Don’t forget your morals during fall shopping season

By Jamie Linton, Columnist

College students are always taking shortcuts.  Whether it’s using a coffee pot to make Ramen without a microwave, or ordering half-chicken, half-steak to finesse double meat at Chipotle, college students know how to ball on a budget.

We take these shortcuts because we have to, considering the fact that nearly all of us are broke.

Winter is approaching whether we like it or not, and so many students are turning over their wardrobes. This inevitably means stopping at fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara to purchase trendy clothing for inexpensive prices — but students should really think twice before stepping into one of these establishments.

Not only have many of these retailers, such as Forever 21 and Zara, blatantly ripped off small-name designers in the past, but the working condition in factories where their clothes are made is despicable.  

An April 2013 collapse of a Bangladesh clothing factory killed 1,100 people and injured 2,000 more due to poor working conditions. This helped to bring issues of ethics to light in the industry; however, the abuse didn’t stop there.  

Workers have come forward and spoken about their experiences being physically beaten, verbally abused, restricted from bathroom use and paid insufficient salaries.

To make matters worse, the Buriganga River which is Bangladesh’s main water source is contaminated with 22,000 cubic meters of “environmentally hazardous liquid waste” poured into it every day from tanneries, making the area one of the top five worst toxic threats in the world as determined by The Blacksmith Institute.

This abuse stems from lack of regulation in factories, and companies cutting corners to increase profit margins.  Along with the fact that consumers are painfully unaware of the distress they’re causing by buying that “cold shoulder” top … in every color.  Unfortunately,  consumers will still choose to ignore these ethical issues and continue to shop at these stores.           

Refinery 29 published an article earlier this year discussing the stigma that comes with choosing to exclusively shop for ethical fashion.  The article cited an Ohio State University study which found that the majority of respondents prioritized faster delivery over ethical complications, such as unfair child labor, when purchasing a pair of jeans.  

Additionally, the respondents also viewed ethical shoppers as “boring” and “less fashionable.” The glaring issue with the findings of this study is that ethical shoppers are often viewed as elitist and pretentious due to the hefty price tags that many ethical fashion retailers are required to charge to turn profit.  

Many other consumers will claim that they remain environmentally responsible because they are recycling their clothing.  This method is better, but what many consumers are ignoring is the lengthy, ugly journey the clothing must go through in order to be processed and recycled.  

Next time you step into a fast fashion retailer to pick up what you perceive as a harmless cableknit sweater for an Ugly Christmas Sweater exchange, think twice about the impact that this purchase could have.  

Think about the workers in Bangladesh who are struggling to feed themselves due to insufficient salaries.  Think of the men who are beaten by their higher-ups in factories for failing to make quota.  Think about the 1,100 lives lost in the 2013 collapse.  

Think about how your purchase has affected the lives of those who provided you with that hideous sweater.   

 Jamie is a freshman in Media.

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