(swim) suit up!
OLD HABIT: 1 SWIMSUIT PER SEASON
Each year as the days warm up, the newest swimwear rolls out. This symbol of summertime brings an assortment of feels. Earlier this month as I prepared to depart for a beach family reunion, I discovered I forgot to pack my odds and ends drawer (where my swimsuit lived) in the house I moved out of in May. A few years ago, this would not have been an issue. Peruse a few department stores. Find a fashionable and affordable swimsuit fast. This practice has since become a non-option for me.
Three years ago I discovered that the purchases we make significantly influence the environment, the global economy, fellow humans, and often our own bodies. The documentary True Cost introduced me to the impacts of the clothing industry on the world. Through watching the documentary, I discovered that we must consider the origin, extraction, and composition of the materials needed to produce a clothing piece, the community in which the item is produced, the makers’ working conditions and compensation, impacts on the local and global environment and economy, sustainability of the item, and the eventual end of its use.
The high demands of fast fashion and consumerism are depleting resources and threatening the well-being of many producers and communities. In 2016 NPR reported the value of the “global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 billion spent in the U.S. alone.” The United States only makes 3% of its clothing while the other 97% is outsourced to developing countries, and one in six people in the world work for this industry--though many are not paid fairly and do not work in safe conditions (True Cost). Many of the materials used in our clothes contain harmful chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, and even lead (Huffington Post, 2014). True Cost reveals that in Punjab these chemicals’ presence in the air, soil, and water have led to generations of physical and mental disabilities in farmers and nearby communities. Factories often emit various pollutants and operate under corrupt management, allowing conditions that are often harmful to the workers, their families, and their communities. Even worse, most fast fashion is designed to disintegrate, and fast fashion clothing companies often do not report transparently on their production or design practices.
I have decided that no clothing item is worth exploitation of people and the planet. Our clothing choices are no longer simply important, they are imperative. Whether we intend to or not, our shopping decisions make a difference. What will yours be?
NEW HABIT: FIND THE ROOT OF YOUR SUIT
Learn how to care for a bathing suit for longer lasting pieces.
For those who are still in search of a suit this summer for a beach day, relax by the pool, or sprinkler run with the kids, let’s find the root of your suit. For those who prefer to shop in store, visit REI or your local wilderness outfitter. REI hosts ethical brands including Carve Designs (maker of my suit!), prAna, and Patagonia. Carve Designs proudly displays their corporate responsibility regarding their materials and local manufacturing practices. prAna is committed to utilizing sustainably sourced materials, treating their people fairly, and improving their industry through partnerships. Likewise, Patagonia reports their dedication to environmental, social and corporate responsibilities. Though their suits are not available through REI, Vitamin A swimsuits have the lightest ecological footprint.