Week Two – Fasting Clothing
by Laura Jasmine
We tend to envision fasting as a practice of recentering our hearts around God rather than some other object (in this case, clothing). We often treat clothing as an idol, coping mechanism, and giver of self-worth, when God should be those things instead. Working on our personal relationship with clothing and God is an important thing to do this week, but in this reflection I want to focus on a different aspect of fasting: A change in our hearts that results in social action.
I’m not going to lie: This reflection discusses difficult things, like the role we personally play in human trafficking. But if there’s any group willing to dig deep and not turn away from hard topics, it’s my Ekklesia family. So let’s jump in!
Fasting and Social Justice
The Bible tells us that social justice should be a natural result of our fasting:
– Isaiah 58:3,6. Read Isaiah 58 in its entirety here.
In this passage, the Israelites are upset because they have fasted and want God to notice their good behavior. God points out their hypocrisy. They are going through the motions of being pious, but they continue to mistreat others and ignore those in need. Isaiah 58 tells us that if our hearts are truly changed by fasting, our actions toward others will change as well.
There is great opportunity for us to notice those in need as we fast from clothing. There is also great opportunity for us to act and “loose the chains of injustice.”
Human Injustice in Our Clothing Industry
The reason you are able to purchase a shirt for only $5 at Target is because of unethical, exploitative production practices. In the United States, we overwhelmingly source products from countries that lack minimum wage laws and workplace safety standards. This means the products are cheaper to make. And companies are always looking for ways to make things cheaper, because their consumers (that’s us!) are demanding the lowest price possible.
The problem with this model is that real human beings, including young children, are forced into unsafe or substandard factories (like Rana Plaza), required to work 14 hours each day, and/or paid as little as 25 cents per hour for their services. There is human trafficking at play, just so we can enjoy wearing the latest Instagram-worthy jumpsuit.
Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves when we financially support clothing companies that exploit our siblings in Christ for their labor?
In her book 7, Christian author Jen Hatmaker states, “I’m tired of calling the suffering ‘brothers and sisters’ when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise…Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”
If your heart is aching for exploited garment workers, I have suggestions below for how you can take action. But first, I want to discuss another injustice in our clothing industry.
Environmental Injustice in Our Clothing Industry
Our fashion industry promotes a “fast fashion” model, meaning we rotate through new trends quickly. We are constantly buying new clothes to keep up with the latest fashions, while at the same time throwing away perfectly good clothing because it is no longer in style. This is, without a doubt, very bad for the planet God created.
Clothing production uses a tremendous amount of water (1.3 trillion gallons a year for fabric dyeing alone), emits harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, and gobbles up natural resources. Additionally, Americans throw away 16 million tons of textiles each year. This increases the size of landfills while decreasing the amount of land available for housing, food production, wildlife, and other uses.
To me, it seems disrespectful to God to pollute the beautiful earth that God created as a home for us. Moreover, we are creating more social injustice with our environmental injustice. People living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to pollution and are disproportionately impacted by environmental health hazards. Caring for the environment, then, is another way in which we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
What Can We Do?
1. Dispose of old clothing properly.
Some of us are fasting from clothing by going through our closets and purging excess. Make sure you are discarding your clothing properly to avoid environmental damage. And, make sure you aren’t turning around and filling your closet back up again with more unnecessary clothing that you’ll have to sort through next year during Lent!
2. Buy fewer clothes.
Purchasing less clothing means less strain on the environment. Be sure to read the reflection from Curtis’s niece below about her own fast from buying clothing!
3. Advocate for ethical production practices.
Research your favorite brand’s production practices on their website or via Ethicaloo. Email the brand to ask more about their practices. Email or write to them on social media to ask that they do more to protect people and the planet.
4. Buy ethically made and/or sustainable clothing.
Yes, ethically made clothing means higher price tags. But can you put a price on another person’s freedom and well-being? Can you put a price on this earth, which is our only home? High price tags should not make us turn away and run back to unethical fashion, but rather should make us think, Do I actually NEED this item? Since switching to ethical fashion three years ago, I find that I do not spend more money on clothes. Higher prices encourage me to carefully consider, and I only purchase items that I really love or need.
