Two Ways to be Ethical: Part 2

PC: People Tree

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping. I don’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping, so I rushed up and down each aisle trying to get done and back home quickly. It was 5 o’clock, so the store was a madhouse with businesspeople, families, and college students all going up and down the aisles reading the labels on products and putting them in their baskets. That’s right—they were reading the labels.

How many of you read the nutritional labels on food products you haven’t tried before buying it? Hopefully, the answer is a lot of you. Why? Because in this day and age the general population cares about what they put in their bodies. But, how many of you carefully read the label on a piece of clothing you try on before buying it? Unfortunately, probably not as many of you. This begs the question, why as a society do we value what we put in our bodies more than what we put on them?

Just like the nutritional labels on food, most clothing has an interior tag detailing its size, country of origin, and make-up of materials. I have to admit that many times in the past I have just seen this tag as a scratchy nuisance to my neck that should be cut out immediately. However, the story it tells is much more than that.

As we’ve already discussed it is important to know from where your clothing comes. For example, if the tag says, “Made in Bangladesh,” this should raise a red flag in your mind. Besides from that, though, your clothing’s tags describe the materials that make up the piece. It’s like a nutritional label for your shirt, and some ingredients are much better for you and the environment than others.

Take cotton for example. Cotton now makes up about half of the total fiber used to make clothing. That’s huge. Unfortunately, the international farming industry genetically modifies 90% of all cotton with chemicals. These pesticides and insecticides negatively impact both human health and the environment. The chemicals harm the environment by infecting water sources, hurting animals, and killing vegetation. They harm human health in two distinct ways. F First, pesticides and insecticides infect the air we breathe. Second, these chemicals don’t magically go away when the product arrives in a retail store. Residue from pesticides and insecticides can survive through the clothing production process and enter the wearer’s bloodstream through his/her skin.

While the exact impact of these chemicals is under-studied and difficult to measure, personal testimonies like that of organic cotton farmer and advocate for organic farming, LaRhea Pepper, can give you an idea of just how dangerous these chemicals can be. Born and raised on a cotton farm in Texas, LaRhea knows the ins and outs of the industry as well as the deadly impact of the chemicals used on 90% of the world’s cotton.

In an interview with the directors of The True Cost, LaRhea said, “The difference in conventional chemically intensive agriculture and organic is literally life and death… My husband grew up on a chemically intensive farm in south Texas and his father died of Leukemia at the age of 57. Terry was diagnosed with a brain tumor – a glioblastoma multiforme –  when he was just 48 and I had to say goodbye to him just 2 years later.”

These are the same chemicals that we put on our bodies and pump into the environment every day. So, next time you go shopping for a new outfit, check the label and be conscious of what you are putting on your skin, putting into the environment, and putting into farmers’ lungs.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from LaRhea Pepper:

“Organic promotes life and creates solutions. Organic agriculture promotes life in the soil, increased bio-diversity, increased food-security, ability to mitigate impacts of climate change with stronger carbon sequestration, the reduced use of irrigation where that applies, and the elimination of toxic and persistent pesticides from the water we drink and the air we breathe.”

Read the rest of LaRhea’s interview here:

-Kate Hornberger

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