How many times have you hit up a store last-minute to pick up a new dress for a date or the weekend just because you felt like it? When was the last time you thumbed through a clearance rack just to see if there was something there you might want to buy? Have you ever left a store with something you might not have gone in for because it was 'Buy One, Get One Free'? If these shopping scenarios are familiar to you, you should definitely watch "The True Cost." Maybe even before you finish this article.
"The True Cost" is a documentary (that, BTW, you can watch right here and NOW for the low, low price of $9.99) about the current state of the fast fashion industry and the very human expense attached to those cheap clothes. It follows the supply chain that makes the clothes in so many of our closets—ever heard of Forever 21, Zara, H&M, Topshop, Gap, or Uniqlo? It shines a light on the human faces and human problems at each step, from the cotton farmers in Texas and India developing brain tumors and other health complications from the liberal use of pesticides on their crops to the textile factory workers in Bangladesh risking their lives in unsafe working conditions just to make less than $2 a day.
Amidst these heart-breaking stories, the doc confronts you with horrifying facts. Did you know that the fashion industry is the No. 2 most polluting industry in the world, second to the oil industry? Or that the average American creates 82 lbs. of textile waste a year? Did you know that only a small percentage of the clothes you donate actually get sold in thrift stores and the rest are packed and shipped to places like Port-au-Prince, Haiti where they pollute the land and water because most of it isn't biodegradable?
A lot of the documentary is hard to swallow but never feels preach-y or like a barrage of depressive factoids. You learn about individuals and companies—like Patagonia and People Tree—doing things the right way, with accountability and a mind to the future. And most importantly, you start thinking about ways that you can move the needle.
There's massive power in being a consumer and choosing not to support the the frenzy of waste and ruthless margin-squeezing that comes from companies pushing for more and more inventory, lower and lower prices, and higher and higher quarterly returns. As designer Stella McCartney comments, "the customer has to know that they're in charge," and watching this film will prepare and empower you to do so.
Watch 'The True Cost' now at truecostmovie.com