"Person, lady and girl" photo by James Marcom on Unsplash

Doing the Best We Can

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ’Til your good is better and your better is best.” 

—St. Jerome

Fashion is filthy. Behind the glamour and fantasy lies an industry notorious for its human rights abuses and environmental destruction. Sweatshops, child labor, plastic pollution, toxic production processes, excessive waste… you name it, fashion is guilty. The violations have dire consequences. We must do better.

But, it ain’t easy being green. Current practices have pitfalls at every stage. The material used to make the product could be unsustainable. The dyes, anti-wrinkle or other treatments used on it could be toxic. The person who put it together could be working in dangerous conditions. The manufacturing process could release harmful emissions and toxins into the environment. The sale of it could fund terrorism.

A look at current events shows the worldwide debate pitting our business climate against our physical climate. The $2.5 trillion global fashion industry is right in the thick of it. The business model behind fast fashion requires consumers to buy more and more often, which leads to cutting corners with workers and the environment. This results in unethical working conditions and an excess of harmful synthetic materials flooding the market on their way to our landfills and oceans. The sustainable fashion movement is an attempt to address the industry’s systemic problems. However, sustainable options are generally more expensive and require more diligence to ensure integrity. At the same time, economic forces have required us to tighten our belts and limit our clothing budgets. We want cleaner fashion, but we also want to be able to afford it.

So what do we do when we want to do good, but it seems like the odds are against us? We keep trying. We do the best we can to seek solutions that save our environment and treat workers ethically while still allowing us to enjoy the art of getting dressed. Solutions that value quality over quantity, like buying only natural fibers, or buying that which brings us joy so we'll keep it longer. Fashion employs more than 1.8 million people in the United States alone. It is worth our effort to do better for all of us.