When Jasmine Sears learned that the fashion industry was the main source of pollution, she knew she had found her mission.
A native of Atlanta has long been passionate about environmental protection, but he also likes to explore and create art. Combining the two into a career seems impossible. Then he found his destination at USC – right in front of him on the clothes rack. Now he is researching ways to reduce waste and promote ethical practices in fashion as he pursues a bachelor’s degree environmental studies at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science.
Sears, a rising senior, talked about how the clothing industry can move away from “fast-wear clothing” and adopt environmentally friendly practices.
How does fashion fit your interest in sustainability?
The fashion industry has a huge environmental impact. Everyone wears clothes, so they continue to be produced. The more I learn about fashion production, the more I am convinced that this is the perfect place to implement sustainability. Fashion can be very destructive in various ways. For fast fashion brands, which fortunately are becoming less popular, they produce a ton of clothing abroad. They don’t manage their production very carefully, so who knows how much waste is happening.
That also brings an ethical side: Are the people who work in these factories treated well and paid fairly? Then there are emissions from the factory itself and transporting all these clothes from a great distance. They use poor quality cloth with poor quality, so people are accustomed to wearing T-shirts only a few times and then throwing them away, and end up in landfills. Also, fabric coloring is a great source of water pollution. There are rivers in China that are purple because of the coloring.
How do you see yourself promoting sustainability in the world of fashion?
I like to evaluate fashion companies and their impact, so maybe working in consultation to measure that impact and offer recommendations. But in the end, I want to have my own wholesale company that produces sustainable products. Everyone uses the blank [plain garments sold in bulk], like if you make a concert shirt or even a USC shirt. People make so many T-shirts or plain clothes, so it’s a very good way to have a mass impact rather than a really expensive niche brand.
How do you make clothes that are more environmentally friendly?
That’s difficult. When talking about consumerism, I don’t know whether it’s possible to have truly sustainable goods, but moving towards that goal is very important. We can do things like using recycled cloth and minimizing waste. In these factories, there are so many fabric cuttings. Make sure you don’t produce a lot of waste from the little garnishes that can help.
Paying people with a living wage is also important. People with lower incomes are affected by climate change differently from rich people and are able to move or adjust their lives. They do not live near highways or in high risk areas for air pollution and waste.
What makes you interested in protecting the planet?
Atlanta was built into a forest, so I was used to being surrounded by nature and was always interested in it as a child. It’s very complex, and I always want to know and want to understand it better. I learned about global warming in elementary school. I didn’t think it looked as urgent as now, but even then, I was really scared because I really loved the earth. I cannot think of anything more important than the health of the planet. Everything we do every day depends on it, so that is the only thing I am interested in learning when I come to USC.
What childhood experiences most influenced your opinion about sustainability?
In my neighborhood in Atlanta, there is a natural corridor a few blocks away from where I live. It’s like a small forest with a trail passing through it. There are creeks with tadpoles, so in the summer, my sister and I will catch them, raise them into frogs and then release them. But then there is a drought and the river dries up. Very scary to see. I remember linking it to climate change and thinking, oh no. That place is very close to me, and now it’s gone. I don’t think there is enough water to become a tadpole anymore.
Do you have a sustainability hero?
I work with a brand called All. World my first year, and the women who founded the company were amazing. This brand is centered on sustainable fashion, so they do wholesale for other companies and make the first recycled cotton T-shirts. What they do is what I see I’m doing. It is good to have someone to look at who is in the same field and has the same passion.
How can people think about sustainability differently?
Everyone must be an educated consumer and do some research before they buy it. Think about whether you need something, and not just clothes. Do you need to order now? Free shipping is absolutely not free.
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