I stopped buying clothes from the mall. I no longer drop in to Anthropologie to see what dresses are on their sale rack and I don’t consider H&M when I find myself wanting a new outfit for an upcoming trip or work event. I watched the documentary True Cost in January; it explores the supply chain of fast fashion and sheds light on the garment factories of Bangladesh and Cambodia (where the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building caused +1,000 deaths). It links health and environmental issues near cotton fields in India to pesticide use. I could have easily felt overwhelmed by the complex web of issues that are tied to my clothing purchases. Lucky for me, the film’s website offers suggestions of companies that pay garment workers fair wages and whose business practices reflect their commitment to making the earth habitable to generations who will live 100 years from now. Most recognizable on the list is Patagonia.
I’m a big fan of Patagonia. It started in the 90’s when I was in high school and I sported a forest green Synchilla jacket. What the what is Synchilla you wonder? It’s a soft polyester fleece so snuggly you might as well be cuddling a Chinchilla. I loved that jacket. And I loved the Patagonia catalog I acquired along with it. I remember being amazed at how different it felt to flip through the essays (yes essays in an catalog!) and environmental ally advertisements, compared to Seventeen Magazine, the main event periodical of my adolescent years. Messages from both saturated my subconscious and guess what—Patagonia’s messages have withstood the test of time .
The values I try to live by as a decent human being on this earth are on the same page as Patagonia. I recently read Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. My admiration for the company and the man who started it only grew after reading about the intentional business philosophies practiced at Patagonia, that reflect Chouinard’s commitment to caring for the environment. Even though I have no intention of ever running a business as large as Patagonia, I took away concrete lessons of things I can do in my every day life, to reduce my impact on the environment. Skeptics or lazy brains may say, “What one person does isn’t going to make much of a difference.” That’s true to a certain extent, in the grand scheme of things. But if lots of people started caring enough about the earth to make small changes in their lives, we could collectively save ourselves from a WALL-E situation where we trash ourselves out of a planet and have to float around space on a ship as we grow morbidly obese.
I made a promise to myself, humanity, and the earth after watching True Cost; I am buying less and when I do buy clothes, they must be from companies who pay fair garment wages and who value the earth as I do. Now when you see me wearing the same shirt every time we’re together, you know why. 🙂