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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Ditch fast fashion, shop sustainably

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The Hinton James Package Center, where south campus students receive online orders, is pictured on Feb. 15, 2024.

Your mom is scrolling on Facebook when a Temu advertisement for a graphic T-shirt comes across her feed. Her eyes light up, and she immediately sends you the link with a text, saying “This is so neat! Look how cheap it is.” You click on the link and it reveals hundreds of kitschy shirts for under $10.

Temu is an online market that allows customers to buy anything from portable washing machines to vape batteries for incredibly cheap prices.

During the Super Bowl on Feb. 11, Temu spent tens of millions of dollars for six 30-second advertisements throughout the program. Since Temu’s Super Bowl commercials, Google searches for the website drastically increased after continuously dropping since mid-2023. Despite Temu’s “fairy godmother” appearance in their commercials, there is nothing magical about their practices.

The consumerist mindset among college-aged students is the perfect fuel to ignite the Temu fire. A 2021 study showed that 70 percent of college students are facing financial hardship. Between Temu’s large span of products from clothing to electronics and the cheap prices offered, college students are turning to brands like Temu and SHEIN for their consumer needs. Upon opening the website, users will find a wheel that offers coupon bundles ranging from $20 to $100. Considering Temu has ridiculously low prices to begin with, these extra coupon bundles are an incentive that appeal greatly to broke college students.

When looking through Temu’s website, many people wonder how their products are so cheap. The answer is forced labor, your information and cheap materials. Other fast fashion giants such as SHEIN utilize forced labor of Uyghur Muslims, a minority group in China. These garment workers often must work 14-16 hours, seven days a week, for just dollars in exchange. 

In addition to forced labor, Temu has been accused of stealing customer information. The Better Business Bureau reportedthat Temu has access to user IP addresses, search histories and even contact information. Temu then sells this information to third-party sites which puts customers at risk of identity fraud and credit card theft.

If the child labor and information breach isn’t enough, the poor and even harmful quality of Temu’s products is the cherry on top of a disastrous company. In total, the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions. E-commerce giants should not profit off the backs of textile workers while polluting our environment with their cheaply-made gadgets and clothing.

A report by ThredUp, a second hand clothing website, shows that 72 percent of college students shopped fast fashion in 2022. While Gen Z has a large desire to save the planet, the materialistic nature of social media has resulted in fast fashion being the go-to place for clothing that fits the trend of the week. Because of fast-paced trends circulating on the internet, 45 percent of college students find it hard to resist the temptations to keep up with the current fads.

Instead of contributing to the fast fashion craze by purchasing cheap, harmful products made by forced labor, cost-friendly alternatives include shopping at local thrift stores, second hand websites and consignment stores. Not only are you stepping away from supporting fast fashion, but you are also finding unique pieces for a fraction of the price. Plus, going to a thrift store and curating your own one-of-a-kind style promotes a sense of individuality that one can't achieve through fast fashion. A vintage wool sweater from Goodwill is far cooler than that 100 percent polyester crochet top, trust me.

The next time you open your computer to shop on Temu, search for local thrift stores instead. Some local alternatives include Rumors Boutique, Durham Rescue Mission and CommunityWorkx Thrift Shop. By shopping locally and sustainably, the environment, and your wallet, will thank you.

@angelinaaruth

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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