OPINION | Students should shop sustainably for Mardi Gras

Nathaniel Miller, Contributing Writer

(Will Embree)

Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Soon, Tulane University students will break out their eccentric Mardi Gras outfits for a week of parades and partying. While it may be tempting to buy cheap, trendy clothes from fast-fashion websites such as Shein, students should consider the disastrous environmental effects and unethical practices of fast fashion and consider alternatives.

Undeniably, the fashion industry and shopping trends are changing in ways that are detrimental to the environment. Big producers like Shein, Cider and H&M have flooded the market with cheap, mass-produced fashion garments. Shein is the most-mentioned brand on TikTok and has emerged as the most popular fast-fashion brand in recent years. Forbes estimates that Shein made upward of $16 billion in sales in 2022 alone.

The fashion industry has grown exponentially in recent years. The number of garments produced annually has doubled since 2000 and exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014. Companies like Shein are one reason. People discard 92 million tons of clothes-related waste each year and shockingly, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally. Another jarring statistic is that the fashion industry produces 2- 8% of all global carbon emissions.

In addition to being environmentally disastrous, Shein has unethical manufacturing processes. Shein claims to be a “fair pay for all” company but provides no information on wages or working conditions. 

In October 2022, an undercover investigation from Channel 4 in the UK revealed that most Shein workers work seven days a week, some getting a base salary of only $556 per month to make 500 pieces of clothing per day. A similar probe by Public Eye into Shein revealed that its workers complete 75-hour workweeks, violating local labor laws in China which set workweeks to a 40-hour maximum. 

 Luckily, there are more sustainable options for Mardi Gras outfits. Local vintage and thrift stores like Red,White & Blue, SlowDownNOLA and Buffalo Exchange offer reasonably priced vintage clothing. These stores receive dozens of lightly-worn and pre-owned garments every day. You will find many more original pieces and garments than you could ever find on a website like Shein. There are also several sustainable online alternatives to Shein that use organic materials such as CHNGE, Afends and Plant Faced Clothing.

Tulane students should also remember to work with what they already have. Some of the most unique and exciting Mardi Gras outfits are created with repurposed materials and upcycling. 

As Mardi Gras approaches, it is crucial to consider the environmental and social effects of fast-fashion companies like Shein. Remember that there are many affordable alternatives to find your perfect Mardi Gras clothes.

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