Skip to content

Forever 21: Forever in a Landfill

September 8, 2009

Note: This post has been recently revised.  Enjoy!

I need to be on the next episode of A&E’s Intervention.

image source:

Unlike the crack heads, meth addicts, and pain pill poppers on the show, my drug of choice?  Forever 21.  Like a moth to the light, their stores draw me in with their night club music, their bright displays, and their attractive price tags and there’s nothing to do but buy 5 shirts too many.  I actually get an adrenaline rush when I walk in there.

But the next day as the high wears off and I am quickly sobered by my bank statement, I wonder how I’ve come to regard clothing as a disposable commodity.  After all, what am I to do with all the cheap clothes I bought last season?  With prices so low, updating ones wardrobe has become as financially-viable as buying a Big Mac.  No wonder some refer to it as “fast fashion.”

So in an effort to lower my wardrobe waste, I’ve avoided the mall like the plague.  But what happens when I do need to buy a new pair of jeans?  I’ve conquered my fast fashion fix.  Is there anything more?

In an effort to become more environmentally conscious in my decisions, I searched the Forever 21 website for their corporate responsibility page and found…nothing.  Unlike its competitor, H&M, which has included sustainability policies into its corporate policies as well as their website, Forever 21 remains aloof when it comes to sustainability.

When faced with consumer criticism and demand, H&M stepped up to the plate to assume responsibility.  In recent years they have gradually incorporated recycled polyester made from recycled PET bottles into their clothing.  This has a much lower environmental impact than manufacturing new polyester from petroleum through an energy-intensive process that releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and acid gases into the air.

Click here for H&Ms Sustainability Report

Click here for H&M's Sustainability Report

More significantly, H&M has not only used an estimated 3,000 tons of organic cotton last year, but is even increasing this amount by 50%.   This is of great benefit to the environment because they are grown without any pesticides.  Conventionally grown cotton on the other end, is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world, polluting both air and water with its emissions.

For every dollar that we spend on clothes, we are supporting and encouraging the industries that produce them.  Our monetary votes are what sway a company to pursue sustainable or non-sustainable materials.  Likewise, it is our responsibility to know who is manufacturing our clothing and under what conditions.  In 2001, Forever 21 faced harsh backlash for owing factory workers hundreds of thousands and putting them in poor, unsafe conditions.  Though the case has been resolved and Forever 21 has taken steps to ensure that their clothes are not produced in sweatshops, what exactly these measures are remains a mystery.

When respiratory toxins, water pollution, and human labor laws are on the line, Forever 21’s ignorance is not something that can simply be swept under the sales rack.  In no way am I saying that Forever 21 single-handedly destroying the environment.  For all the consumer knows, they could be adopting various sustainable initiatives in their company.  However, without any information, how is the consumer supposed to make an environmentally friendly choice?

I don’t want to have to give up Forever 21 or any of my other fashion favorites.  However, just like you wouldn’t take candy from a stranger, I feel uncomfortable wearing jeans of questionable sources.  Therefore I urge you to do a little detective work on your favorite companies and let them know that you are concerned about their environmental impact.

All it takes is a simple email.  I just sent one to Forever 21!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. stylepint permalink
    September 8, 2009 4:11 pm

    Great post! I’m slowly moving away from fast fashion stores and trying to mix in some thrifted/vintage clothing with my regular wardrobe…but it’s always a challenge. =)

    • janiec52 permalink
      September 12, 2009 12:19 pm

      Shopping at thrift/vintage clothing stores does take a lot of patient and determination, but when you find that one classic piece, it’s so worth it.

      I’m so glad to hear that you’re trying to mix in thrift store pieces into your wardrobe! I’m trying to also do the same. It’s nice knowing that every piece of clothing I buy used is one less piece of clothing saved from a landfill end.

      The best of luck to your shopping endeavors!


  2. Vickie Stewart permalink
    September 9, 2009 10:30 am

    I love this!!! You are doing a great job with your writing and the content of your blog. I am going to forward it on to Abbie as I know she will love to read it. You go, girl!!! I’m very proud of you.


    • janiec52 permalink
      September 12, 2009 12:20 pm


      Thanks so much for the support! I really appreciate it and I hope you enjoy the blog!


  3. Vickie Stewart permalink
    September 9, 2009 10:31 am

    I apologize for mis-spelling your name!!!

  4. September 9, 2009 10:36 am

    I just found this company that does denim repair (not patching). I’m planning on sending a couple of pairs in myself. This is a great way to keep favorite jeans lasting longer and helps in avoiding having to buy new pairs as often. I’ll try and remember to let you know how the repairs turn out.

