The ‘Oblivious Shopper’

by Kodi Anbarasu, William Penn Middle School

There are people as young as five that work in dirty, dust-filled factories putting together clothing as fast as they can. They do this every day for almost double the time you work for in a week (Jones, 2021).

The situation gets so bad to the point where they have to leave their families with other relatives to care for them (True Cost, 2015). One might question why these people work painstakingly long hours in dirty conditions?

The answer is to fulfill the cheap clothing needs of the Western world. The name of this business model, which some of your favorite stores might use, is called “Fast Fashion.”

The term was coined when a fashion retailer first opened its shop in the 90s at a time when affordable trendy clothing was savagely sought after (Idacavage, 2018). Today the industry is still booming despite the numerous horrors it creates.

One reason might be because Gen-Z is so used to the throw-away culture, which can be extremely difficult to stray from (Ngyuen, 2021). People purchase the latest styles and dispose of them when a new trend comes along (Fashion Revolution, 2020). However, we can’t entirely blame them for their ignorance.

In one study conducted featuring 2500 Americans of all ages, the data shows that 62%, or 1500 respondents, didn’t even know what the term Fast Fashion even meant. Another survey conducted reports that 58% of respondents say that they do not know the environmental impacts of this dangerous style of commerce. Polyester, nylon, and acrylic require large amounts of fossil fuels to be produced (Penny, 2016).

As you probably already know, this type of energy takes thousands of years to be created and when burnt for energy, it releases toxic elements into the air (National Geographic, 2022). Chemicals from pesticides can runoff into nearby bodies of water, which then becomes a part of water pollution (Lott, 2021).

To put it in a broader view, one ton of fabric pollutes 200 tons of water (Ranson, 2020). A crucial aspect of Fast Fashion is to quickly get a garment from a factory to the hands of the customer. So, if only 3% of garment transportation went to airplanes from ships, there would be 100% more carbon emissions.

That number adds to the 10% of global greenhouse gasses that the textile industry already makes (Ro, 2020). This is unfortunately the direction we are headed if this exploitative and human mistreatment business model continues.

Another dark side of Fast Fashion is the blatant disregard to human rights. To fuel Fast Fashion, retailers indirectly pay sweatshops in other countries disgustingly low wages to be able to produce new pieces of clothing every day. Most Bangladeshis in these waters only earn two dollars a day (The True Cost, 2015) – Andrew Morgan, don’t feel so bad if you didn’t already know this.

As mentioned before, companies are careful to not disclose these things to the public. In fact, they have gone a step further to trick their customers to make them think they are environmentally friendly. In reality, they still use the same damaging practice they always do to keep the money and the shoppers rolling in. The term for this is called Greenwashing (Ruggiero, Schamber, Schroeder, 2021).

Luckily, you can stop this by simply altering your shopping habits. Look for clothes that are ethically made and fairly-priced. Steering away from synthetic fibers like polyester or acrylic can be challenging; however, it is worth it for the sake of the Earth. The reason being, like plastic, it takes a long time to decompose once in landfills. If we burn the garments, it releases toxic fumes into the air (Penny, 2016).

Our brain has to weigh the pain of buying an item and the joy of using it. As a society, we find pleasure in sales and discounts, since there is less amount of pain we take less time weighing the factors. Impulse shopping is way harder to control online, for company’s use deceitful tactics on their websites.

One example these money-hungry corporations do is that they easing the risk of danger by offering refunds and discounts to ease the buyer’s mind on whether to purchase or not (Moser, 2020). This leads to most of our clothing not being worn or used once. Another factor is that we shop for who we desire to become rather than who we are.

Most of you probably bought dresses or fancy attire you never wear or only wear an item once because you don’t like how it looks on you. You can avoid doing this by trying to not buy clothing when you are overfilled with emotions; furthermore, practice the old saying “Think Before You Act.”

Fast Fashion has been around for a long time at this point. Even though this is a huge monster that some are battling, it is up to you, the consumer, to join the fight and rid the world of this beast.

(Editor’s note: References are available upon request.)

PHOTO CAP: Kodi Anbarasu

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