Forever 21: Forever in a Landfill
Note: This post has been recently revised. Enjoy!
I need to be on the next episode of A&E’s Intervention.
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.
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!