The answer to this question might seem obvious to some, but many people are not aware of the impact mainstream fashion has on the environment and how exploitative it is to many people around the world. Here are some key facts.
Cotton is responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides every year and at least US$819 million of these are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation.
Symptoms of pesticide poisoning can include: headaches, tremors, nausea, depression, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.
Children are often the first victims of pesticide poisonings because their homes are very close to cotton fields or due to the re-use of empty pesticide containers.
Pesticides threaten freshwater resources, contaminating rivers around the world.
Deadly Chemicals in Cotton - A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network.
At least 3 million accidental poisonings occur every year, in developing countries, because of pesticides used on cotton crops.
World Health Organisation
Workers around the world face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, extremely low wages, exhaustion, sexual harassment and mental stress. Factory managers typically force employees to work between 10 and 12 hours and often between 16 and 18 hours in one day. In many factories workers are not given clean water to drink or allowed to use the toilet when they need to.
In 2004 twenty-two union workers at a factory supplying Asda, who demanded their legal overtime pay, were allegedly beaten, sacked and imprisoned on false charges.
A garment in the process of being made, may have been shipped and flown to three or even more countries leaving behind a toxic trail of energy consumption and polluting waste.
Labour Behind the Label
These are a just a few facts there are many many more out there that are much more shocking than these. Buying ethical fashion avoids the use of harmful pesticides (if it is organic), by using more natural options. Fair Trade garments ensure a fair price for workers and promote traditional skills and rural development. Fair Trade also helps to tackle poverty and create opportunites for producers who are at an economic disadvantage. It also means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. Brands that use alternative fibres prevent the reliance on cotton and those brands that recycle old materials avoid causing more waste and adding to already overflowing landfill sites.
For more information on Fair Trade and Fair Trade labelling see http://www.fairtrade.net/.