much water one industry, fashion, really uses and consider if it is really worth buying one more article of clothing or not.

In 2015 Eileen Fisher told a crowd at a Chelsea Pier Ballroom that “the clothing industry was the second largest polluter in the world…second only to oil.” Whoa there Eileen, aren’t you a clothing designer? And how do you know that? Indeed, Fisher is a prominent designer whose clothing you have no doubt seen but she is also a sustainability advocate and is doing her part to help overhaul the industry. To the second point we don’t really know just how toxic the fashion industry has become because surprise, surprise companies don’t really like to tell us about the downsides of their businesses. Shocking, I know! But, the fact remains, as one of the most prominent industries the rapid consumption of clothing and accessories has contributed to astounding water pollution and mind boggling water consumption.

In order to make traditional clothing, the first thing that needs to happen is to grow the raw materials. This is most often cotton – remember it is the fabric of our lives. Approximately 20 million tons of cotton are produced each year spanning a total of 90 countries. It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton – about one t-shirt and a single pair of jeans. If you thought that was a lot of water just wait until the next phases of production. Cotton has to be harvested, spun, and dyed. It is estimated by Cotton Inc. that 85% of water usage in the fashion industry is directly associated with the dyeing process.

Okay, so at this point you are probably thinking about all the alternatives to cotton and you would be right to know that clothing is made from more than one material. Each of those substitutes show promise in helping to minimize the industries water footprint but with cotton accounting for about half our clothes and other textiles it is unavoidable.

Water consumption isn’t the only problem with the fashion industries footprint. Water pollution is what we can only guess Fisher was hinting at when she said it was the second dirtiest industry. Being as prevalent a crop as it is, some clever manufactures have come up with bug resistant and drought resistant cotton crops. But, this means pesticides and lots of them and guess where those pesticides end up – in the soil – and what does the soil come into contact with? Aquafers! It’s one big closed loop system. Pesticides seep into the soil which run into the water ways, eventually down-stream and into oceans. There is no escaping the pollutants even if the crops are grown half way around the world. Those nasty side effects will eventually come right back to you. “Unsustainable cotton farming, with massive inputs of water and pesticides, has already been responsible for the destruction of large-scale ecosystems such as the Aral Sea in central Asia and the deteriorating health and livelihoods of the people living there.”

The dyeing process is no kinder to the environment. Many of the dyes still used in mass production are toxic. I could get all technical here and talk about low dissolve oxygen concentrations and biochemical oxygen demand (you can read more about that in this very technical report) but let’s just say adding toxic dyes to the water system isn’t good for anyone. From endocrine disruption to preventing sunlight from penetrating the surface of the water, and lastly this scary little piece of information “studies have shown that some classes of dye… may be carcinogenic and / or mutagenic, endangering human health, since the wastewater treatment systems and water treatment plants are ineffective in removing the color and the mutagenic properties of some dyes.”

Now sounds like a good time to get a glass of water and mull this one over. Thanks but no thanks. Luckily for us, there are quite a few companies and corporations out there that have recognized the problems associated with water usage in the fashion industry and are making HUUUUGE changes.

So what can you do?

Buy Less:

Obvious I know. But just remember for every t-shirt you buy you are possibly sacrificing 569 bottles of wine, or 41 showers.

Choose Carefully:

Look for companies such as Eileen Fisher, Levi’s Water<Less, United By Blue, Amour Vert, and Zady that are doing their parts to reduce the industries water footprint and pollutants.

Wash Less, Wear More:

Seriously! We live in a disposable culture and that includes our clothing. Stop this habit right now. Livia Firth brought us the #30Wears challenge. Buy higher quality clothing that you can wear over and over again. The first step in a sustainable closet is wearing what you already have and then incorporate new pieces that will stand the test of time. Also, wash your clothes less. You don’t need to wash a shirt every time you wear it unless you are a professional mud wrestler.