  5. Danny Smyl permalink
    September 11, 2009 11:11 am

    What a compelling article! Acknowledging environmental groups’ requests to become more “green” is, for most fashion corporations, a great move. In many cases, it is a right step in the financial department as well (going “green” appeals to many environmentally conscience consumers and doesn’t usually sway the more apathetic consumer). My question is: where should corporations draw the line between being environmentally friendly and sacrificing the integrity of their product?

    Arguments regarding the over harvesting of wild silkworms has been presented by Italian naturalists. Apparently, the over harvesting of silkworms by major silk-product manufacturing companies (Armani, Hugo Boss, etc.) have impacted Silk Moth populations. Regionally, the companies would have to reduce their harvest of silk moths to restore populations. But, should we sacrifice our desire to create superb silk clothing for the silk moth? The answer to that lies in one’s opinion of whether human desire is more important than the the silkworm/moth’s right to live. Unfortunately, both sides of the argument are bull-headed and not likely to change their stance.

    Great Article, Janie!

    • janiec52 permalink
      September 12, 2009 1:01 pm


      I definitely agree that “going green” is a great move for fashion corporations, as well as all businesses. As more and more consumers are becoming aware of the environmental impacts of their lifestyle choices, businesses must keep up with consumer demands in order to survive economically.

      I’m glad you brought up the issue with silk. I did a little of my own research and learned that most of the silk produced for clothing companies actually comes from silkworms raised and harvested on silk farms. However, seeing as these farm-raised silkworms are killed in order to preserve the silk, many are actually arguing for synthetic silk or silk from wild silk worms. The cocoons of wild silk worms (what silk is made from) is obtained after the silk worms have left them, therefore no silk worms are killed. Yet because the worms create a hole in the cocoons to exit them, the silk itself is not of the best quality.

      And there lies the dilemma you brought up: Are animals rights more important than human desires? This question can definitely be applied to more than just silk, from cow bred for meat to ducks bred for down.

      Personally I don’t see anything wrong with eating meat or using down feathers but the issue for me lies in how we obtain these goods. The conditions that these animals live in before they are slaughtered for our benefit should be a deciding factor in the animals products that you choose.

      Thank you for your thought-provoking comment!

      • Lily permalink
        January 2, 2010 5:11 pm

        I would much rather have farm-raised silkworms that were bred specifically to serve such a purpose make my silk than vulnerable, free, wild silkworms be corrupted. Not to mention the fact that the silkworms die naturally, after living normal lives, unlike pigs and cows and chickens raised and slaughtered for food.

  6. Liz permalink
    November 6, 2009 10:15 am

    This was really interesting and enlightening. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of current F21 shoppers! [aka, me]

  7. Erica permalink
    December 6, 2009 5:34 pm

    Hey! Has Forever21 replied to your email yet? I am actually writing a paper about clothing manufacturing for my Environmental Geology class. Forever21 is one of the stores I am focusing on…if you could email and let me know if you’ve heard anything, that would be really helpful. I will give you the proper credit.


  8. Lily permalink
    January 2, 2010 5:07 pm

    thank you so much for this! Forever21 is one of my favorite stores, but lately, shopping there has left a serious dent on my conscience. It’s good to know that H&M is getting out there in the green world, but I wish everyone would make a bigger deal out of the work behind the clothing; the actual labor force. I still feel uneasy when I see “Made in China, Indonesia, Malaysia” or whatever other place where I can’t see what anyone is being subjected to.

  9. Natalie permalink
    March 19, 2010 11:15 am

    Thanks for this post! Glad to see other people care about wearing affordable and fashionable clothing without having a negative impact on the environment…

  10. July 22, 2010 12:45 pm

    I worked at Forever 21 as a Visual Merchandiser (quit a month ago) and I must say, they are a planet of their own… All employees are miserable. I had to leave because I was having allergic reactions to the “fragrances” they use to cover up the smells from the factories the clothes are manufactured in (once we got in three boxes from overseas that smelled like that odor emitted from dead rats that have eaten poison tablets, and we constantly got in stuff that smelled like sulfur or body odor) . I was having rashes all over my arms and legs, followed by infections and fungi from other people’s body soils (because of the open/rashy skin). It was a miserable experience and I’m SO glad to be done with them. I have had my own vintage store for 8 years now, started on Ebay, moved to Etsy (seller name: wildsouls)… in the works of getting a website going that has about 80% vintage, 20% US made “new” clothes. Thanks for your posting. It’s good to know that other young girls are trying to promote vintage fashion! Keep on rockin’!

  11. December 20, 2010 7:57 pm

    Lol wow, i had by no means thought about details like that before, but you do carry up some fascinating points. great article


  1. Forever 21–Now With Undermining! - The Pursuit of Harpyness
  2. “We are so doomed” society « flARTatious

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: