“Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
Some in the wrong direction.
- Wendell Berry
Guest Writer: Dyah Miller
“Keep rowing upstream” is one of Sister Dorothy Stang’s saying that resonates with me as a community organizer. I believe that each one of us can make a difference, through our small choices. On April 24, 2013, the world was rattled by the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five factories. 1,132 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured.
Since the disaster, my eyes have been peeled for similar stories; how the fashion industry has a devastating impact on the planet and the most vulnerable workers. Throughout the entire fashion supply chain, we have extracted more than we need from the earth, disrupted habitats, and we have emitted toxic chemicals, polluted water, and produced waste.
The pressure to consume isn’t only happening in the US, but throughout the world. In Indonesia, I’ve seen a similar consumer pattern. What we don’t consider when we see the price of clothes is where they are coming from, where they will go when we’re done with them, where the materials come from, who made them, and how much the workers are actually paid, among other things. We now produce $80 billion of new clothing each year, which produces 10% of all carbon emissions and contributes to the exploitation of natural and human resources and erasing culture.
Every year, Fashion Revolution asks the question, ”Who made my clothes?” Fashion Revolution Week, which commemorates the Rana Plaza disaster, will be held April 17-24, 2023. As consumers, we have the power to change the attitudes and practices of producers. Collectively, consumers can make sure brands are transparent in their practices; including sustainably sourcing materials, equitable hiring, ensuring safety in their factories, and responsibly destroying unsold products.
“Keep rowing upstream” by buying used clothes when necessary. Our children, who need “new” clothes every three months, get their clothes from secondhand shops. These clothes still have life left. This practice is very much aligned with the Sisters’ way of life of embracing simplicity, which I also try to do in my daily practice.
“Practice resurrection” by finding ways to divert textile waste from landfills. Donating clothes to secondhand stores such as Goodwill doesn’t guarantee that they will be used. Often, they end up harming local economies in developing countries. Instead of helping locals, the sales of these clothes compete with local merchants and textile industries in the area. The new brand FORDAYS is part of the ethical fashion industry, that closes the loop on production, including responsible manufacturing, use, and end-of-life management of every garment. FORDAYS “sells” Take Back Bags in which you mail back to them your textile waste. They’re able to connect with closed-loop recyclers and resellers.
“Keep rowing upstream” by continuing to educate yourself on this issue so you can be a responsible customer. Here are a few books:
- Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, by Dana Thomas
- Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy by Rebecca Burgess
- The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good with Doing Good, Elizabeth L. Cline
- Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert