It was the wise Marge Simpson who once declared, “Alright, I will buy it. It’ll be good for the economy.”
This has regrettably become somewhat of a mantra for my shopping habits, and with most of my time spent at home, online shopping has become a go-to cure for boredom.
More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve found myself scrolling through the depths of online retail stores in the middle of the night, confused about how exactly I got there and why I was adding so many trendy tops and skirts to my cart.
It’s interesting that online shopping has become such a popular coping mechanism for being stuck at home despite having virtually nowhere to go and no occasions to really dress up for. With extra time on our hands and new day-to-day routines, we’ve taken quite a liking to retail therapy.
Economic superpower Amazon saw a 40% increase in net profits by July 2020, and many online fast-fashion retailers have seen impressive numbers of consumer spending throughout the course of the lockdown.
Now more than ever, it’s really easy to fall into the corporate trap of stylish $15 sweatshirts and free shipping... but I can’t help thinking about the moral sacrifices I’ve been making for the sake of convenience.
I love the concept of buying second-hand and staying aware of my overall carbon footprint when it comes to fashion, but I’ll be honest: I’m becoming more and more reluctant to shop in person, including at thrift stores.
From a health-conscious standpoint, staying in and ordering clothes online makes the most sense. However, the clothing industry is notoriously destructive to the environment and unforgiving on its workers.
Fashion production makes up 10% of worldwide carbon emissions and is the world’s second largest source of water pollution. In many countries, apparel manufacturing goes hand-in-hand with indentured servitude and child labor, all for the sake of rapid production. And, despite all of this, 85% of textiles ultimately end up in landfills each year.
Given the industry's problematic reputation, I find it all the more shocking that people have become so increasingly involved in this toxic system of “buy often and cheap.”
With my guilty conscience and eye for fashion trends, I’ve been fairly conflicted about compulsively giving in to online purchases. I think I stumbled upon a pretty solid balance between ethics and style, though: online resale stores.
The growing popularity of online consignment and thrift/second-hand stores such as Poshmark and Thredup have restored quite a bit of my faith in humanity; the increasing business on these platforms reflects a consciousness for the environment and concern about the ethics of our wardrobes.
I personally don’t think fast-fashion is going away any time soon (I’m looking at you, Shein), but I’m trying my best to be more conscious of its impacts on the world.
While the cheaper and more convenient options are incredibly tempting especially given our current situation, I firmly believe we could all afford to pay more attention to the sustainability and morality of our purchases — even if it's just by browsing second-hand websites you wouldn’t have thought to visit before.
Emily Davison is a 19-year-old anthropology sophomore from Denham Springs.