Life in Plastic…Not So Fantastic

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We’ve all seen it: whether you were scrolling on Social Media or taking a walk down a busy street, the Barbie marketing team has done a remarkable job at assuring that everyone knows there was a Barbie movie coming out this summer. 


From companies such as Primark and Crocs partnering to create hot-pink ‘Barbie-core’ items ranging from shoe accessories to entire articles of clothing. All the way to Boston cruise ships setting sail with a Barbie theme to AirBnB collaborating with the construction of an entire life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu, California, it has without a doubt been a busy couple of months for Barbie’s marketing team. 


However, as we reach one month since the long-awaited Barbie movie hit theaters, climate change activists are actively trying to get Barbie fans to take off their rose-tinted glasses and see the difficult reality behind the seemingly innocent and fun marketing that was making headlines worldwide. All of these Barbie collaborations are contributing to the fast fashion industry. 


Climate and human rights activists have been calling out the dangers of a new terminology called fast fashion for the better part of recent decades. Fast fashion can be defined as articles of clothing that are created in a cheap and poor-quality manner to meet high consumer demands for trendy items. This phenomenon has caused various activists across the globe to worry about the morality behind people supporting brands and companies that partake in the fast fashion industry due to it feasibly causing excessively harmful impacts on both a social and environmental level.


For example, Zara came out with a Barbie collaboration in mid-July, selling various types of products that were inspired by current ‘Barbie-core’ trends gaining extreme popularity in social media platforms. Anagha R. Ratna, an author at India Retailing, wrote about how Zara’s collection contained “accessories, beauty products, homeware and even a signature Barbie fragrance”. Pop-up stores were also opened by Zara in both Paris and New York that celebrated the collaboration. 


Zara has been repeatedly called out for its unethical fast fashion practices. The owner of the company has been under scrutiny for greenwashing as well as the mistreatment of its workers and environmental disturbances. With statistics that include Zara workers producing more than 450 million items every year and half a thousand new designs every single week, it comes as no surprise that Zara is known to be one of the sharks of the fast fashion world. 


The high-speed turnover rates of the items that fast fashion companies produce lead to an excessive amount of microplastics being found in the ocean – over one-third – and contribute to the production of 20% of water waste worldwide. Additionally, with 85% of clothes ending up in landfills across the world, there comes the extremely damaging environmental issue that these articles of clothing release greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide and Methane gas.


Barbie collaborating with unsustainable companies such as Zara is not the only thing that worries activists. Greenly, a carbon-accounting platform that calculates carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, investigated to see just how large Barbie’s carbon footprint has been. The results let people know that Mattel – the company that produces Barbie dolls – is producing weighty amounts of plastic per year, which lead to 39,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions and waste. 


Alexis Normand, the co-founder of Greenly, called the new Barbie movie and its marketing tactics “an ode to overconsumption”. He could not be more in the right: including the data revolving around Zara and the recent studies made by Greenly, there are also the dozens of other brands that the Barbie marketing team has chosen to collaborate with that leave activists extremely uneasy about the high levels of products that have been churned out in an attempt to capitalize off of the movie. 


If you are one to care for the environment and ethical consumption, keep these unsettling statistics in mind next time you pass by stores or scroll through social media. The color pink has always been in fashion, and your local thrift store is bound to have the perfect ‘Barbie-core’ outfit to represent your love for this trend-setting doll.