Wednesday, December 16, 2020

John Oliver on fast fashion — Student Sustainability Video Festival 83

I have a lot of real world work to do between correcting assignments and exams and Coffee Party business (no, I'm not traveling because of the COVID-19 pandemic; we're conducting it by Zoom), so I'm returning to my go to series when I'm doing one or the other and in this case, both, the Student Sustainability Video Festival, where I share the videos my Environmental Science students used in their presentations.

Today's featured video is Fashion: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in which Oliver explores the the social and environmental externalities of fast fashion.

Trendy clothes are cheaper than ever. That sounds great for the people who buy them, but it's horrible for the people who make them.
I found Oliver's comparison of cheap clothes to cheap food both hilarious and particularly apt. It's similar to one that Joel Salatin makes in "Food, Inc." where he asks if people want to buy the cheapest car. My answer is only if they can't afford something better. The same with food. Maybe people should think the same of clothes.

For what it's worth, selling fast fashion didn't save Forever 21 from falling into bankruptcy. However, that probably won't change Americans' clothes buying habits. As I wrote in Forever 21 is facing bankruptcy, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.
As an environmentalist, I probably should be more opposed to fast fashion than I am; as Newsweek reported three years ago, Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis.
Americans are blithely trashing more clothes than ever. In less than 20 years, the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or an astounding 80 pounds per person. The EPA estimates that diverting all of those often-toxic trashed textiles into a recycling program would be the environmental equivalent of taking 7.3 million cars and their carbon dioxide emissions off the road.
Yikes! On the one hand, replacing Forever 21 with a clothing outlet that produces more sustainable clothing would be an improvement. On the other, that's not likely to happen. Instead, until Americans, especially young women, change their fashion tastes, they will just buy fast fashion online and more malls will be stuck with empty anchors and other stores, creating more dead mall[s]. Sigh.
This doesn't even include all the social costs that Oliver documented in his video, which are also considered part of sustainability.

Wow, the whole point of this series is to post something that doesn't require a lot of analysis and writing. I guess I had more to say about the subject than I thought when I chose it!

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