The High Price of Fashion
Everyone needs clothes. They shelter us from the elements and define our personal style. Unfortunately, the shirt on your back may be more expensive than you thought—both for the environment, and for the workers that made it. The conventional way of growing cotton, the most common fabric material, relies on heavy inputs of insecticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, many of which are known or probable carcinogens. Dyes used in clothing can contain toxic chemicals, while permanent press treatment can release formaldehyde gas, also a likely carcinogen.
Most of the world's clothing is manufactured in sweatshops in poorer countries, where workers earn less than they need to live, face cramped or unsanitary conditions, and are often subjected to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. First-hand accounts from factories producing for many designer companies report that people often work more than 100 hours a week, and unions are not permitted.
As global awareness of the real price of fashion grows, many consumers as well as some clothing manufacturers are leading the push for more eco- and worker-friendly apparel.
Avoid clothing brands that have been known to use sweatshops. In the United States, these include Wal-Mart, Gap (Old Navy, Banana Republic), and Target.
Purchase at least some items from up-and-coming fair trade brands and makers of organic cotton and natural fiber clothing.
Donate your old clothes to thrift shops, or buy inexpensive “recycled” garments from these stores.
Write to sweatshop-using companies to tell them you won't give them your business until they stop outsourcing to sweatshops.
Next time you shop for clothes, check labels before you buy. Educate yourself about how and where these items are manufactured. Buy fair trade and organic/natural fiber items, or shun the mall altogether and take your next shopping trip to a thrift store.
I found these helpful clothing tips at http://www.worldwatch.org/ and tomorrow... I will be going through my closet!