I have considered myself a relatively well-informed person, but there was a lot of information in “The True Cost” that surprised me. The documentary travels around the world to show the impact of the fashion industry on both human rights and the environment. It’s shocking and horrifying – far worse than you ever dreamed. In other words, the true cost of the clothes we wear is extreme.
We’ve all heard of “sweat shops” around the world, but filmmaker Andrew Morgan puts a face on those sweat shops by interviewing some of the workers. They talk about their lives and what has happened to them – in tears. He also interviews Stella McCartney, Livia Firth (Colin Firth’s wife) of Eco-Age, and Indian environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva.
- In the past two decades, clothing consumption has increased 500%. It’s called “fast fashion,” and it’s deadly – literally – in several different ways.
- In the 1960s, the U.S. produced more than 90% of our clothing, but now we only produce 3%. Why? Because corporations go where the labor is cheapest and where there are no regulations to protect the workers. Why do governments allow it? Because if they didn’t, corporations would pull out and go someplace that does allow it.
- The average garment worker in the Third World makes the equivalent of $2-$3 per day. And no, that is not a living wage in those countries.
- Prior to the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that killed more than a thousand garment workers, they had told management many times that there were cracks in the building.
- The year after the tragedy at Rana Plaza, the fashion industry had its most profitable year of all time.
- If workers dare to complain to management about their working conditions, they are often beaten.
- The fashion industry is the most labor-dependent industry on earth.
- Demand for cotton is causing farmers – both in the U.S. and elsewhere – to turn to techniques with terrible health and ecological effects.
- Due to the chemicals used in farming and in factories, children of workers are often born with horrific mental and physical defects. The workers themselves, both in the U.S. and abroad, often develop cancer and other illnesses.
- In 16 years, more than 250,000 farmers in India committed suicide – one every 30 minutes. They often kill themselves by drinking the pesticides used on their crops.
- The cheap clothing we buy is now overflowing our landfills. They do not biodegrade for 200 years.
- Only about 10% of the clothes we donate to thrift shops are actually sold.
- The fashion industry pollutes the planet more than any other industry except oil.
- According to the documentary, the major clothing corporations (H&M and The Gap among them) don’t directly own the factories or employ the workers, so they can pretend to be blameless in all this. Yet, when legislation was introduced to make sure workers abroad are treated fairly, these corporations fought it.
These are just a handful of the things I learned from “The True Cost.” I recommend that you see this film if you care at all about the environment and global human rights, and if you don’t want to buy clothes without knowing the true cost of them. It opens May 29, 2015. Look for it in your city, and if it isn’t playing there, watch for it on VOD and DVD.