Imagine this: You’re standing in a store… I know… for some of us this is a thing of the past, so if you can’t imagine physically being in a store, then imagine you’re looking at two almost identical tops on your mobile device. They look pretty much the same except one costs $59 and the other costs $19. You wonder why the big price difference, so you check what they’re made of. The $59 top is made using a blend of Cotton/Modal, but the $19 one is some other fabric blend… close enough. The $59 top is made in the U.S. but the $19 one is made in Vietnam. Do you care? Which one do you buy?
Here’s another one… your town has experienced a ton of flood damage after all the crazy rain we’ve been getting OR you’ve had to wear a mask whenever going outside cause the smoke from the latest wildfire is hovering in the air and freaking you out. Now you’re beginning to think Climate Change is real. You go onto that same website and look at those same two shirts; the $59 one and the $19 one. Which one do you buy?
One more… you only buy organic, non-GMO produce and food at your local grocery store. You never eat processed, sugary stuff and you check every label for what’s in it. You even know where your produce was grown and the name of the farm raising the chickens you eat. You head to that same website and look at those two shirts… Which one do you buy? The $59 one or the $19 one?
Chances are, even if you’re casually shopping, a believer that Climate Change is real or a strict, organic-non-GMO eater, you’re gonna buy that $19 top and not the $59 one. Why? Because…
When it comes to clothing being made sustainably, responsibly and ethically, most consumers still choose price over everything else.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m in this business and sometimes I still have to talk myself into buying the more consciously made, expensive garment, but the difference between most others and me is I always go with the one that’s made responsibly and that’s usually the pricier one.
Buying clothing that’s easier on the planet doesn’t seem to matter to most consumers and that’s a bad thing. The textile industry has a big impact on our planet’s well being and ever since clothing companies started making their garments overseas, the impact’s gotten worse.
Fast fashion has created an unrealistic norm for most of us. We walk into a store… yeah, some of us still do that… and we see $10 t-shirts, $5 underwear and leggings that cost ten bucks. These ridiculous prices create the idea that all clothes should be priced this way and paying anything more is, well… unfair. But the reality is no clothing should be this inexpensive and we need to get used to the real price of things.
Making clothing isn’t cheap and making it sustainably is even pricier.
I always compare the garment biz to the food industry. We both have to rely on tons of help to get to the finished product.
A food company depends on the farmers growing the produce, the workers harvesting it showing up to do that, the packaging company supplying containers and again workers to put the food in it and finally the shipping companies getting the produce to distributors so it can make it to the markets… and that’s just for produce. I’m certain I’ve left a lot out, but you get my point.
Clothing companies have a similar supply chain. We rely on the cotton or Beachwood trees being grown without pesticides and harvested, the thread companies making the yarn to spin the fabric at the mills and the shipping companies getting the fabric to our cutting room. Then there’s the actual cutting using the markers made out of paper, the bundling and transferring to our sewing contractors and the actual sewing. I’m not even gonna mention the hang tags, garment labels and other suppliers needed to ensure the garments can be finished.
My point? Both industries are reliant on tons of other industries and when you combine them all, you get a lot of carbon emissions, physical waste and so much more I won’t bore you with.
The thing is, we need to eat and we need to wear clothes… some more than others, but these basic necessities impact our planet and we have to distinguish between the good and the bad. You wouldn’t spend more for irresponsibly grown food, so why do you spend more for irresponsibly made clothes?
I hear you right now. You’re saying… forget about new clothes! The only way to fix the pollution caused by making new clothes is to only buy used, and part of me agrees with you. When I heard about Second Hand September, I thought it was brilliant. Sure, my livelihood depends on people buying new eco-friendly ethical clothing, but here’s the thing, buying used clothing is another great way to cut back on textile pollution.
I actually support thrifting, but there are some things I won’t wear used and I don’t recommend buying secondhand… Stuff like underwear, workout clothes and basics that get worn a lot like joggers, leggings, intimate loungewear and even tanks.
Why? Because this is the stuff touching our private parts. This is the stuff soaked in our sweat and we’ve all worn those running shorts that stink even after multiple washings. It’s just gross and not something I want to share with the person who wore those clothes before me.
So what’s a consumer supposed to do?
I say, try a little of both! Get on that secondhand trend and pick up your favorite denim for a quarter of the price or that old, leather jacket you’ve always wanted. Stuff like that is perfect for selling a second time around and it’s the stuff that looks better after it’s been worn awhile too.
But when it comes to buying the new stuff we all need, take a good long look at the company you’re buying from.
Buy less and choose well!
Forget about whether or not it’s “designer”… they’re some of the worst offenders anyway… and see where your new clothes are made, who’s making your clothes and what those clothes are made of. Pay attention to the content and do the right thing. Pay the $59 for that top if it’s coming from a responsibly run clothing company.
I know there’s a lot of clothing companies claiming they use organic cotton and ethically run shops to make their clothes but look closely, REALLY closely, and remember this… If it’s good for the planet, the fabric alone used to make that top makes up almost half the cost so if it’s only $19, someone isn’t getting paid. Check the supply chain, call the company and do all you can to make sure you’re buying from a company that’s treating its people and the planet well. If they are, then nineteen bucks is a great deal and I’d support your choice.
Bad choices made by someone else means that company making those cheap clothes is going to keep pumping dirty pollution into our drinking water. Hey, we’re all connected to the planet and we all have to breathe the same air and live off the same land and at some point, we’ll all have to deal with the mess we’ve made.
Every time you choose the less expensive $19 top, you’re actually contributing to Climate Change. So think twice and remember, the forty bucks you save now will cost you ten times that later when you have to mop up your basement or fix your damaged roof. If you can’t afford that $59 top, go for second hand and save up for the garment you can’t wear after someone else has worn it. Whatever you choose, choose wisely.
Who knew deciding between two tops could have such a big impact on all of us?
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
Let ME know:
What items do you buy new? What items do you thrift?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below!
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