Mud wrestling and wine aside it all starts with us, the consumers. Choose wisely and demand companies do their part. I for one enjoy showering in clean water and don’t want to see that go away anytime soon.

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Going Green: What is Greenwashing?

Going Green: What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing

No doubt you have heard that companies big and small are making changes to go green. From solar energy, to less water usage, to using recyclable packing materials. But in a world where cash is king are companies really going green? Or, are they implementing marketing tactics to make you think their initiatives are bigger than they really are? Are they greenwashing?

Greenwashing, the practice of disseminating disinformation so as to present an environmentally responsibly public image is nothing new. Sure it has a new catchy name but companies have been using marketing tactics to make it appear that they are truly implementing their customer’s desires.

As the impact of the fashion industry has on the environment and social rights continues to grow companies would be bad businessmen/women not to listen to their customers concerns about these issues. The more, millennials in particular, raise such questions as how is this hurting the environment? Who is making my clothing? Are they getting paid fairly? How much waste is produced? What is my clothing made from? The more companies are paying attention and starting to make environmentally friendly and human rights changes. This all sounds good, right? But what if I told you many of the companies you think are being proactive are actually just using greenwashing?

Here’s the perfect example. Every year H&M promotes their recycling week. You bring in your no longer wanted clothing and for each bag the company will give you a 30% off coupon for a future purchase at one of their locations. The clothing that is donated is broken into three categories: 1. Wearable, in which case it is then marketed as second hand goods around the globe; 2. Reusable, in the case that the garment is not wearable it is broken down and repurposed into other products such as cleaning clothes: 3. Recycled: Fibers are broken down and used in new fabrics or manufactured to be used as damping and insulation in the automotive industry. Sounds pretty good and all inclusive.

But the fashion industry isn’t a closed loop. Things aren’t as neat and tidy as H&M hopes it would be with their 0% waste initiatives. For starters fast fashion companies such as H&M survive only on our rapid consumption. Their clothing is not made to last. That 30% off coupon is just a marketing ploy to get you back in the store and buying more. Hey, maybe that’s not a bad thing if you can just bring it back for next year’s recycling event… right? There are two key elements being ignored by the company. The first is that over 25 billion tons of textiles is generated every year. To put that into perspective that is approximately 82 pounds of textiles per person, per year!  Of that only 15% is recycled and the other 85% ends up in landfills. Not everyone can make it to H&M every year to donate. The clothing that is sent overseas to be sold on second hand markets has been known to tank local economy and stifle local entrepreneurship. How can you create something when you are being flooded with someone else’s stuff?

The second greenwashing offense is what you can’t see. H&M is still guilty of using suppliers that pay low wages and do not provide building safety including fire escape plans. This is why a shirt can cost only $5. You have to cut corners somewhere. The only other thing missing from H&M recycle program is the data. Maybe they think consumers won’t ask questions beyond their 30% off coupon. But here we are asking. What percentage is really sent overseas vs used in the automotive industry. Is every article turned in really recycled and if so to where? Why isn’t this information made public?

Don’t get me wrong donating your clothing isn’t a bad thing. But shouldn’t we know more about where it really goes? And should we really be donating our clothing to a store with the lure of buying more disposable items? That is what greenwashing does. It blinds us to the real issues of behind the garment. The good news is consumers are paying more attention and the appeasement strategy put out by retailers just isn’t cutting it anymore.

H&M is not the only company guilty of greenwashing. Other fashion retailers have also jumped on this bandwagon in an effort to look the part. Here are some keywords to look for as an indicator that things may not be as they seem…

Make a donation: A few companies will donate money to a local charity or to one overseas. This sounds great but many of these companies couldn’t tell you who or where their clothing is being made. This is a strong indicator that less than stellar manufacturer rights are happening behind the scenes. Think overcrowded factories, child labor, and little pay. The tactic of asking for a donation is used to distract you from looking at the real issues of the store by feeling like you did something great in the moment.

