To live is to consume.
But in our world, where things promise us happiness, we’ve fallen into the fatal pattern of consumption.
We flock to stores yearly, monthly, weekly, spending money on things we do not need to fill our absent need for stuff.
Black Friday is just one example.
We think stuff makes us happy.
Fast fashion is a growing movement by the fashion industry. Every week newer and trendier clothing items roll out to hungry buyers. Instead of four clothing seasons per year, there are almost 52. That’s 52 new trends marketed as 52 new sources of material happiness.
But the truth is, people who have more stuff aren’t actually happier. They’re restless.
Still, we keep buying, throwing out the clothes we don’t like to wear anymore only to bring more home. “It’s not a big deal though, that dress only cost $10.”
But it is a big deal.
To keep up with the ever-changing world of fashion, clothing brands demand that overseas factories produce at faster rates and lower prices. In a bind, factories sacrifice safety and fair wages for their employees because they need the business clothing companies bring.
Fashion is a $3 trillion global industry that produces 50 million liters of wastewater a year and pays garment workers as little as $10 a month.
It’s one horrendous cycle.
Factories produce at lower and lower prices, brands market their ever cheaper goods, and consumers keep buying them. Profits steadily rise for clothing companies and lower for factories and their workers.
We need to stop buying into buying. We need to realize that more stuff doesn’t equal greater happiness.
What if we were more concerned about how our clothes were made than about our next bargain at the local retailer?
Knowing the impact your clothes are having on people and the environment can help you consume more responsibly.
When was the last time you tried on a top you loved and asked, “I wonder what it really cost to make this?” Never? Yeah, me either.
But the truth is, we should be curious about what goes into making our clothes. Thankfully there are a ton of resources out there to help us find out.
The documentary The True Cost explains the clothing industry’s impact on the planet and its people. It’s a great place to start on your routine Saturday browse through Netflix for something to watch.
You can read about movements happening all over too.
Clean Clothes Campaign fights to give garment worker’s a living wage and improved working conditions — basic human rights many workers are not given.
Greenpeace is working to create a toxic-free world in clothing production and all aspects of our lives.
Fashion Revolution is asking brands to transparently answer that simple question, “who made my clothes?”
That is just a taste. There are many more working to expose fast fashion for what it is.
Now you may be asking, “great, but what can I do to help?” Here are some tips:
1. Two words: Capsule Wardrobe
With a capsule wardrobe, you leave your closet with only your favorite pieces that work together cohesively.
No longer do you have an excuse to go shopping for another top that you will only wear twice because your closet is already planned out for that season. This easily eliminates the morning struggle of, “I have nothing to wear!”
A lot of people try it initially as an experiment, fall in love with the method, and adopt it permanently. For some experimenters, it evolves into a minimalist’s mindset. Either way, it’s a great concept. Whether you cap your closet at 30 items per season or have a year-round cap, you can choose whatever works for you and your lifestyle. You make the rules.
This whole wardrobe planning thing will seriously save you money and keep you conscious of the clothes you are buying. It’s a thoughtful way to avoid overconsuming.
2. Stop buying from traditional retailers. Instead, shop fair trade and secondhand (heck, even from your best friend’s closest).
“Hey best friend, that’s my best friend. You lookin’ good today. Could I uhh… Could I borrow that red dress for my date Friday?”
Ask to borrow things from the girls in your life — just make sure you return them. I would have saved a lot of guilty purchases in the past had I just asked my bestie to borrow something from her closet.
Grab a friend and hit the local thrift magnet. Seriously.
Everything above I bought from Goodwill, and I don’t think I spent more than $20 total.
You’d be surprised the treasures you can find thrifting. It’s like going on a mystery scavenger hunt. Score brand names or vintage finds. There is something for everybody’s style.
Here are some of my favorite, more local, thrift shops in Columbus, Ga:
- Valley Rescue Mission
7553 N. Veterans Parkway, Columbus, GA 31909
& 2903 2nd Ave, Columbus, GA 31904
- HTW Thrift Store
5377 Veterans Pkwy, Columbus, GA 31904
- Joey’s Thrift Mall
1100 10th Ave B, Columbus, GA 31901
- Teen Challenge Super Thrift
1627 S Lumpkin Rd, Columbus, GA 31903
- Plato’s Closet
5592 Whitesville Rd d, Columbus, GA 31904
Not wanting to buy used? There are seriously so many fair trade clothing and jewelry options out there.
If you need something specific, search fair trade. You’ll be supporting women from all over the world with your purchase.
Disclaimer: I promise you won’t be stuck buying fair trade clothes that could only ever be worn by cotton weaving hippies. There are a variety of brands and clothing styles out there with beautiful, well-made wears. You can even help artisans by selling some items yourself, like from the jewelry company, Trades of Hope.
Next time you’re out shopping for clothes, ask your garment, “I wonder what you cost to make?”
Be an informed consumer, not just a consumer.
Let’s stop buying into buying.