Last night my wife and I went on an outing into the city. Prepared with $ 220 in spending money, I was out to find something new, something I just needed (though I couldn’t quite name what that was), something to make me feel good. As I walked around the store with its overcrowded aisles, clothes strewn about on plastic hangers and fluorescent lights, something felt so wrong in my core. I didn’t know what it was, but it felt as though I was violating myself.
Let me back up for a bit, 5 years ago I decided I would not shop at Walmart ever again. I had learned about the employee treatment, their poor wages and the poor quality of the items all made in China. Next came Target as well as most other huge big box stores. But, I never faltered on the desire I had to purchase “my brands” Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Coach, pretty much any high end brand with a label I attached personal feelings to and made it my own. I decided it was the quality of the store, not the actual products that gave me uncomfortable feelings.
So, last night, I decided that TJ Maxx no longer met my standards, but still had that “need” to shop. What’s a girl to do? Go to Macy’s of course. Yes, Macy’s was my new minimum standard of store. It was there that I found the bag of my dreams. A Ralph Lauren green tote that would be perfect for work, travel and was beautiful. It was $ 300, so I decided I would come back next month and purchase. “Will you really?” my internal voice asked. Hmmm, would I? Why wouldn’t I? Home I went, empty handed and feeling unsettled. Why didn’t it feel right to shop, yet I had money to burn?
As I sat in my chair to relax for the evening, my voice came back to ask, “How does Ralph Lauren treat the people that make their products? What is their standards on leather? How are they in regards to the environment?” I promptly answered great to all questions of course, it had to be right? So began the night that will change the rest of my life. In my searches I found that Ralph Lauren pays their employees in underdeveloped countries .20-1.20/hour, many times this is less than Walmart.
I began digging deeper and learned that whenever the factories demand more money, Ralph Lauren simply says they will go elsewhere and find a new factory to do it cheaper.
Then I watched the documentary True Cost where they dive deeply into the devastating effects of the fashion industry. The effects are on everyone, as the fashion industry is destroying our Earth at an unbelievable rate and promoting slavery in the farthest corners of the globe, privately of course so that their “consumers” don’t need to see or think about the horrors that are happening.
I am by no means innocent. I have been a label whore my entire life, filling my consumer needs with one “bargain” at a time. At one point I had an entire bedroom filled floor to ceiling with nothing but my clothing. I look around at my home now, a mix of things purchased without question and sustainable ethical goods, and a closet full of labels. Never once had I thought of whose hands made them. If I was buying an item for $ 17 how much were the people who produced it getting paid. A young worker in the documentary only gets to see her child once a month, as she works 16 hour days for $ 10 per week, all in the hopes of her daughter having a better chance at life and not having to work in a textile factory. She says, “We think of those garments as being made with our blood.” Wow! How much blood had my purchases shed? How can I contribute to this?
The fact is I no longer can, nor will I. As I continue down my spiritual journey, I am continuously assessing and reevaluating my beliefs. This begins with animals, my food, the quality of cleaning and laundry products in my home and the healing ingredients I ingest. Why would the clothes I wear or products I purchase be any different? This is not easy. It feels so uncomfortable inside to know what I am saying. No more major brand shopping unless they are made in US or fair trade. Not only looking at clothing, but furniture, linens, purses, luggage, the list goes on and on. I participate in nothing else as the typical American consumer, and I no longer will participate in this. The majority of us float through our day blindly in this country taking for granted all that’s here, demanding lower prices, so we can just buy more and spend more as our countries debt grows. For myself, with $ 28,000 in credit card debt, filling myself with things, always “needing” more. Where does it end? This stops for me now. I will not contribute another cent to “blood trade.” This means every purchase being assessed and researched, this means spending possibly 10x more than I would have a TJ Maxx. This means purchasing a whole lot less but having so much more and stopping to think before I try to fill a void with things again.
I end with these questions, if you are not ok imagining your child being forced to work 14 hour days in a factory of inhumane conditions for pennies a day, are you ok with someone else’s child doing it to make you your next great “deal”? Do you know where your last purchase came from? Do you know how that company takes care of the people who produced it? Do you know how that company takes care of the Earth? Not sure if you care… What if it was you in that factory getting beat for standing up and asking for fair wages? What if it was your field getting flooded with the polluted water that is making half of the town children retarded from the chemicals? Then, do you start to think about your bargains?
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Coach Stephanie Powell is a Lifestyle Coach working with individuals desiring complete abundance in their lives. For the past 22 years Stephanie worked as an Executive Chef for the world’s largest catering operations. In 2014, Stephanie walked away from that life with a single desire inside… To empower career driven people to achieve great success in all areas of their lives.
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