The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: Mindful consumption not overconsumption

This letter is a response to a column published last week, titled “Resisting the clothing industry.” First, I would like to say that I agree 100 percent with the issue of overconsumption, a major fueling factor of the clothing industry. I also commend the columnist, Rosie O’Brien ’16, for her level of commitment to being highly aware of her clothing purchases and the much broader issues that need to be considered, even when buying something as simple as a pair of jeans. However, I do not think that solely purchasing clothing from Goodwill and similar thrift stores is the solution. Yes, thrift shops and consignment stores are a great alternative solution for supporting local businesses, recycling and reducing waste and, of course, saving money. But there are many times where Goodwill is not enough, and people should not be deemed socially unjust if they buy new clothing.

For example, we, as college students, are undoubtedly going to have internships and job interviews (and hopefully jobs) that require us to present ourselves professionally. If I have a formal event to attend, is my only option to buy an ill-fitting, over-sequined dress from Goodwill or denounce all that is socially just and give my hard-earned money to the corporate devils of the clothing industry? I think that these times, as well as others, it is perfectly understandable that people won’t want to shop at Goodwill.

I am not trying to minimize the grotesque issues that exist within the clothing industry, which O’Brien has very rightfully pointed out. I am simply saying there is a medium between buying a five new dresses every season and shopping only at Goodwill—a medium that can be socially just. Instead of buying that bargain pair of jeans at Walmart, we can shop at places that pay their workers appropriate wages, are environmentally aware and share many of the values that we do. We can also resist the low prices, which often means low quality, for clothing that will cost more but last us a long time. (But we can’t put a value on social justice, right?) By doing this, we can aim to reduce our purchases, and ultimately our waste.

Now for the issue of want. The dose makes the poison, right? Overconsumption is definitely an issue that can only be fixed by changing our purchasing patterns. And a way to do this is by increasing the value of what we do have, including what O’Brien points to as the social capital of clothing. If the goal is to not have people buy more than they need, we should be buying things that are good quality, things that we will enjoy wearing for a long time. And I’m sorry to say that Goodwill is not always a good source for such clothing items.

I am not trying to say that I detest Goodwill. I go there regularly and have found great items. I am simply trying to say that Goodwill is not a consistent source of quality items that will completely eliminate our need (or want) for new things. I think the questions O’Brien poses at the end of her article, “The next time you pull out your wallet to buy a shirt, will your money support an endless cycle of exploitation and manipulation by the fashion industry or will it contribute instead to a local market that relies on community goodwill?” is unfair because it suggests that these are the only options. And that is definitely not the case.

—Yishi Liang  ’16

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