It's sardonically funny to think as I watch a grown man sinfully throw away a half eaten cheeseburger, that somewhere else there are children in a dark room working like slaves to the brink of starvation, and those same children probably made this man's shoes and t-shirt. It's like a hidden ghost, whispering in the dark alleys that there is something terribly amiss. No one thinks about it, no one truly sees it, and the large corporations assure you that they operate with the most strict social responsibility standards. And so like the cheeseburger, the lie is half eaten and then thrown away. It's cheap, easy, and sickly gratifying, which is why we CHOOSE to be blind to it.
Before your next shopping spree, here are some facts to consider about the U.S. textile industry:
1.) In 1960, 95% of clothing sold in the U.S. was made in the U.S.
2.) Today, 2% of clothing sold in the U.S. is made in the U.S.
3.) Between 1994-2005, the demand for cheaply made mass produced clothing skyrocketed resulting in the loss of 900,000 textile and apparel jobs to overseas operations.
4.) During this period, industrialized nations including Honduras, Thailand, Pakistan and China capitalized on the demand. Textile wages in these countries are less than $250/month; very few child labor laws and environmental regulations are in practice resulting in the production of thousands of sweatshops with high pollutant output from unclean energy sources; mainly coal.
The extreme majority of foreign made textiles are not “green,” comfortable, sustainable, or socially responsible. They are instead scratchy, terrible for the environment, and created by workers (most commonly children and women w/smaller hands) who are virtually treated as slaves often gaining only subsistence from their hard labor. So what is the answer? To make textiles sustainable, fair, and beneficial to laborers we must CHOOSE to vote with our dollar. There are always alternatives. Check your tags and make sure you buy American or fair trade certified. Don’t be afraid to explore progressive clothing materials such as bamboo or hemp, not only are they extremely soft and comfortable, but they are also the most environmentally sustainable textiles in existence. If the people demand it, the companies will offer it. Our future depends upon the choices we all make as individuals, and sometimes the right ones aren’t as hard as we might think.
Bibliography- Image #1 (from top)-Source: Flickr.com-Photographer: James Chew. Image #2-Source: Flickr.com-Photographer: The Library of Congress. Image #3-Source: Flickr.com-Photographer: Seiya235. Fact sources: http://tullyspage.blogspot.com - http://abcnews.go.com/Business/MadeInAmerica/made-america-american-made-textiles-business-owners-struggle/story?id=12971618#.UXpvw-11PzI