The Environmental Problem with Dupe Culture


Anjali Nadarajah, Copy Editor

A dupe, a new term coined by social media, is essentially a cheaper version of an item considered luxury or expensive, short for “duplicates”. Like the Walmart UGG look-alikes or the target Stanley cup knock-offs, retailers are beginning to mass produce dupes like they’ve never before.

In addition to looking cheap, due to the quality and design of the article, dupes promote the overconsumption of material things. Especially with TikTok’s popularity, nearly every other video I see is urging me to “Don’t walk, RUN” to Amazon to buy the new Laneige lip mask dupe. But I have yet to see someone look at the situation from an environmental standpoint. Because these dupes are so cheap, most consumers will add it to their cart without thinking about how much they actually need it. If you already have something that serves the same purpose, why buy another? The price is not a valid answer. The more we buy, the more plastic containers and polyester clothing end up in landfills, further hurting the environment.

SHEIN, a popular e-commerce website with dirt-cheap dupes, produces around 700 million tonnes of CO2 annually, according to Euronews. It’s estimated to double by 2030. According to CEO Molly Miao, the company releases between 700 and 1,000 new items each day. Where do you think these clothes go after being bought? Straight to the landfill.

Also, oftentimes, dupes of expensive things are ripping off the sustainability aspect of it. For example, Patagonia is a sustainable clothing company, paying their workers fair wages and producing quality products that would last a lifetime. But, Amazon Essentials just released a strikingly similar fleece quarter zip, but without the sustainability, fair wages, and quality.

Even more, most all dupes are produced in sweatshops, where working conditions are worse than you can imagine. A recent investigation discovered by the U.K. Channel 4 alleged that Shein’s workers worked 16-hours per day, got only one day off a month, and earned wages of around 4,000 yuan ($572) per month, hardly enough to survive with basic necessities.

Overall, just because something is cheap doesn’t mean you need it. If anything, you should stay away from alarmingly cheap things if you can afford it, because what goes on behind the scenes is not pretty.