Fast Food, Fast Fashion: Care About Where Your Food and Clothes Come From
Foodie Underground is a site about food, not about fashion. And yet, the more research that I do, the more I see a connection between food and fashion.
Fast food and fast fashion are both about convenience. They are about indulging impulses. They are about externalizing real costs.
In both fashion and food, most of us are highly removed from the production process. The difference between food and fashion however, is that if you want to, you can shake the hand of the farmer who grew your carrots and lettuce. Most of us will never travel to the places where the majority of our clothes come from. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. And that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a change in our consumption habits; in fact, that’s exactly the reason that we should change our consumption habits.
Today, April 24, is Fashion Revolution Day. It is the second iteration of Fashion Revolution Day, the first one done in 2013, exactly one year after the Rana Plaza factory complex collapse in Dhaka Bangladesh which killed 1133 people and injured over 2500.
This isn’t just a question of environment, it’s a question of humanity. Both the food and fashion industries are ripe with human rights abuses. Excessive hours and low pay, human trafficking, exposure to chemicals in the workplace; both systems are built upon the exploitation of human beings, both at home, and in other countries around the world.
“Just about every healthy fresh fruit and vegetable produced in the United States is still harvested by hand and the people who are harvesting our healthiest foods are being paid poverty wages and exploited,” said Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, in an interview with Big Think. And that’s just within the United States. Go global, and our food chain is full of human rights abuses, from slave labor in Thai shrimp farming to child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry. Not to mention the rising rate of farmer suicides blamed on the issue of GMO seeds.
A similar picture is painted in the fashion industry. The monthly minimum wage for textile workers in Bangladesh is now $68 (which happens to be a 77% increase than what it was before), but not everyone pays it. There is abuse and gender discrimination of women in the textile industry and suicides at garment factories.
Is this the kind of world we want to live in?
If you care about what you eat, it’s time to care about what you wear, and in a big way. Don’t just ask, “who made my food?” ask “who made my clothes?”
Clothes can be made locally and sustainably; we just have to demand them. There are plenty of innovative projects that can be found in the intersection of sustainable food and fashion. Growing fabric out of kombucha, making vegan-friendly leather out of discarded pineapple fibers, coffee grounds used in fabrics as a natural deodorizer.
In California, there’s a group called Fibershed, an organization that advocates for “soil-to-soil.” locally grown and sewn so to say. As Fibershed states, “both fiber and food systems now face a drastically changing climate, and must utilize the best of time-honored knowledge and available science for their long-term ability to thrive.”
We each have the power to make an impact, we just have to do it. We have to say no to fast fashion. We have to stop buying into the system that thrives on exploiting others.
Know where your clothes come from, say no to fast fashion like you do fast food. Support companies who believe in fair wages and sustainable practices, and not just because it’s good for their marketing campaigns.
I say no to fast food and fast fashion. I hope that you do the same.
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