Learning to Live with Less: The Clothing Hiatus

My New Year’s resolution (well, kind of): No buying any new clothes for an entire year!!!

. . . Wait, what? So, it’s actually more than a New Year’s resolution. I would consider it a “Year-Long Challenge” of sorts because let’s face it, most New Year’s Resolutions fail. Depending on where you get your information from, somewhere between 81 and 92 percent of New Years resolutions fail. This “Clothing Hiatus” challenge, as I’d like to call it, is a challenge I have imposed upon my shopaholic-self for the year of 2016.

I’m definitely not a pioneer in this field of minimalism as many, many other challenges have been established and accomplished by many, many more people. Actually, after I decided to do this challenge, I read up on other people who have successfully lived it for an entire year. One really cool blogger has such an inspiring perspective on minimalism. Her blog is www.becomingminimalist.com. Anyway, I guess the million dollar question is, “Why?

The True Cost

We need to look at the land, not as some commodity to be speculated on or traded on but as the basis of our lives, as Mother Earth. — Dr. Vandana Shiva

Before the 1980s, 80% of the clothing sold in North America was made in North America. Now, 97% of North American clothing is made by outsourcing to other countries such as India and Bangladesh. There are roughly 40 million garment factory workers worldwide, the majority of whom make less than $3 a day. It’s one thing to realize that a garment worker in Bangladesh can be affected by our actions at a North American mall. It’s another to hear about young Bangladeshi women being beaten for attempting to assemble a worker’s union in the garment factory where they worked.

The Savar garment factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh killed 1,129 workers and injured 2,515. Workers were ordered to continue working in the unsafe building due to the pressure to complete orders for buyers on time. This disaster instigated a cascade of actions including those of Andrew Morgan, the director of The True Cost, a documentary on the impact of the global clothing industry. If you have time to spare, it is a must-see documentary. And, it’s on Netflix right now.

The average North American throws away 82 pounds of textile waste a year. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to the oil industry. Only 10% of the clothing we donate remains in North America. The rest is shipped to other countries where it undermines struggling economies — opposing the notion that as long as we donate our unused clothes, it’s okay to buy cheaply and frequently. The epidemic that is fast fashion is not slowing down by any means. Stores likes H&M, Zara, GAP, Walmart, Target, and Forever 21 are continuously popping up all over the map.

These stores did not invent this type of manufacturing, so they don’t deserve all the blame… They just came in and took overmarketing the consumption of things as far as they could. Clothing consumption has risen 400% in the past twenty years. Clothing prices are so inexpensive that they are seen as disposable goods. I would like to go ahead and admit that before learning about where my clothes came from, I was somewhat anesthetized to the true cost of clothing.

That is why I am partaking in this challenge. I don’t know how to deal with all the textile waste or how to fix the violent, disparaging conditions garment workers face every day. Though, I do know that I no longer want to contribute to multi-billion dollar companies that cannot spare the money to ensure their workers are safe (yes, I know that there are free-trade companies — which I will look into after this year — but for the next 343 days, there will be no shopping for me). Wish me luck!

The first step toward change is awareness. — Nathaniel Branden
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