Clothes Made of Trash

A. Guo, Asst. Editor-in-Chief

As high school students, many find that stores like Forever21, Zara, and H&M  offer the perfect balance between affordability and style, cheap yet fashionable and trendy. But when you take a look at underpaid workers and the shocking environmental impact of your clothing splurges, you may begin to rethink their worth.

Fast fashion is what makes these kinds of stores possible. These companies take fashion trends from the runway and produce them in a quick and cheap manner for consumers, so you can wear expensive looking clothes for a cheap amount. But “it has kind of created a mentality of disposability of products,” Shamiya Rahmatulla, one of the Green Level Fashion Club founders says, “you just keep buying and buying instead of investing in maybe things you want to keep for a long time.”

Rahmatulla is right. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 1980, the average American would buy around 12 new pieces of clothing every year, but now the average American buys 68 new articles of clothing each year. Even more, we are not only buying more clothing, we are keeping them for only as half as long as we were 20 years ago. 

Many Green Level High School students actually buy from stores. Samya Potlapalli and Varun Venna both say they shop for clothing the most at H&M, but Venna doesn’t even know what fast fashion is. The cost of unsustainable fashion is high, and we need to be spreading more awareness about that. Even if these clothes seem cheaper, you’re just buying lower quality clothing -some of these clothes are actually designed to fall apart.

Brands like Forever21 and our popular H&M both get daily shipments of style, and instead of four, these clothes experience 52 micro-seasons a year. 

And if you think donating your clothes to places like Goodwill or Salvation Army takes you out of the fast fashion epidemic, you’re wrong. Just one Salvation Army can create 18 tons of unwanted clothing every three days. Don’t expect someone to buy your ketchup stained pants. 

Here’s the thing, you can still rock fashion and be sustainable. By wearing your clothes for nine months longer, it can reduce your carbon footprint for that garment by 30%. Yes, you did hear me right. In addition to wearing your clothes longer, “make sure you know about the companies you are supporting,” Rahmatulla says. Not all brands of clothing design clothes to fall apart.

“If you are in a situation in which you can’t afford that kind of stuff,” Rahmatulla tells me, “I think buying second hand is a great option.” As a fashion club founder, she says she buys mostly second hand clothing. To back Rahmatulla up, according to the Patriot Act if everyone bought on used item instead of new, it could save six pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, or half a million cars off the road.

Fashion production will surpass the world supply by 40% by 2030, if it continues at the rate it is going now. More than 60% of our fabric fibers are from fossil fuels and will not decay in the landfill. There were more emissions from clothing and textile production than all international flights and maritime shipping combined in 2015. Do you understand? Our clothes are made of oil.

The numbers are clear, and the holiday season is here with Americans expected to spend around 1.1 trillion dollars on holiday shopping. So when you’re doing your last minute gift shopping, remember to pick real gifts over trash.