By Lillian Baker
The Green Party’s manifesto for May 2021 states that they will introduce a higher tax for “luxury goods”. This was in the same breath as a tax on emissions from corporations and the wealthiest individuals. The positioning of this luxury goods tax suggests the consumption of luxury goods should be viewed in the same vilified category as rich companies and rich people, both an all too easy populist scapegoat for what individuals themselves have a role to play in. There is an implication that luxury goods are indulgent and irresponsible; an unconscionable desire to put hedonistic needs before the planet’s.
The real enemy to the planet is the opposite of luxury goods. It is fast fashion and industrial farming that pose a greater threat to the planet’s resources, both those that come from Earth and the labour involved. The luxury, scarcer ingredient that is grown with care for emissions, surrounding habitats and workers throughout the supply chain is not the problem. Similarly, the luxury fashion item that has been made using sustainable cotton or leather from animals that have roamed freely, been manufactured by people adhering to higher workers’ standards and then kept for years or even generations is not the problem.
Fast fashion is appealing because it is cheap and constantly changing. Incentives abound to keep buying. Entire business models rely on people feeling the need to have new clothes weekly that they will only wear once. Flash sales with countdowns, clothing subscription models and an embarrassment to be seen in the same outfit twice are the problem. Another is clothes that fall apart after a few wears before going to landfill, where they do not even biodegrade because they are made of synthetic materials. Ordering five pairs of shoes knowing you will return four regardless of the environmental impact of delivery and packaging or the fact that these shoes likely end up in landfill because it is cheaper than re-selling them is the problem.
The price tag may be cheap- but that is because the planet and much of the supply chain is paying the true price.