Aja Barber's Consumed: The Impact of Fast Fashion Industry
Fast Fashion Industry
Aja Barber is a well-known ethical and sustainable fashion advocate who also works as a writer, consultant, and critic of the fashion business. In this article, we are going to tackle her debut book, "Consumed: The Need for Collective Change" which explores the effects of the fast fashion industry on the environment and people.
For everyone’s information, I am a Biology student and an aspiring environmentalist who’s inspired and deeply motivated to share my thoughts on Aja Barber's compelling analysis of the fast fashion industry.
In "Consumed," Aja Barber delves extensively into the many facets of the fast fashion industry. She conducts a comprehensive examination, shedding important light on its negative effects on the environment, the labor force in the supply chain, and the broader societal impacts.
Here, I uncover some key points and insights from the book:
Environmental and Climate Impact
As an Environmental Biology student and passionate advocate for a more sustainable future, my first takeaway from "Consumed" centers on the fashion industry's profound impact on the environment and climate. Within the book, Aja dives further into the significant influence that the fashion industry has on driving climate change. She emphasizes how this business hastens climate change through its insatiable use of limited resources, excessive waste output, and unsustainable manufacturing practices.
Given this context, several critical issues come to the forefront. Notably, the fast fashion industry has been a major contributor to pollution, contaminating the water, air, and soil.
In the sense of reckless use of water resources in the production process, which eventually contributes to the industry's environmental footprint. Secondly, equally troubling as the massive amount of water used is the enormous carbon impact associated with garment production and disposal. Lastly, combining the two exacerbates global climate change.
Aja Barber's work highlights the vital significance of changes to offset these negative consequences and pave the road for a more sustainable fashion industry.
Colonialism: Labor Exploitation
One of the best things about the book is how strongly and relentlessly she exposed racial injustice in the workplace and business. She said that most labor-rich and resource-rich countries are among the poorest nations in the world. In my case, as a Filipino, we have been colonized for years by various nationalities, and that is the reason why we are lost when it comes to values, traditions, and cultures. We are simply mixed, and we almost follow everything. Yet, we are still poor.
See? This is what we get when we are not expert in our own culture because people at the top of the corporate ladder tend to exploit us. Above comparison, there are people who experienced worse than us Filipinos, like the Africans, who were enslaved on their own continent and sold to work. They are working in unsafe conditions with low wages and less job security.
“Fashion has a history of exploiting crafts of indigenous cultures, misusing members of marginalized communities for cheap labor, and also pushing a system presenting collections that are mostly accessible to elite groups of people, when in actual fact it doesn’t take much to be inclusive.” - Anyango Mpinga, Consumed.
Consumerism is linked to Mental Health
Aja explored the significant role of marketing and advertising in fostering consumerism, which leads to overconsumption and customer discontent. One thing I learned from her book is the connection between consumerism and mental health. People are overwhelmed by the fast fashion industry, and when they are under pressure, they tend to buy new items, especially the most recent ones.
According to Healthline.com, “shopping addiction or compulsive buying disorders affects about 18 million adults in the United States.
The consequences of this situation are substantial. Discarded old clothes and out-of-trend clothing end up in landfills and bodies of water, and some are even shipped to other countries to be sold in secondhand markets. Many people may be surprised to learn that Kantamanto, Ghana, receives a whopping 15 million clothes per week. Unbelievably, 40% of these items go unsold, eventually becoming waste. As a result, Kantamanto has emerged as the city of Accra's greatest single producer of solid garbage, showing the far-reaching repercussions of the garment industry's disposal methods.
Simply put, the poor get poorer because the “secondhand clothing trade reinforced a cycle of exploitation and dependency, which ultimately perpetuates colonial power,”- Aja Barber, Consumed.
I do believe in collective efforts to make collective change. In the book, Aja firmly emphasizes the need for worldwide action to address the issues in the fast fashion industry. Returning to the initial debate on fast fashion's environmental and climate impact, it is clear that fast fashion is a major contributor to significant pollution. Statistics show that nearly 7 million deaths occur each year, with a startling 4 million of these fatalities being connected to air pollution. This is not a drill; this is ALARMING.
Aja Barber contends for structural reforms in the fashion industry and wants consumers to demand accountability, transparency, and ethical standards from brands and businesses.
What do we need to change?
We don't need to be environmentalists, advocates, or in positions of power to drive change because we all share the same world. I strongly advise everyone reading this article to read Aja Barber's book, Consumed.
I believe that change is power, so let’s unite and take Aja’s advice.
We need to change the way we buy.
We need to change the amount we purchase.
We need to change how those within the supply chain are treated.
We need to change ourselves and how we participate in and perpetuate this system.
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