Solar energy: I love when companies turn their headquarters green. But their headquarters are a very, very small part of the operation. What about their transport trucks, the mall stores, their suppliers and manufacturers? Now you might be thinking… the company has to start somewhere right? Yes, they do! But they need to stop using toxic chemicals in their clothing which pollutes waterways and your body. I applaud their efforts to make their headquarters green but it only lowers their electricity cost and does nothing to address contaminates to the environment. One does not negate the other.

Organic: Organic is good, it’s not just good; it’s great! But as of now there isn’t really a system to produce high volumes at low costs of organic clothing and still be ethically responsible. High volumes of anything is a strong indicator of sweatshop usage overseas.

Fashion retailers are like any other business: the bottom line is what matters. The fact that greenwashing takes place in my opinion is a good indicator that companies listen to their consumers. They have to, to make that money. But as consumers become more aware greenwashing will eventually have to turn into real practice in order for these companies to stay relevant. So keep asking who made my clothing? What is is made from? Where is it made?

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Who Made My Clothes? Children Most Likely

Who Made My Clothes? Children Most Likely

Who Made My Clothes: Children Most Likely, World Threads Traveler, Sustainable Fashion

“They began work at 5:30 and quit at 7 at night. Children six years old going home to lie on a straw pallet until time to resume work the next morning!”

― Mary Harris Jones

Take a look at what you’re wearing. Do you remember when you bought it? How about where? Do you know what it is made from? Or its country of origin? Most of us can’t answer these questions with any precision. So how are we supposed to know who is making our clothing if we can’t even remember when or where we bought it?

December 2 marked International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, yet an estimated 20 million people around the world are considered modern day slaves. A bi-product of poverty, slavery, is often attributed to the lack of education, economic freedoms, and rule of law, all which come together to foster an environment rife with corruption. Of the estimated 20 million roughly 26% (approximately 5.5 million) are children. Read that again. Approximately 5.5 million children around the world are considered slaves!

In addition to slavery a further estimation by the ILO indicates that 215 million children work “under conditions that are considered illegal, hazardous, or extremely exploitative.” Some of largest percentages of this occurs in the agricultural (60%) and manufacturing (7%) fields. So what does this have to do with the clothing you are wearing today?

Child labor in the textile industry is widespread across the globe especially where most of our garments are manufactured today: Asia. From the cotton that is picked, to the buttons that are sewn on, it is likely some aspect of your clothing comes from child labor. In the garment industry, child labor can be broken down into two subcategories: forced and contributory.

Forced

Forced labor is synonymous is slavery. Cotton from Uzbekistan is a prime example where state sponsored child labor is employed. You can read more about that in the Denim Dilemma Article. But that’s not the only country where forced labor happens. A 2014 Department of Labor report indicated that garments from Brazil, Argentina, China, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal, North Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam used forced child labor in their production. The report further mentions the harvesting of cotton attributed to child labor in Benin, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Debt Bondage is another form of slavery used within the textile industry. The Sumangali scheme is one of the better-known cases in India although not straightforward. Known as the “marriage assistance program” girls, often from Tamil Nadu, are brokered into textile factories to earn money for their dowries. “The scheme promises a bulk of money after completion of a three-year contract working in the factory. It – ostensibly – meets the need of poor families and provides stable workforce to factories in Coimbatore.” It doesn’t sound too bad of deal, that is until you learn the conditions in which many of these girls work under. They are often forced to work up to 12 hours a day, live in cramped quarters with limited outside access and monitored, if at all, calls home. Additionally, many of these girls are fired or forced to resign right before their contract is finished to avoid paying out the promised sum. In 2008 the daily wage earned by Sumangali girls was estimated around 50 rupees a day ($0.75) while the legal minimum wage was at 140 rupees. There is no indication that this compensation has increased over the years. Many of the girls are reported to be between fifteen to eighteen when they started working. However, it is known that documents have been falsified to show contractors the factories are complying with the appropriate age restrictions so there is a good chance many of these girls were much younger when they started working.

