Written By: Stephanie Wechsler
Head of Education
As a teen, I know just how tempting it is to buy clothes on cheap and trendy websites. What most people don’t keep in mind, though, is how sustainable or good those brands are for the environment. Today, I will be breaking down some of those major brands so you can be more aware as you shop. My name is Stephanie Wechsler and I’m a seventeen-year-old from New York. As someone who recently got their license and a job, I constantly find myself wanting to go shopping both in stores and online. At first, I just wanted the cheapest and cutest clothes I could find, I didn’t care how they impacted the environment. But, when I decided to research some of my favorite places to shop, I realized I was causing more harm to the environment than good to my wardrobe. So, I wanted to share some of my findings with you, as well as some amazing alternatives.
First off is Aerie, which has become super popular for its crossover flare legging, something I myself own and love. While it may be super cute, comfortable, and trendy, Aerie doesn’t quite meet all of the expectations when it comes to being a sustainable brand, One example of this is the fact that most of their materials are not eco-friendly. Additionally, none of its manufacturing locations, which are mainly based in China, meet the labor standards. These labor standards are in place in order to ensure worker health and safety, living wages, and other labor rights. Although Aerie is trying to reduce and fix these issues, it still isn’t the best place to shop from an ethical standpoint.
Next, and arguably the most popular, is Zara. Zara was first established in 1975 but has become super popular over the last year. Despite the fact that they have said they want to reduce the amount of gas produced from their own manufacturing, use recyclable packaging, and have started a program for which consumers can drop off their old clothes to give them a “second life”, Zara is a huge contributor to fast fashion. They are constantly releasing new items to keep up with the latest trends, which just encourages their consumers to buy more clothes and throw away old ones. Not only that, but they also use materials such as wool, leather, and exotic animal fur, which is harmful to the animals and therefore the environment. While Zara isn’t the best place to shop ethically, it is much better than some of its competitors, such as Shein.
Shein is a website known among teens around the world. They are known for their cheap prices and sometimes good quality, as well as a variety of items to look through. While browsing on Shein, you can find almost anything ranging from basic t-shirts to shrimp earrings. Another not-so-great thing Shein is known for is its terrible working conditions. Shein manufactures most of its clothes in China and has its workers working around 13 hours a day for 28 days a month. Not only are the employees working long hours to not even be paid minimum wage, but they are also working in unsafe conditions. Shein puts their employees in basement-like rooms with no windows or fire exits. And although they claim to be an environmentally conscious brand, toxic chemicals that are harmful to both people and the environment have been found in some of their clothing, and they use harmful plastic packaging as well. Out of all the three brands listed above, Shein is the worst one from an environmental and ethical point of view
While it seems that the only places that carry cute and affordable clothing are not environmentally friendly, that is not the case! All you need to do is a little bit of research to make sure where you are buying from won’t hurt the environment. One example of those places is any thrift store near you or even an online one such as thredUp. ThredUp is an online store where you can sell and purchase second-hand clothes, just as you would in any in-person thrift store. By shopping in thrift stores or any sustainable store, not only are you getting those new clothes you’ve had your eye on, but you are also helping to save the environment. Although you may not realize it, there are 12 million tons of textiles sent to landfills in the United States every year. By shopping secondhand, you can help reduce that number and our environment. A great place to find more sustainable alternatives to these brads is the Awear Shop button and the app GoodOnYou! So, next time you want to shop for the latest trends, make sure to check that the brand is sustainable and if they aren’t, try looking for it somewhere that is!