The more conscious I am becoming, the more conscious I am becoming. Make sense? Let me explain, the further I delve into what it means to be conscious, the more my eyes are opening to the world we live in and how I contribute.
Each and everything I do, every decision I make has an impact on the environment. If you haven’t yet watched “The True Cost,” do. But be warned, it is likely to change the way you shop or think about shopping. It certainly helped me to be a lot more fashion conscious.
It’s a reflection
I love fashion, I love how it makes me feel, how I look when I am wearing a cool outfit. A good outfit can give you confidence to step out into the world. Like fashion designer Orsola De Castro said, “We communicate who we are to a certain extent, it’s fundamentally a part of how we wish to communicate ourselves.” I couldn’t have said it better. The way we dress is part of our identity. And so media plays on this, we are constantly bombarded with gorgeous images of models, wearing the latest season’s fashion. How can we not be tempted by the gloss, when they play on our senses.
I used to be a slave to the fashion industry, always on the lookout for a new item. I would buy clothes to fill a void, you’ve all heard of ‘retail therapy’? It’s like an addiction, you see something, your heart races, you might even get sweaty palms, you try it on, it feels so good, you feel so good, so you buy it and get it home, and then it sits in your cupboard, lost in a sea of clothes. And on and on and on it goes. Usually, the only time you realize you have way too much stuff is when you’re moving home.
The dark side of fashion
My journey of consciousness started by accident. I watched a few ‘shock documentaries’ and I realized that I couldn’t continue with this throwaway attitude that I had. The final straw for me was watching “the True Cost.”
Our planet is in trouble. We hear this, a lot. Not only is our planet in trouble, but people living on the planet are, too. I just don’t know how much we grasp the reality of it. In Australia, we are not faced with poverty to the same extent that developing countries are, so I suppose we have the out of sight, out of mind syndrome.
I want to highlight a few alarming facts on how the Fashion Industry is impacting our world, and not just the land but the people, too:
Fashion’s impact on people:
- The fashion industry is worth more than $3 trillion
- Garment workers in Bangladesh earn $2 per day, which means they are clearly at the bottom of the value chain
- Due to the demand, the majority of cotton grown in the Punjab region uses the highest amount of pesticides, which is dramatically affecting the people in the region with birth defects, mental illness, and cancers
- Farmers cannot keep up with the demand, so huge organizations are buying their land which means farmers end up with no way of feeding their families
- Shockingly, the suicide rate in the last 16 years is around 250, 000 farmers
- And what’s even more alarming, the huge organizations that buy the land, own the GM seeds and the pesticides, too. Conflict of interest?
Its impact on land:
- They are having to re-engineer cotton plants to keep up the demand, which means that it’s no longer ‘natural’
- The world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing each year (um, hello!)
- And the average American throws away around 82 pounds of textile waste each year (not sure what the figure is worldwide)
- This adds up to 11 tons of textile waste to landfill every year that sits there for 200 years because it isn’t biodegradable (we are going to run out of space!)
- Only 10% of the clothes we donate to thrift stores get sold (I donate to thrift stores all the time and had no idea of this figure).
- All of these excess clothes get bundled up and sent off to countries like Haiti, which has impacted the local garment producers and their country’s economy
Can you see the cause and effect here? By putting our heads in the sand, we are ignoring other people’s suffering.
How can you make a difference?
These are a few things that I have been doing to try and limit my impact on the world
- Research your favourite clothing stores, are they trying to be more conscious of their impact? Take H&M, they are one of the biggest fashion retailers in the world, and they intend to phase out all GM cottons for organic cotton by 2020. There are some organizations that don’t seem to be doing anything to improve their environmental or social impact at all.
- Check to see if the clothing stores have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This came about in May 2015, after the building in Rana Plaza collapsed, leading to over 1100 deaths and 2000 injuries of garment workers, due to an unsafe building. Workers had reported the cracks in the walls, but nothing was done.
- Try and purchase local, so you are limiting the carbon footprint. And supporting locals can only be good.
- Before purchasing yet another t-shirt, ask yourself if you really ‘need’ it. Chances are, you probably don’t.
- Go through your wardrobe, try and use the clothes you already have. Maybe throw on a scarf, or accessories to spruce it up.
- Hold a Clothes Swap party with your friends and family every 6 months. It’s a great way to get together and share a glass of wine, whilst revamping your wardrobe.
- Shop at thrift stores. You will be amazed at how many gems you can find.
I used to think that I couldn’t make a difference, I am one person in millions. And that is exactly how I used to justify the decisions I made. But these justifications don’t cut it anymore. We can make a difference, every day with every tiny action!
Here’s to being more conscious of our actions.