The True Cost

12:45 PM

“I don’t want to watch this film, because I can’t afford anything other than H&M”

These were my thoughts prior to watching the documentary, “The True Cost”. 
This film shines a light on how our fashion consumerism affects the people behind the clothes. It encourages viewers to ask the question, “Who is really paying the price for our consumption?” The film came at an important time in our history, after the devastating events of the factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh where over 1,000 garment workers were killed in March 2013. The documentary takes viewers to Cambodia, Bangladesh, and India to hear the stories of garment workers who produce the clothes I’m currently wearing.

I felt convicted before the film started. It seems that slave labor is something that we are all aware of. If the shirt that I am wearing costs less than a bag of chips, I should know that it was not ethically sourced. Yet, somehow, I have been able to hinder these thoughts long enough to get through the check out line and into my new polyester sweater. Or maybe I always felt as if my purchase did not really matter, since I couldn’t singlehandedly solve the issue.

I am not wealthy, and I love a good bargain. My mom raised me to find the designer items in thrift stores, and anything under 10$ was an automatic “keep”. Naturally, stores such as H&M and Forever 21 appealed to me. I could get new clothes for thrift store prices. Score. Admittedly, I’m a fast fashion addict. I buy clothes to throw them away a few months later. It never crossed my mind that clothes were continuing to get cheaper, while the materials used to make them certainly were not. Somebody is paying for that divide, and it certainly has not been me.

I have been jaded by my own footprint.

After watching this documentary, I came to this conclusion:
My style is not more important than someone’s livelihood.

While I love stores such as H&M, I can’t ignore that their clothes are sourced from places such as Cambodia and Bangladesh, where workers barely make a living wage, working in factories without proper infrastructure, or simple emergency exits.

Our generation is against slavery. We draw red x’s on our hands. We give our money to fight human trafficking. Yet the very skin we put on everyday comes from the hands of people in finely packaged slavery. And we allow it.

The truth is that every decision we make as consumers has an affect. 
We have the power to make better decisions for ourselves and others with the money we spend.

When the Blackfish documentary came out in 2013, critics thought that SeaWorld industry would never stop breeding their Killer Whales. These Orca Whales were their main act, bringing in over 1 billion dollars in 2014. Yet, we have seen recently in 2016, SeaWorld’s announcement to stop breeding these captive Orcas. This came as a result of people seeing that just because something has been accepted in the past, doesn't mean it should continue to. We have a say.

What if we chose to hold our favorite brands accountable? To encourage them to do better and to  allocate profits to raise the living standards of their garment workers rather than the millions they pour into marketing ads on the right of your Facebook screen?

Someday, I believe that we will look back on the clothing industry and wonder how we ever accepted the conditions of garment workers to meet the needs of our fast fashion addiction. 

If you have not seen this documentary yet, please don’t put it off until you buy your spring wardrobe. Watch it tonight. It is my firm belief that a human story is the single most important tool in fighting injustice. I can’t forget the story of Shima, a Bangladeshi garment worker, featured in “The True Cost”. I don’t believe this is the fight of certain individuals. I believe we are all responsible. Let’s make a statement with our dollar.

As SeaWorld boldly stated, “The world has changed, so should we”. I’m slowly giving up my bad shopping habits and working to educate myself on the clothing industry.
After doing a bit of research, I’ve found a few simple ways to shop ethically:

The Clean Clothes Campaign: This campaign is made up of a diverse range of organizations all fighting for the fundamental rights and empowerment of garment workers. It provides helpful articles, PDF’s and action steps to hold the brands we love accountable to the people who make our clothes.

Here’s what you can do right now!

Currently, you can write a letter to the CEO of H&M to follow through on their promise to ensure proper emergency exits in all factories.

aVOID: This is a plugin you can download to your browser, that will tell you (and even hide) products that come as a result of child labor. Ethical online shopping just got a whole lot easier! 

Here’s what you can do right now!

Rock Secondhand: Consignment stores such as Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange offer money for your used clothes. This allows you to get a whole new wardrobe while recycling your old one.

Here’s what you can do right now! 

Clean out your closet of the clothes you’ll never wear, take them to your local consignment store/flea market/clothes swap. Maybe even check out a thrift store, you never know what you will find! You can still have the fashion lifestyle you want, at a low price by making use of the resources around you.

The truth is that shopping ethically is not hard. It takes a google search, and a simple question: Is my style more important than another’s livelihood?

I want my consumer decisions to empower, not take away. I want to wear a better story. I hope you will watch this documentary, and join me in improving garment working conditions.

Watch the film here:

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