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Why Sustainability Is a Feminist Issue

It’s easy NOT to think about sustainability and feel detached and disconnected from people who actually produce our clothes. As we enter the shop, the first thing we think is whether something looks nice. The first thing we should think is: “Who made this?”

Even though, there has recently been a significant growth of attention towards the sustainability issue, the problem still very much exists and haven’t been dealt with. What exactly is the issue though, you may ask?

Fast Fashion

When we buy clothes, we usually take into consideration the looks of a specific garment. Then we also consider the price and, finally, the quality. However, the popularity and vast growth of ‘fast fashion’ shows, that the latter is actually not that crucial and we would rather get something for a lower price, even if we have to throw it away after few uses. Then we will just buy a new one. Right?

Most ‘fast fashion’ shops offer new collections every month or even every week! We used to have seasonal collections, however, the ‘fast fashion’ nowadays truly is fast. Garment companies have to keep up with and follow new trends and sell them as quickly as possible in their stores. All for affordable price, of course. But what is the true cost of our style?

When most of us think about the clothing production, we visualise people working probably in not the best-looking factories in some remote place of the world. We think it’s sad and unfair, but not sad enough to stop shopping. Well, the truth is more dramatic than we can imagine.

Over 85% of Garment Factory Workers Are Women

Currently there are roughly about 40 million people working in garment factories. 40 million people, who do not have the same human rights as people who buy the garments they make. 40 million people, more than 85% of whom are women. Women, who are not paid enough to provide for themselves, their families, their children. Many factory workers have to bring their kids to work, where they have to inhale toxins and sit all day with minimal access to food or water.

Exploitation

Women are exploited by working 60 or even more hours per week, in atrocious conditions, earning poverty wages of €62 per month (!) and having their health and safety neglected. One of those examples can be the fire in one of Dhaka’s factories in 2012, when 117 were killed and over 200 workers were injured. The building wasn’t fitted properly to the case of fire or any other emergency, not having enough emergency exits. Moreover, the factory owners prioritised ‘saving’ the products and garments, rather than people, who were trapped on upper floors.

The Tragedy of Rana Plaza

The next year, the greatest tragedy of garment-factory disaster in history happened. The collapse of Rana Plaza, the eight-story building, killed 1,134 people and injured 2,500. It was the deadliest structural failure accident in modern human history. The tragedy inspired the film ‘The True Cost’ where survivors explained the horrible conditions in which they had to work and how unstable and unsafe the building was.

Some argue, that the opportunity for women to work in those factories is freeing, as they are regaining financial independence, are able to work and are more conscious about women’s rights. However, it doesn’t change the fact that their lives are in danger and they risk everything by going to work every day.

You might wonder, why are we talking about it now. Our grandparents and parents also had to buy clothes somewhere, so why is it an issue now, out of the sudden? First of all, people nowadays buy much much more than they used to. Because of that, the companies have to keep up with their customers’ needs and the production increases, the amount of things we buy increases. Also, I’ve decided to do a little experiment. I rummaged through my mother’s wardrobe (reluctantly, she gave me permission) and found a gem: a top from chain shop from many years ago. The top was much older than I was and was from a very common brand that still exists and is part of the ‘fast fashion’ problem today. My mum’s top was in perfect condition – it still held its colour, there was no damage to the material and it looked fairly new. I went and bought a top from the very same shop. Results? The quality was so poor that after few washes it was completely damaged and I had to throw it away. Clothes nowadays are not made to last. They are made to satisfy trends for one week and then to be thrown away in order for us to buy more and more and more.

The fast pace in which trends come and go is overwhelming for us, the customers, as we feel the need to buy everything in order to keep up with the current fashion, as well as for the companies, which have to keep up with the demand and produce more.

What can we do?

All that is not to say that we cannot buy anything ever again. We are only humans and how we dressed is more or less important to us. However, there are things to consider when purchasing new garments.

#1 Do You Really Need It?

Are you sure you will wear it at least 30 times? Because only then it can be considered as sustainable.

#2 Buy More Consciously

Check the materials that the garment is made of, check where it was made. Try to shop local brands or second hand and vintage shops!

#3 Lend and Borrow!

Before going to the shop, ask around! Maybe your friends or family have some clothes they are not wearing anymore and you will find exactly what you need or want. Cost-efficient and the planet will thank you!

#4 Simply Buy Less

It has to be said. You really don’t need yet another t-shirt. You don’t need 10 pairs of jeans. You don’t have to buy yet another pair of boots. It is hard, but there are literally human lives at stake. Let’s be more mindful and really consider what and where and how much are we buying!

Remember, the price of the garment you are buying is much higher than what it says on the tag.

For more information, tips and advise, check Fashion Revolution page!

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