Contributory

As I already mentioned poverty is a great influencer on slavery but it is also an enormous factor as to why child labor exists at all. In several countries where wages are irregularly monitored, corruption is rife, or the cost of living is largely out of proportion with wages earned a large percentage of the populations live at or below the poverty line. Assuming a family unit has both parents working they often earn less than is necessary to provide for them. A lack of family planning, and/or support structures in place often means that any children born into the family will end up working to support the household. “There is a clear link between child labour and low wages for adult workers, both in agriculture (cotton production) and in the garment factories.”

Relying on the fact that children are not supposed to be working employers often pay them less than what adults make, as if doing them a favor by employing them at all, and employ them in hazardous and/or tedious tasks that require meticulously precise actions such as beading or embroidery. While sometimes this is done out in the open (generally under falsified documents) most of the time it is done behind closed doors to avoid arousing suspicious should a factory audit occur. One of the more direct side affects of using contributory child labor is there is always a constant workforce without which factories would almost certainly be forced to raise wages to meet the demands of the adult labor force. This type of child labor also continues the poverty cycle by ensuring the children do not attend school and do not earn the skills necessary to create a better life for themselves and families.

Company Oversight

If you ask any clothing companies President if they use child labor the answer (I hope) will be a resounding no. I haven’t seen a single report where a company has admitted or even stopped to think about the possibility that one of their contractors or subcontracts could employ children. But, as news reports and documentaries have shown they are omitting a very complicated narrative. While they may not know it initially, the push for cheaper clothing costs to overseas companies has also meant the use of children to meet deadlines, quotas, and also price points, without which a $4 shirt is not possible. Ask yourself next time you see a sale: how can a garment be priced that low and the company still profitable?

Company guidelines, which can generally be found on their corporate pages, outline among other things human rights and working standards to which all their contractors are to adhere. Sounds great but who is monitoring them? There are certainly efforts from the selling companies, NGO’s and local governments to monitor and report on factory conditions but a clear line of responsibility has yet to be established, especially in the rampant subcontracting world. A CBS Fifth Estate production titled “Made in Bangladesh” shows just how complicated it is to trace a single item of clothing and in the end no one took responsibility for the item fearing repercussions. With just 7 percent of fashion labels publishing lists of suppliers and only 9 percent reporting on code of conduct compliance at least part of shirt was made in a factory that employs unfair labor conditions. It is common place for a company to deny having an article of clothing made in a factory that has been reported to have poor working conditions and/or child labor although workers often contest this point by showing exactly what they sewed/made on the particular item. In an effort to not get their hand caught in the cookie jar denial seems to be commonplace. So while some company oversight does exist the real question remains are they aware or blissfully ignorant in order to keep pricing low? Both are unacceptable. And, if this is not the case why not make public the manufacturing records with a traceable line of production?

What Can Be Done?

So how do we help keep children out of the workplace and put them back in school? One suggestion is to stop or drastically reduce buying fast fashion. Those low prices come with a whole lot of baggage that is contributing to the vicious poverty cycle. The second is to demand answers. Companies need to be held responsible for the part they play. Look to see where the item is made. Is it made in China? Bangladesh? India? Send an e-mail to the company asking for more information. As consumer we have the right to know what we are buying and from whom. If you don’t know where to start, shop local. Local business owners generally have a great grasp on where their products are manufactured. They have often spent painstaking hours building relationships with these individuals and can tell you all about it. This is also a great network to have and branch out from. Lastly, you can demand change from the top down. Several organizations are working to combat child labor. These include End Child Slavery, Global March Against Child Labour, Stop Child Labor, and No Child For Sale among others. These organizations work with local governments, individuals, companies and other international organizations to help stop child labor around the globe.

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