Most of the 40 million garment workers are women making some of the lowest wages in the world. Grandparents, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles are treated as second class citizens; exposed to harmful chemicals and expected to work in unsafe environments.
Change is not far off.
It starts with you.
Here are a few practices I have adopted:
- Buying Less: Consumers purchase 80 billion pieces of clothing every year. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if you already have one. If you do not, could it be borrowed or bought second hand? Is this an impulse buy or is it a planned purchase? If it is impulse, try waiting a certain period of time. For me that time period is about three months (But if I need to purchase a new coat in the dead of winter in Ohio, I am not waiting three months).
- Choosing Quality: Quality clothing costs too much. That is what I told myself. Such a statement was true with my previous spending habits. Now, however, it is much more of a possibility. Since I am not shopping on the weekends whenever I get a paycheck, I opt to save up for quality items. The resell value of high quality items is astounding. Companies like Patagoinia stand by their quality to the point of encouraging you to purchase items used before looking for something new.
- Considering the Cost: This is more than the price tag. What is the cost to the environment? Was it made ethically? Are the materials recycled or are harmful chemicals used in its production? How much waste is produced in the production? Does it require special treatment such as dry cleaning, hand washing or air drying? Do I have to buy more storage? Such questions are answered different for everyone for different reasons. Some might not mind hand washing items or sewing materials after extended use, but for some that is not realistic. That is ok. The important thing is determining what is important to you and what is inline with your values.
Becoming aware of an injustice is just the beginning. We have a responsibility as members of the human race to alleviate suffering. My faith tradition tells me a story of two groups of people on a great day of judgement. One took care of the sick, the hungry, the stranger, the one in prison and the one without clothing while the other did not. The latter group was rebuked and witnessed the other praised for taking care of their fellow humans.
We all have a responsibly to care for this planet and all of its inhabitants. This can start by asking the hard questions,like “Where did my shirt come from?”
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