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Five steps from begining to end

05/08/2008

By Jillian Mendes

To readers: Clothes go through a rigorous process before they reach the stores. Many people don't think about where their clothes come from before they purchase them, but that is a very important thing to know because of statistics.
 

Clothing goes through five steps in its life time: extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. It's important to know about each step because each step contributes to the health of the environment and fairness of employees.

Extraction is the act of removing raw materials from the earth. These materials are necessary to create the clothing that we wear. Much of our clothes are made from cotton. Even though cotton is a natural resource, by using harmful pesticides and other chemicals during its growth, we are harming the environment. Also, growing cotton would not be possible without the help of many workers who are not treated fairly.

The production process involves the labor of many employees, and often the companies are based in countries where the labor laws aren't fair to its workers. And, even if the country has strict laws against the treatment of its workers, companies and workers can find ways to get around them. For example, in the film <MI>China Blue<D>, we are introduced to a factory, Lifeng that is based in China. In China, you have to be 16 in order to work, but many girls working at the Lifeng factory get around that law by getting fake IDs.

At the Lifeng factory, the workers are forced into long hours of work as well. They aren't paid for their overtime work, which they are forced to do when the company gets new orders. That's why it's important to look for companies who pay their workers fairly and don't force unreasonable hours. In regard to distribution and consumption, when buying clothing you should try to buy as locally as possible. By doing so, you're curbing your consumption of petroleum for transportation and you are also keeping the profits in your local economy.

A great local place to buy clothing in your community is a thrift store. By taking your clothes to thrift stores, you are not producing as much waste as you would if you were throwing your clothes away. Also, by shopping at local thrift stores instead of large national stores, you're keeping the money you spend in the community and are supporting your local neighbors and friends.

On Wednesday, May 14, from 12 to 6 p.m., the Harwood Union High School Creating Sustainable Communities class will be putting on a clothing swap in the main lobby to raise awareness about the effects of clothing consumption on our local communities. If you are interested in participating in it, we are collecting clothes from May 7 to 14 at Harwood outside of the café during all three lunches (from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.). If you bring in clothing, you will receive a ticket good for another purchase from the clothing swap, so you can get some different clothing. If you decide to attend the clothing swap and you cannot bring any clothing, the last hour of the clothing swap will be open to anybody who would like to have any of the clothing for free.

We are looking forward to this event, and it will not be possible without the support of our fellow community members, so please help us make this a successful clothing swap! If you have any questions regarding the swap, feel free to email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mendes is a 10th-grade student at Harwood Union and is taking a class on creating sustainable communities.
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