Do you have any idea where your clothes come from? Chances are, most of us don’t. Don’t feel bad; most clothing companies work very hard to keep consumers in the dark. However, behind the smiling faces of models wearing overpriced sneakers and bralettes, something much darker is happening.
Most of our clothes are made in sweatshops, a workplace (usually overseas) with very poor working conditions. Sweatshop workers are severely underpaid, overworked, and exposed to health hazards. Many times, children as young as 5 years old work long hours in sweatshops to try to help support their families. Over 160 million children overseas are forced to work to survive. Sweatshops have also been attributed to environmental pollution and often have ties with the human trafficking industry.
“At least they have a job.”
Laborers are forced to work because of relaxed/unenforced labor laws. Their wages can be as low as 1 cent per hour and they have to work 80-100 hours a week just to be able to eat.
Sounds terrible, right? Yet, it’s not something most of us think about when we’re buying tank tops from Walmart or jeans from H&M. Most of the stores you shop from, and most celebrity fashion and makeup lines are made with sweatshop labor, child labor, or even slave labor.
Although it’s nearly impossible to find a full list of companies that utilize sweatshops (because there are so many), a simple Google search before you head to the store can change your buying habits for life. Bizfluent, Gurl.com, and the Journal have a few good resources for ethical shopping.
Is it reasonable to expect consumers to completely boycott most companies? No, of course not. Corporations should be held responsible for their actions and the way their workers are treated. A more reasonable way you can help sweatshop laborers is to join United Students Against Sweatshops, utilize social media to inform your friends and acquaintances about what’s going on, and boycott as many sweatshop companies as you possibly can. Shop at thrift stores, local markets, and from eco-friendly, fair-trade businesses.
Click here to read more from Eco Local Markets.