Don’t be fooled by bargains; the hidden costs are huge
By Mitzi Hernández Cruz, HIPGive contributor
For decades one of everybody’s favorite Christmas gifts has been clothing and accessories. The deals start in October, and there are infinite opportunities to take advantage of sales and buy, buy, buy.
But the reality is that the better the deal, the higher the real costs. The documentary “The True Cost,” by director Andrew Morgan, dives into the details. In May 2015 the film premiered in Cannes, and although some of the statistics presented in the movie have changed, the reality has not.
Based on the documentary, here are six reasons why it’s better not to buy clothing this Christmas:
1. Say “no” if you don’t need it
It’s a simple rule. Buy what suits you, and not the best price for a blouse that isn’t your size, color, or style, and that you probably will never wear. One of the big problems is thinking that you might use those “extra” pieces at some point—but in reality they just take up space in your closet until you decide to throw it out or donate it. When it comes down to it, what seemed like a great deal is in reality an unnecessary expense. Remember that clothing is about necessity, not about status, like the advertising campaigns would have you believe.
2. Four seasons, not 52
The concept of seasons is just this: spring, summer, fall, and winter. You need to be dressed for the weather that goes with each season. The colors of each season are based on the colors of nature, and the jackets are meant to be waterproof for rainy seasons and thin or thick according to the temperature.
But there’s also a concept called “fast fashion,” based on creating 52 seasons, one for each week of the year. Each of these seasons has an imagined “original” look, but in reality each is just a slight variation on fashions that already exist. Instead of buying for so many imaginary seasons, what about just having what you really need and will actually use?
3. Status, stereotypes, or scams?
“The True Cost” argues that after 20 years of development the fashion industry, an industry that sells perishables that do not meet our basic needs, has made us believe that fashion is a basic need.
The film provides data showing that people who try to fill their needs with consumption are in reality depressed and anxious. The power to buy an article of clothing every day replaces the aspiration to buy real possessions, like a house.
The figure they offer on the psychological needs of consumers is startling: today they buy 400% more than just two decades ago.
4. Human and ecological costs
One of the hardest realities to confront is that thousands of people have died in the fabrication of fast fashion due to the poor labor conditions in developing countries that allow companies to keep their prices low. And then there’s the environmental cost—the pollution and erosion of the subsoil, the toxins in drinking water, the waste in the production process, and the excess tons of clothing, some of which are not biodegradable.
Covering the ever-increasing needs of consumerism has altered some natural processes. For fabrics made of plants, pesticides that cause degenerative diseases in children or cancer, soil erosion, and chemical waste have been used. The ecological impact has caused damages that will take decades or even, in some cases, hundreds of years to reverse.
The images of sweatshop buildings that have collapsed, filled with people sewing clothing for the best-known brands; the suicides of farmers who can no longer grow anything on their land; synthetic fabrics that continue to pollute the water each time you wash them… Are these global sacrifices really worth it to be “on trend”?
5. The great destroyer
And it’s not just the environmental and social cost, but also the damage to creativity and individuality. Walking down the street, it’s easy to spot what store the passers-by got their outfits from. This shows us that the smaller businesses, with independent designers and clean production, are unable to compete. Of course, the landscape is slowly changing, and it’s becoming more frequent to see options by local designers who are committed to the environment, coupled with fair trade producers of raw materials.
Instead of jumping at the first sale, think about buying something that will last, and that doesn’t have such a dark past.
6. Donate or recycle
The first step to being a conscious consumer is to analyse what you already own. What portion do you actually use? Next, think about defining your style and personality. If you don’t really like something—or wouldn’t have bought it unless it were on super sale—it’s probably not for you.
Next, think about giving those pieces a new life. Donating is a good option, although many options that resell clothing don’t reach those who really need it. Try finding a place where they’ll give your clothes directly to those who need it.
An amazing example is The Street Store, a nonprofit in Mexico that gives clothes to those who need protection against the elements. Look for similar organizations where you live, or separate the clothes you donate by type. Other organizations help clothe people who are looking for work and need an interview outfit, or sell clothing to support their causes.
To end, here’s some food for thought from “The Real Cost”: each year, the average American throws asawy 82 pounds of textiles per year, adding up to 11 million tons of non-biodegradable waste that will sit in a landfill for 200 years or more.
Have you rethought your Christmas shopping spree? We have!