How to shop more ethically. That was the original title of this post. It’s so neat and concise and I only wish the solution were equally as elementary. In the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about where the things I wear are made and who is making them. The relatively easy part is changing the way I shop and wear clothes and the really messy part of it is that I work in the industry, so my blog is dependent on advertising dollars of retailers and designers and my styling work relies on my go-to resources for certain pieces. It can be such a downer to think about how dismal the situation seems to be, but the good news is that there really are things we can all do to have a serious impact on the situation. Plus, every day there are new companies coming to the market who are creating great fair trade options. After a lot of thought and conversation with people tied to the issue, I thought I would offer up what I’ve learned so far, as well as a few go-to resources for shopping ethically. (If you’re curious about more of my thoughts on the issue, you can read here.) Here we go!
1. Don’t buy something unless you need it. Simple enough, right?
2. If you need it, try to find it used. A lot of people say they can’t afford to shop Fair Trade or Slavery Free but it doesn’t get much cheaper than shopping second hand. (Ebay, consignment or thrift stores are great resources.)
3. Buy ethical if available. This is where things get foggy for me. It’s can be a challenge to figure out if a brand you’re shopping is ethically made. If you’re buying a t-shirt that costs $4.90 then of course it wasn’t, but just because it cost $90 doesn’t mean it was either. Then of course there are the levels of ethical-ness. How were the fibers grown? Where was the fabric sourced? What factory then constructed the garment? Does that factory abide by green environmental standards as well as ethical practices for it’s workers? How in the world is the average shopper supposed to know all of this?! (Keep reading below for some great brands that have been vetted as ethical.)
4. Support the small business owners. A lot of times small business goods are more likely to be made ethically because their small orders aren’t large enough for the factories that are able to churn out such low prices. Also, $100 to a smaller business means so much more to their success than it does to the larger chain stores. You’re supporting an individual and not a mega machine of overly paid executives.
5. If you do need it and you can’t find it used or ethically made or made by a small business owner, then buy it well made so that it lasts a long time and you don’t have to replace it any time soon.
I think the biggest challenge with this issue is feeling like our average/meager shopping budgets aren’t going to change anything. My refusing to shop at Forever 21 isn’t going to put them out of business. However, taking my spending dollars and giving them to small or ethical businesses is going to make those businesses more successful. When ethical businesses are successful, it shows other business owners that there is a model that does good for people and for the environment and that it can be successful and profitable. The goal isn’t to take business away from all of these other countries, it’s the hope that businesses will continue to do business there and offer their people a living wage and dignified work and conditions. The more we support small businesses doing good, the more employees they will be able to hire. And while H&M might not go out of business because of this blog post, if large chains continue to see dips in their sales and focus groups report that consumers care about where and how things are made, it does put pressure on these companies to make better decisions. Or better yet, maybe we should just get Taylor Swift on this issue stat.
And now for some really practical solutions. Here are some great brands that are ethical shopping options next time you feel like going on a spree…
Know of a great brand that’s not listed here? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know, so we can add it! Hopefully this can become a great resource for people looking to make a difference with their spending dollars.
Photography by Belathee