The holiday season is an expensive time of year with gifts to buy, a fridge to be stocked, and a house in need of decorating. Cyber Monday is one solution to not completely emptying your pockets. One special Monday of the year is dedicated to ridiculous sales and low prices: money-saving galore! Shoppers are able to sit by the fire, sipping their hot cocoa, and leisurely scroll through seemingly infinite sales, without the hustle and bustle of Black Friday.
Clothes are ultra-cheap and previously unaffordable items are now added to the cart. Online shopping is not just a way to buy things, but a form of entertainment. People get sucked into the prospect of fast fashion (and lower price tags). They are able to make their purchases without the guilt of over-spending hard-earned money, but at what cost?
Fast fashion has been downplayed as a villain in the online industry. Large companies are taking over the web one order at a time. When people see an 80% off sale, they jump at the opportunity to indulge themselves in a new outfit or two… or maybe more. With help from compulsive shoppers, fast fashion is becoming an integral part of online shopping.
What is fast fashion though? It is essentially “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. However, these appeals come at a cost. Environmentally, fast fashion is detrimental. Fast fashion produces a whopping 10% of total global carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes natural waters. Almost 85% of textiles are dumped each year.
Fast fashion produces a whopping 10% of total global carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes natural waters. Almost 85% of textiles are dumped each year.
Furthermore, the production of fast fashion emits greenhouse gases and consumes unspeakable amounts of water and energy. For example, it requires about 700 gallons of water to make 1 cotton t-shirt. Leftover dyes pollute large samples of water and synthetic fibers take centuries to degrade. Among these factors lay various other issues resulting from fast fashion.
One aspect of fashion that we often don’t think about is the laborers who make our clothes. Laborers working in the factories for these large companies work under harsh conditions. These jobs impact women disproportionately, especially in countries like China and Bangladesh. They are forced to work in sweatshops, businesses that “regularly violate both wage or child labor and safety or health laws.”
These laborers receive some of the world's lowest wages and are denied many of their rights as workers. For example, they cannot unionize and are constantly exposed to harmful conditions such as the daily inhalation of toxic clothing dyes. Sweatshop workers are constantly mistreated by their employers and by the hierarchy of fast fashion. So why do people still support these large companies by buying their clothes?
Well, online shopping has its perks. It’s more convenient, there are no crowds, prices are low, and there’s a greater variety. Fast fashion is also addictive. Placing an order gives you something to look forward to. The day you receive your purchase yields excitement.
However, there is an importance in shopping locally. If everyone resorts to online shopping, local retailers will go out of business. Many jobs will be lost and local economies will suffer. In order to shop at a real store, you will have to drive miles away. Not everything can and should be bought online. Some things must be viewed in person before purchasing. For example, you don’t want to buy a mattress online. How will you know if it’s soft enough...or if you like the cushioning...or if it’s too springy? Yes, online shopping has its benefits, but is it worth its social and environmental cost in the long run?
On days like Cyber Monday (which now I may feel like everyday!), it’s important to make educated decisions about your purchases… those cozy sweatpants may not be as innocent as you thought. So let’s say that you wanted to start shopping sustainably. Unfortunately, many families shopping sustainably may not be financially sustainable. Is there a healthy balance between economic constraints and social responsibility? Next time you decide to add an item to your online cart, be conscious of the effects of online shopping and fast fashion. As people grow more and more aware of the impacts each online order brings to the world. Hopefully, with increased mindfulness, progress will be made.