73773503If your garment has the label “Made in China” or some other developing country, there’s a great chance that it is killing the earth.

My sister calls me a tree-hugger, but I’m no expert environmentalist. I am simply a girl who learned the damaging effects of my shopping habits on the environment a little too late. I used to swear by online shopping and saw no problem with selecting the 2nd day delivery option. That was until I realized that over the past few years, I’ve somehow managed to accumulate a supply of cardboard boxes, plastic cushioning and a steep credit card bill that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Trends change with the seasons, and in an industry known for its cutting-edge designs, brands have to keep up with the growing demand for more. Since the 1980s designers have outsourced garment production to developing countries such as China, Indonesia and Thailand for its cost effectiveness. These countries along with countless others are able to generate higher yields of goods at a fraction of the cost.

As time goes on, more companies are setting up factories overseas to meet the demands of our over-consuming culture. Faster production means faster stock replenishments at Zara and Neiman’s, which means there is a greater chance of you finding your size in those oh so covet-worthy Harem pants. While very business savvy, these production practices are harming our environment as we know it. Air pollution in these countries is rising and natural aquatic ecosystems are being destroyed by fabric dyes and chemical solvents from factory wastes. Despite the harmful effects that garment production has on our environment, there’s no indication of this on garment hang tags.

If consumers were truly aware of this, the global carbon footprint would shrink. As African-American women, we have an enormous amount of buying power. If we take a stand, we can change the world – even if it’s only one dress at a time.

So if you’re ready to overhaul your closet or only willing to take baby steps, these tips can help you slowly convert your closet into an environmentally-conscious haven:

Host a Swap Party
We all have those friends whose closet we’d love to invade. So why not invite your girlfriends over for some hors d’oeuvres, conversation and clothes swapping?

Shop Eco-Friendly Designers
Online destinations like Beklina (wwww.beklina.com), Modify (www.shopmodify.com), Yooxygen (yooxygen.com) and Fashion Conscience (fashion-conscience.com )have an incredible roster of eco-friendly designers that offers lovely, affordable designs.

Swap Goods Online
Want an international wardrobe? Connect and swap with women from around the world at sites like Swap Style (www.swapstyle.com), My Fashion Swap (myfashionswap.com) and Commuto (www.commuto.com).

Use Consignment/Thrift Shops
The next time you take a bag of clothing to your nearest thrift or consignment shop, browse the shop’s stock for a rare find.

Recycle Your Garments
Get acquainted with a sewing machine and become your own designer. Have a pair of jeans that haven’t seen the light of day for three years? Rework them into a pair of shorts!

Take Your Own Reusable Bags
Whether you’re at the grocer or French Connection, take your own reusable bag and say “no thanks” to the extra tissue paper and wrappings.

Accepting a greener way of living does not mean you have to throw your fashionable ways out the window. It just means you care more about your Mother Earth than the designer on your label.

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