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Growing up, I learned to respect the environment and nature around me. I learned from a very young age that humans are part of the ecosystem and therefore should do everything in their power to protect and conserve it. However, I quickly realized that many people and corporations abuse their power and have no regard for the good of the world when it comes to the natural environment.

Recently, I have researched the topic of sustainability and consumerism and found that the fashion industry and plastic are some of the biggest contributors to the destruction of our world and to climate change.

Before I delved into the world of fast fashion, I assumed that fast fashion consisted of brands such as Zaful or Shein, where the clothing items are sold cheap and the workers were treated horribly. After some digging, I found that many popular fashion companies such as Zara, H&M and Gap are considered fast fashion. These brands target consumers by constantly creating new clothes at fast rates and then selling them cheap so that the buyer feels compelled to buy more clothes.

According to the United Nations, the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping.

Along with my research, I found an important article by the New York Times, titled, “How Fast Fashion is Destroying the Planet,” where I discovered that many of those who work for fast fashion companies have to do so in unsafe working conditions. An example of this was the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh where over 1,000 workers lost their lives due to the tragedy.

After uncovering all of this, I decided to look inward on my own buying habits and now before I make a purchase I research the brand, their environmental footprint, and the way in which the company treats its workers.

Alongside my quest to reevaluate my buying habits and their impact, I found that another large contributor to the degradation of our world was the plastic industry. I became more passionate about the issue of plastic and its effects after watching the Netflix documentary, “A Plastic Ocean,” where I learned that even the smallest particles of plastic can endanger ocean wildlife and our health.

I hadn’t really thought about what happened to plastic once you threw it away or recycled it, and I found that plastic will never completely break down, it will always stay on our planet. Plastic has also been found in humans recently because the fish that we eat have eaten plastic. It has killed thousands of birds and marine creatures, and it makes me sad that this is what our world has come to. The evolution of the American consumerist culture has led to the total disregard for the health of our planet and will have a devastating impact on future generations.

Yet, with all of the negatives, there are some positives. We still have time, though limited, to save our Earth before it is too late. One of the ways that everyone can help is by reducing their consumption of goods such as clothing and plastic, and by becoming informed on the issue. We can still turn the tide and create a clean and healthy world that our children can enjoy. Sustainability and mindful consumerism will not only help the environment, but I believe that it can make people come together and change society for the better.