environment, sustainability

Someone may have died making this t-shirt

Today is the Fashion Revolution Day and the shirt I’ll be wearing today is Made in China. I was drawn to a video that The Guardian posted which documented the garment factory workers who were affected by the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh a year ago.

The Guardian has written a pitch perfect piece that talks about the global garment industry and how it creates livelihoods but at the same time, sometimes destroys the very communities it support with unfair wages and working conditions. Garment production has often been linked to pollution, the consumption of vast amount of resources from water to cotton and an increasingly large carbon footprint from trucking clothes from A to Z. We don’t think about dropping a couple of dollars for a t-shirt because its made in a country with low labour costs and hence its meant to be cheap. AND we are supporting communities who are getting fed, putting their kids in schools – basically getting a better life.

We’ve all tried to make good choices to minimise our impact on the environment – from recycling, taking public transport, buying local to choosing more sustainably produced food. Yet when it comes to fashion, it rarely comes to my mind [I am guilty of this] that the $16 I dropped on a t-shirt may not have completely been made by someone who was paid a fair wage, been subjected to abuse, long hours of work, could have produced with child labour, coloured by dyes that have polluted water streams etc.

As consumer demands for fast fashion grows, we are exacerbating our impact on the environment as our wardrobe groans trying to keep up with every season because its affordable and because we can. I grew up in an era where fashion wasn’t fast – my grandmother made her own clothes and made me PJs from her Singer sewing machine when I was a child. My mother still clings on to a wardrobe full of clothing which she would never throw out because they still can be worn. I am now in a generation where tailoring and custom made spells luxury and its more of a treat than everyday life.

Our want it now lifestyles are creating better lives but at the same time, brings inequity to the table. Some comments on The Guardian story thread left me shuderring from “how can you blame us of the misfortunes these workers are facing? we’re not doing too well ourselves so there’s nothing wrong in buying cheap clothing” to “its not our responsibility that these tragedies are happening. its the corrupt governments that are failing to take action to protect their labour markets”.

This story speaks to me on ubuntu [I am because you are] because it demonstrates the interconnected impacts we have on other peoples lives and this time, its by the choices we make.

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