Shopping is fun – the thrill of treating yourself to new things that make you feel good because #retailtherapy. But shopping malls do a great job of distracting us from the reality behind how things are produced – we just get to see the final shiny product. Not only are many fast fashion brands harmful to the environment, they also have unethical practices and don’t treat workers well.
It’s important to be conscious of what you are paying for and who you are supporting with your dollar. Here are a few tips on how to shop more sustainably and affordably!
Be mindful of where you shop. Fast fashion stores are commonly big chains and often are cheap but don’t have great production practices. Thrift stores and consignment stores are incredible places to find unique items that are also cheap.
Consider splurging on a few good quality items instead of buying a bunch of cheap items that will fall apart in a few months.
Take care of your clothes! Try to wash them following the washing instructions and hang drying not only saves energy but can be better for your fabrics!
Don’t buy things just because they are right in front of you – think about if you really need it and will get good use out of it.
Keep the following in mind when looking at labels:
There are three points of contact when harmful chemicals used in clothing production can harm us:
When they are being produced, factory workers are exposed to them all day long
When you wear it, they rub on your skin
When you wash them, the chemicals are released into waterways.
*Bluesign certification ensures that harmful chemicals are not released into the air or ocean in the production of the clothing materials. Look for brands that are Bluesign certified!
Fair labor ensures that workers are compensated correctly and requires factory inspections.
Fair trade goes one (or a couple) steps further than that. Companies that use fair trade support a system that benefits the workers by implementing a board compiled of factory workers so their voices are directly heard. Factory inspections are attended by someone who speaks the language and can speak directly to workers rather than just having some white dude glance around the factory and assume everything looks fine without actually speaking to the workers.
Sustainable Fabric Guide
What materials should you look for when shopping?
Organic cotton: No harmful chemicals are used in the production, protecting not only you but the farmers and factory workers from being exposed to them.
Modal: made from beech trees - Carbon neutral to produce
Recycled polyester: made from plastic that is shrunken down into beads of plastic which can be melted and woven into a durable material.
Hemp: very sustainable to grow (uses little water to grow and treat, doesn’t require pesticides, takes up less land to grow)
The following are some great sustainable and ethical clothing companies:
Getting rid of old clothes:
Sell them to friends
Sell on a thrifting app (Depop and Poshmark are both great options!)
Sell nicer quality items to Buffalo Exchange/Plato’s closet
Hand me down to siblings and family friends
Donate to Goodwill or other community organizations
The bottom line: Don’t not shop when you need something new. Just open your mind to new stores and shopping practices. Think about what you are putting on your clothes just like you think about what you are putting in your body. Happy sustainable shopping!