Teens love of clothes might not be sustainable or ethical


Graphic by Paige Collins

Paige Collins, Graphics Editor


Though fashion is considered fun, oftentimes people don’t take a deeper look into how the constant need for new fashion negatively impacts workers and the environment. 


“Fast fashion” is the term to describe clothes that are made incredibly fast and aren’t known for their quality. The term was first coined in the 1990s, meaning the speed at which a garment went from design to being on store racks, but it has recently taken a new meaning because of all the clothes that can be bought online and shipped so quickly.


“You get what you pay for, ” fashion club sponsor Jessica Rottman said. “$5 worth of wear.”. 


Fast fashion is available both online and in traditional stores such as Hot Topic, Old Navy and Forever 21. 


“I’m not surprised at how common it is,” junior Cassidy Schmidt said.


Its sources are known to be unethical, as the companies want to pay less for the labor being done. This brings down the cost for production but also lowers the price. 


“It’s really unethical, but unfortunately also convenient,” Schmdit said.


The safety standards for the conditions of the workers are decreasing, as the companies want high production for clothes causing  dangerous working conditions for their employees. In 2013  the Ranza Plaza  factory in Bangladesh collapsed leaving 1132 people dead. 


In a BBC article titled “Bangladesh factory collapse toll passes 1000 regarding the incident”,  Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus stated, ”The crack in Rana Plaza that caused the collapse of the building has only shown us that if we don’t face up to the cracks in our state systems, we as a nation will get lost in the debris of the collapse.”


Graphic by Paige Collins

According to the BBC article, the amount of workers

 in the garment factories have only been increasing due to the demand for more from western retailers. Often the workers are in awful conditions, and the restrictions the owners put on workers are nearly impossible to meet.


 According to planet aid.org, an organization dedicated

 to keeping clothes out of landfills, people are frequently fired for uncontrollable things like getting pregnant or even just being sick. Workers can earn as little as 50 cents a

n hour or their labor.


Not only is fast fashion unethical for human rights, it is also one of the biggest environmental polluters, contributing up to 1.9 billion tons of greenhouse gases, and consuming 98 million tons of oil according to change.org. 


“ Depending on the destinations of the original factories, many miles and all of the environmental issues that come along with that will also arise, “ Kelner said


The fashion industry is so fleeting, trends going in and out, that most of these clothes that are risking people’s lives are ending up in landfills. As in 2018 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills according to roadrunnerwm.com. 


“People aren’t concerned about the environment,” se

nior John Gilmore said. “[Fashion] is usually a one use thing.” 


Sustainable fashion offers a way to know about the material, sources and the people who made it, as well as keeping the planet clean. 

“Education and awareness is key to any environmental issue,” environmental science teacher Jason Kelner said. “Teaching individuals that the choice of consumers is the biggest driving force in any industry.” said Jason Kelner the environmental science teacher


The word sustainability in the fashion industry has  many meanings, and it’s not all about buying expensive clothes.


“For me, sustainability is about the effects of today’s actions on our shared future,” actress Emma Watson, the chair of the sustainability committee of Kerings board of directors, said in a 2020 interview with Vogue.


It can be hard to make sure which brands are ethical or not, but part of remaining sustainable is really looking at the clothes purchased and enjoying them for a long time.


“Research brands that you want to see if they are sustainable, and once you find one you just shop from them,” Rottman said.


How can average consumers  support sustainable brands?

Brands that are ethically sourced and good for the environment are t

ypically not what the average consumer can afford. For example, a tank top from Elieen Fisher, a well known brand for sustainable material, costs $78..


“If you have the means to buy sustainably you should,” senior Ainsley Altenbern said.


Some mainstream brands are actually working hard to bring sustainability to the masses, such as H&M. They have a new conscience collection that is affordable and made from 50% sustainable materials, the lowest priced item is only $6.14 according to their website. 


“They are working towards affordability for fashion,” Rottman said

Another solution for this dilemma is buying clothes second hand from stores like Goodwill, which has had over 6 million pounds of clothing donated to their stores, or people can buy online secondhand from other people directly using apps such as Poshmark and Depop. 

“Recycling old things from the 80s for fashion can be sustainable and fashionable,”  junior Jackie Hunke said.

The best solution to this problem would be to cherish the clothes you already have. Most issues in the fashion industry stem from the fact that people simply throw away clothes after the trend is over. 

“Wear things that last the longest,” Rottman said.