It’s easier than ever to buy eco-friendly products, whether it’s shoes made of recycled ocean plastic or fast fashion dresses made from sustainably sourced wood fibers. And yet, all too often, the human beings that toil to make our clothes get left out of our clamouring to save the planet. While sustainable products proliferate, sweatshop-free products remain as illusive as ever.
Of the world’s estimated 60-plus million garment and textile workers (the vast majority of whom are young women), only 2% earn a living wage. In Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment producing country, many workers fail to make enough money to feed their families. What’s more, social and environmental exploitation often go hand in hand in the places where our clothes are made: By 2050, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns will displace as many as 18 million residents in Bangladesh. And many of the capital city’s rivers, a main source of drinking water, are biologically dead due to toxic runoff from textile mills.
What’s clear is that fashion is a political and a feminist issue. A truly ethical fashion industry looks beyond creating a few niche sustainable products for Western consumers, and works to keep water and air healthy across the globe, and it empowers its mostly female workers through fair pay and humane working conditions. As citizens and feminists, we can do our part to make fashion fair and green by using our voices and choosing more responsibly products that look good and do good. Here’s how.