When we set out to examine our environmental footprint and the ways that we can go about living a more low impact life, we often think of single use plastic or green energy. But what if one of the biggest offenders of the environment is going largely unnoticed?

I’m speaking of fast fashion. Fast fashion is cheaply made clothing that is essentially produced to fall apart.

A great primer on the social and environmental impact of the clothing industry is a documentary called “The True Cost of Fast Fashion.” The director of the film, Andrew Morgan, was just as clueless as any of us when he first conceived of the documentary. His interest was initially piqued when he was waiting in line and saw a newspaper reporting on a factory collapse in Bangladesh. Factory owners had ignored unsafe conditions and its collapse killed over 1,100 workers and injured 2,500 others.

His curiosity surrounding this tragedy soon led him all over the globe where he interviewed factory owners, activists, sustainable clothing companies, farmers, government officials, and, most importantly, the garment workers themselves.

What he found was a system that runs on human rights violations and environmental degradation. For a t-shirt to cost $10 in the western world, some corners have to be cut along the way. This means paying workers less than a living wage, ignoring unsafe conditions in factories, and an irresponsible approach to material sourcing and waste disposal. Morgan argues that the true cost of that garment, which includes the environmental cost and the human cost, is shielded from us.

So what is to be done? How do we navigate this issue? Check back next week for strategies that will help you break up with fast fashion.

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