Choice Dilemma: Fast Fashion and World Donations

Valentina Rwigimba, Bachelor of Science (Medical Biochemistry)

Over the weekend, my roommate and I were looking through each other’s closets, like - “Girl, a lot of this has to go, huh?” Personally, I am an inherent hoarder who has recently been yearning to embark on a more minimalist lifestyle – so donating to thrift stores and charities seemed like an exciting idea. 

A few days later, I decided to finally search up good organizations to donate to (Value Village was immediately crossed off the list due to their hiked up prices) and was reminded that most of what we give away actually ends up at the landfill... just another environmental issue caused by our over-consumption. So as I was later sharing this issue with my close friend, she suggested that we recruit a few barrels and collect unwanted clothing from students and the rest of the community, then ship them off to her connections in different African countries. Our hope that impoverished civilians would actually appreciate what is no longer trending in this fast fashion world had us jumping for joy. Finally, as the so-called spoiled, privileged millennials, we had found a purpose to fulfill!

But of course, I had to look into this as well. So I found a few articles about how our donations impede economic growth – North America’s hand-me-downs are in fact preventing many local African textile businesses from even entering the competitive market. This is just another band-aid solution turned problem because we are not communicating with those we are quite interconnected with. Mariah Griffin-Angus of the Huffington Post makes a good argument about how "aid shouldn't be about making North Americans comfortable with a culture of mass consumption and waste." While donation "campaigns tug at your heartstrings ('I can save a life with little effort')," it is important to consider what our help truly means to those we might be trying to help.

World change does not happen in a snap or with a quick donation; sacrifices must be made. Before every purchase, maybe it is time to question its value in our lives and the ecosystem.

In the meantime, I am still brainstorming on what to do with my own unnecessary items. What are your thoughts?