I suggest the following sources for ethically made, fair trade, and/or sustainable clothing brands:
- Fair Trade Certified
- Certified B Corporation
- Change the World by How You Shop
- Still Being Molly
Not everyone can afford fair trade clothing for every purchase (I can’t!), and that’s okay! For ethical fashion on a budget, I recommend consignment shopping. Purchasing consignment is the most environmentally friendly way to buy clothing, as it puts little demand on the earth for more resources and keeps already existing clothing out of landfills. It also keeps money out of the hands of companies that exploit garment workers. Consignment options include thrift stores, upscale consignment “boutiques,” and online resale options like ThredUp and Poshmark.
Money talks. When we shift our dollars to companies that produce clothing in an ethical way, other companies will change their practices in order to remain relevant and stay in business.
Purposefully seeking out ethical and sustainable clothing options is a way to honor God and God’s creation. Let us not restrict this fast to one week of Lent, but rather adapt a lifelong mindset of caring for other people and our planet.
Prayer: God, we thank you for clothing and the ways in which it enables us to keep warm, protect our bodies, and express our unique personalities. We pray that through our clothing fast, our hearts and attitudes toward clothing will be changed, and that this change will be reflected through our actions. We pray that you would give us courage to not look away from the ways in which our clothing industry falls short of honoring you and your creation. Please show us opportunities to loose the chains of injustice. Amen.
A Shift in Thinking
by Sara Dirks
To be honest, before 2017 I hadn’t really thought too much about where my clothing was coming from. I thought that buying cheap fashion was the “smarter” option because I could get more clothing for less money. I didn’t stop to think about how those items were made and why they were so inexpensive. My thinking was very much centred around myself and the present, without much thought about the future and the sustainability of my purchases, or the lives of the people being affected by the production. It didn’t occur to me that I was supporting an industry that was built on exploited labour and resources, because it was so easy for me not to think about it!
Things started to change as I began to learn more about the “fast fashion” industry. One of my friends from bible college has been studying fashion design for the past four years, in which she has hugely focused on creating clothing items that are long lasting, environmentally friendly, ethically sourced, and that create zero waste. She would often post articles and podcasts on social media about the fashion industry, and it really opened my eyes to all of the harm that fast fashion causes both socially and environmentally. I saw how she truly honored God through her work and cared for his people and his creation.
My thinking about the things that I bought started to change. Instead of trying to score a “good deal” and buy lots of things cheaply, I started to think more critically about making intentional and thoughtful purchases. Questions that started to cross my mind when buying clothing were things like “was this item made fairly?”, “do I really need this item, or am I only wanting to buy it because it’s cheap?”, or “could I buy this item second-hand instead?”. At the start of 2017, I decided to make it my New Year’s Resolution to stop buying cheaply-made new clothing, aka “fast fashion”, and instead start buying things that were second-hand or ethically-made. My goal for the coming year is to expand this mindset to all of my purchases; things like food, furniture, cosmetics, etc.
Trying to live ethically in all aspects of life can be very difficult, especially when our western society is built on exploitation and is thriving off of a twisted and unfair system. It’s not like fast fashion companies are transparent about where their items come from. And ethically-made clothing can be a lot harder to find, especially if you’re just walking into your local shopping mall trying to find something. But it is possible. I believe that the way that we spend our money is hugely significant. I am nowhere near close to having it all figured out, but there are a lot of resources out there to learn how to live more sustainably. Here are a couple of resources I’ve found, with more information about the fast fashion industry and with tips on making more ethical and sustainable clothing choices:
Laura Jasmine lives in Raleigh with her pup, Rufus, and her husband, Wes. She is passionate about living a fair trade, eco-friendly, socially conscious life which you can read about on her blog at fairlysouthern.com.
Sara Dirks is the eldest niece of Curtis Mulder and works at a youth center in Edmonton, Alberta where she currently resides. She has a background in fine art and is studying to become a teacher.
Documentary (watch party and discussion)
This week’s documentary recommendation is The True Cost. It is currently available on NETFLIX and AMAZON VIDEO ($2.99). Also, Laura Jasmine and Wes Saunders will be hosting a screening this Sunday (March 17) at their home. Pizza and discussion will follow the movie! [CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO]
- Slavery Footprint — Calculate your impact at slaveryfootprint.org
Ethical Shopping Databases:
- www.ethicaloo.com — Helping ethical brands and customers connect
- www.donegood.co — making it quick, easy, and affordable to use our purchasing power for good.
- www.changetheworldbyhowyoushop.com — change the world by how you shop
- Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion — by Elizabeth L. Cline
- Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion — by Andrew Brooks
- Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe — by Greta Eagan
- To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? — by Lucy Siegle