The Answer to Protecting the Environment is... YOU!

Earth Day has come and gone.  The crowds assembled and for one day- there was immense passion and motivation to protect our Mother Earth.  But one by one, everyone goes back to their day to day routine.  Don't get me wrong, any recognition of the environmental state of our planet is never a bad thing but all too often we rely on the government or policies to pave the way to a better, cleaner world.  In a nutshell, we want someone to do it for us or at the very least tell us what to do.  This leaves out the most important variable and the strongest force that will lead to positive change: the individual.  Small but mighty, the choices the individual makes on a day to day basis, shape what big businesses, manufacturers and governments will do to make the environment safer and preserve our precious resources.  Their priorities change based on educated choices by the consumers. They will never see the need to change until the people demand it through daily actions and not just rally chants.

I jokingly said on Earth Day that more people need to make a difference and not just a sign, as I watched thousands of activists carrying their hand-held affidavits. I agree with them to an extent, as they all walked past the garbage lying in their path.  The grim irony of it all - is many of these signs will end up in a landfill since 50% of Americans don't recycle. It brings to mind the old adage "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".  So I can not fault them for their intentions - but I do hold them accountable for their actions.

Whether or not you believe in global warming, you can not deny that there are more people living on earth than ever before and therefore are creating more waste and using more resources on the earth than ever before. This in itself is a huge problem.  Compound this now with the insatiable appetite for "Consumptionism" and it is creating a downward spiral that we can not stop until we accept our individual role in it.  Consumptionism is a 21st century word coined to describe the act of getting consumers to treat things they’d normally use for a long time (i.e. appliances, houses, vehicles, clothing) as things they use up (i.e. food, alcohol, cosmetics).  Nowhere is this business model more shockingly apparent than in the fashion industry.  Fast fashion to be exact.  Where more goods are pumped out at lower prices for the consumers to buy more but it comes at a detrimental price to the environment.  Gone are the the days of 2 seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter.  There are now 52 micro-seasons that have such stores as Zara, H&M and TopShop stocking new lines every single week.  These clothes are designed to be worn a few times and discarded, ending up in landfills for up to 200 years before decomposing; all the while releasing toxic gases into our atmosphere and contaminating our soil.  They've even come up with a catchy name for it, "landfill fashion".  Isn't that special.  It is estimated that the average American throws out 80 pounds of clothing a year... A YEAR!  Multiply that by 325 million Americans and our "landfill fashion" is producing 26 BILLION pounds of textile waste a year that will spend 2 lifetimes polluting our earth.. and this is just one country!  We can do better than that!

There is an uproar regarding the EPA and regulations lately - but what is rarely discussed is how well the U.S. ranks in comparison to other countries when it comes to environmental performance of it's policies.  According to the Yale University's Environmental Performance Index data,  the United States ranks 26th out of 180 countries that were measured.  All of the countries that ranked higher than the U.S. had populations that were minuscule in comparison.  It's easy to control environmental variables when you have less people and therefore less burden on these vital resources.  If you compare the United States with countries with about the same population and/or GDP as the U.S. the differences are staggering.  Brazil ranked 46, Mexico ranked 67, China ranked 109 and India - a whopping 141.  So while we push for even more regulation on manufacturing in the U.S.-  we willingly send out our production overseas to the above mentioned countries to do our "dirty work".  Because, as I stated before, America has an addiction to stuff.  We want it all and we want it cheap! From doorbusters to Black Friday, we buy and we buy - then we use it up and just throw it away.  It becomes a vicious, eco-evil cycle.

 At Stars & Stripes Collective, we aim to shed light on the environmental nightmare of fast fashion through our social awareness campaign, #labelconscioUS. We want to start a conversation about where and how our clothes are made and most importantly why it matters.  We want to let people know they have a choice and their choices can make a huge difference.  By purchasing items made in the United States, you not only stimulate the economy and promote job growth but you also help protect our precious planet.  An item of clothing produced in the States will go through a much more rigorous regulatory process that helps protect the environment, the people working in that industry and our communities.  According to EcoGuide.Org "In China, where many garment factories are located, it’s estimated that a third of the country’s rivers are too polluted for human contact. In other countries such as India, the dyes used to make leather products such as sneakers run off into the river and not only are toxic to the environment but to the people who still have to use these rivers for water".   So although, this type of gross environmental negligence doesn't exist in our own backyards- we can not merely put our heads in the sand while we continually support a multi-billion dollar industry that puts our whole planet at risk in order to satisfy our insatiable obsession with stuff.  So we urge you to be a conscious consumer and "Go the Extra Mile for American Made Style". Mother Earth thanks you.