Recently, Kevin and I, along with Estela, took some time to watch the documentary The True Cost, which is a new documentary that asks the question, who pays the price for our clothing? It is a question that I have often wrestled with, especially after moving to Nicaragua and meeting many individuals who earn their income by working in sweatshops. In fact, one of my closest friend’s, Mayela used to work in a sweatshop. In 2012, I wrote more about that here. I have gone to several workshops and presentations where I have learned more about the sweatshop industry in Nicaragua. Yet still when I am back in the United States, I find it way too easy to sift through the racks of clothes at Old Navy, H & M and Target. I have made some changes, trying to buy more clothing second-hand or allowing myself to spend more money to buy clothes that are fair trade. But I will be the first to admit that I still have some work to do.
Here are a few new facts that I learned about fast fashion from the documentary:
- 1 in 6 people in the world work in the clothing industry.
- In the 1960’s, 95% of the U.S populations clothing was produced in the U.S, now only 3% is produced in the U.S.
- While the majority of goods have increased in price, the price of clothing has deflated in the past twenty years due to fast fashion. This comes with a human cost.
- The average American disposes 82 pounds of textile waste each year.
Our choice as the customer, what we choose to purchase and what we choose to throw away, has a direct impact on other people’s lives. We must remember that every item that we wear has been touched by human hands. Our choices on our clothing have an everyday impact on the environment, on people’s physical and mental health, on family structure and relationships, on community health, on worker’s rights and ultimately who lives and who dies.
I once again need to ask myself the hard question. What is this product worth? It certainly is not worth the fate of another individual. I highly recommend that you watch this film and take time to consider how your choices are impacting our brothers and sisters around the world.
For more on this documentary and ideas of how to make changes in your clothing consumption, check out this podcast of Rob Bell interviewing Andrew Morgan, the producer of The True Cost.
Feeling stuck about where to start?
Here are some ideas for fair trade places to shop: List of 35 Companies Who Are Making Fairtrade Clothing
Does thrift store shopping overwhelm you? Me too. I recently placed an order at ThredUp.