On April 24th, 2013, the Rana Plaza—a garment factory building in Bangladesh—collapsed. This accident, dubbed “the fourth largest industrial disaster in history,” cost the lives of 1,138 people and injured 2,500 more. The majority of clothing factory workers in LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries) live in poverty and are unable to afford basic necessities. Many of them are subjected to sweatshop labor, verbal and physical abuse, and working in unsafe, dirty conditions with meager pay.
Documentaries such as The True Cost, The Machinists, and Slowing Down Fast Fashion have done exceptionally well in portraying the negative effects the industry has on human welfare and the environment. According to The True Cost, “the average American generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year” making a total of “more than 11 million tons of textile waste from the U.S. alone.”
Many of us have, to some extent, been exposed to information regarding the fast-fashion industry and its destructive impacts. But how can we really become better consumers? Here are some simple ways for you to slowly shift your shopping habits towards slow fashion. These tips will also help you become a more conscious consumer.
Switch from retail stores to thrift stores.
The most common oppositions to thrift stores that I’ve heard are: a) they’re unhygienic, b) they’re often old-fashioned and most people don’t find anything there, and c) it takes way too much time. First of all, just because they’re used products or clothes doesn’t mean that they are dirty. Obviously, there are items with stains or a visible amount of wear—however, we should be cleaning everything off after purchasing them from a thrift store anyway! Although some products aren’t in their best condition, most of the things I’ve purchased are perfectly fine. Secondly, finding products or clothes that fit your taste is just a matter of store selection. You won’t stumble upon trendy sportswear pieces at a Goodwill store in the middle of a suburban city. Instead, opt for Buffalo Exchange or a thrift store where younger kids shop. Finally, yes—thrifting can take up a big chunk of time. However, shopping isn’t a chore. Mark a day on your calendar to go thrifting with your friends, family members, or even by yourself!
For a long time, I considered shopping one of my hobbies—one of the things I liked to do for fun. That ideology is pretty common; if a friend asks, “What can we do over the weekend?”, going shopping is likely one of the responses. I think it’s quite sad how shopping has become so highly anticipated among young people. The marketing and merchandising of the fashion economy have grown significantly in response to retail stores’ pressing demands for marketing strategies and window displays to lure in customers, manipulating them into thinking that they really need something that they don’t. Advertisement promises people the fulfillment of their dreams and aspirations. Consequently, consumers do their job: they consume. It’s a good idea to rethink shopping and learn to view it as the mere process of purchasing necessities. Sometimes, it’s okay to spend money on things you don’t necessarily need if you know they’ll be valuable additions to you and your growth as a person.
Consider a more minimalistic approach towards your consuming habits.
In this day and age, it’s extremely easy to be a constant consumerist as everything is so readily available and affordable. Modernization comes with a cost: everybody is buying more than they actually need. It’s a good idea for you to look back at what you’ve purchased and ask yourself: Why did I buy this? How does this contribute to my life? Stay with me. They might sound like existentialist questions, but the only way to control consumerism is to understand why it happens in the first place. Think about your closet. How many t-shirts do you have? How many of them are of the same color? How many of them do you actually wear? Consider donating or selling some of your clothes. By minimizing the amount of things you own, your select belongings will possess more value and importance in your life.
Appreciate the value of everything that you already own.
It’s easy to overlook the value of products when you’re living in a world of overabundant supply. Before the 19th century, due to the lack of technological advancement, fabric was a lot more expensive to produce; hence, clothes were limited and their costs were high. Back in those days, people only owned a few garments each and would regularly change their undergarments instead of the top layers. This kept the decorative, more expensive layers clean and wearable for a longer time. Being able to produce a lot of garments now, their prices have dropped significantly. However, as a result of overproduction and constant drops in prices, we are buying more things. This automatically reduces the amount of time we spend using our previously owned items. In turn, more garments end up in landfills. The big idea here: use your products to their full potential before you get rid of them!