Are you purchasing blind? Be Curious. Be Accountable.
How often have you asked yourself, “How does this shirt look on me?” How often have you asked, “Who made this shirt?” “Where was it made?” ”What materials were used?” “How did it come to be this shade of red?””Where does it go after I discard it? “
You are unaware of the production methods (sourcing of materials, chemicals, dyes …) and the cost of production (environmental and human resource costs …) of your shirt. This is the informational distance between you and your shirt.
You do not have the information to distinguish between one red shirt and the other based on any factor other than its price and how it looks on you.
If a producer moves garment factories offshore, you are distanced from the environmental degradation, utilisation of natural resource or working conditions in that country. Your purchasing decisions are not affected.
Most fashion companies today produce in countries where they get the lowest prices and and where workers’ rights and environmental standards are the least protected. Fashion is cheaper and more fast-paced than ever before.
Migrant workers have been found to work long days, work seven days a week, many without an employment contract and little or no pay for working overtime.
Textile workers suffer from the side-effects of sandblasting, a technique used to treat denim so that the fabric has a worn look. Sandblasting exposes workers to silica dust particles which damage their respiratory passages causing silicosis, a disease which, if left untreated, leads to death.
Not only is nearly 5% of landfill space taken up by textile waste, surveys have shown that more than 20% of all fresh-water pollution is called by textile treatment and dyeing.
A study to test the metal content in soil and groundwater near the textile and tannery industries in Haridwar, India showed metals like chromium, iron, manganese, copper, lead, and cadmium to be present in amounts larger than that prescribed as safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The ‘Made In …’ label reveals only one of the places where your shirt passed through on its way. Spurred by regional competition to cut costs, a tiered networks of contractors supply cheap labour, often escaping scrutiny under labour laws. Many brands, even if they reveal their primary suppliers of finished garments, often have no connection with second-tier suppliers (those who provide raw materials, for instance).
The goal is to make sustainable textile an economic imperative, not merely a moral one.
The first step is to turn to awareness, to ask questions and curiously seek answers.
What do you begin? A few suggestions for you, the consumer, to contribute:
To mindlessly use and discard is to consume. To care for, to seek to know it from its beginning to its end and to utilise it to its full potential would be to really own your red shirt.