“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” ― Anna Lappé
Where you spend and invest your money is a powerful way of voting each day to support local communities, fair wages, and a healthy planet. In todays day and age full of fast-paced living, we are constantly encouraged to shop impulsively and with everything so readily-available, the temptation is high and often uncontrollable. So many of us joke about shopping addictions but there really is a very important issue that comes with this; overwhelming amounts of waste that are killing mother earth, millions of animals murdered (wool, silk, leather… it all kills), thousands of humans treated unfairly… the list goes on.
I believe that we should all take responsibility and do our part to look after the planet and all it’s occupants to our best ability. There are so many simple things we can do, that take little to no energy and just a little more mindfulness, to make the world a better place. One of these is to shop thoughtfully and break shopping habits that aren’t doing anyone any good.
Conscious consumers are people that are mindful of what they are buying and the kind of world they are voting for. Although this goes to everything they buy, today I am strictly talking about fashion and sharing six habits a conscious consumer practices everyday. This is not to say that these people or myself are perfect but that we can all do a little something more.
You don’t have to intensely research into consumerism like it’s your dissertation but it’s just as meaningful. The difference between a conscious consumer and average joe is that they don’t buy into glossy marketing schemes, popular trends, or viral hype. Instead they look into the nitty gritty of every brand they find; sources and sustainability, supply chains, the brands ethos, etc. Conscious consumers take a few moments to find any information on what their money is actually supporting and take the initiative to familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of products and brands to not only better inform purchasing decisions, but to understand the full picture.
Once you understand where your money is actually going to, such as the greedy corporates running the brand with only a heartbreakingly small percentage going into the pocket of a struggling child, that cute top might not look so great anymore. The key is being able to grasp the fact that everything you buy is supporting something. This is why I love Etsy so much, because you are supporting the dreams of an independent business and they are often very transparent on how their products are made. This is why it is important to first obtain the knowledge on the ethics of each industry providing us products to buy. Where to start? Here are some links and topics to get you started…
I’d also recommend looking into the fashion revolution: who made my clothes?
Set your intentions
Once you educate yourself on the effects and consequences regarding consumerism, you can then set your intentions and create a high moral ground to guide you. A conscious consumer always shops with a thought in mind and a goal in place. Ask yourself: ‘what are the intentions of my shopping trip?’ Are you looking for a pair of vegan shoes like the ones I’m wearing from Will’s vegan shoes, because you are against animal cruelty and think animals should have rights? Or is it because you like the fact that the material is more sustainable than real leather? It could just be the fact that you like that these shoes are made in Europe under fair wages! For me, all three points are important but I do place animal cruelty over anything else.
It is important to have a very clear thought-process behind your purchases as this not only makes shopping more meaningful, but it allows for more self-examination as to where (and to what) you are supporting with your money. It is worth noting that your shopping intentions should be personal to you and we all place certain things above others. Figuring out what your intentions are is very helpful if you are new to the world of ethical or sustainable fashion and looking to adjust purchasing behaviours.
Look at where your products are made
Sometimes brands and companies lack transparency and even contacting them, may result in an unsatisfying answer. Therefore, simply looking in the label or on in the info section on the brands site, to see where your products are made, can give you an indication on the ethics and sustainability of the brand. This is where your education and research will come in handy. However, there are other easier ways for you to get a good grasp on where your product is made and consequently, the ethics that follow this.
As we are in the digital age, it is no shock that technology can help us buy more ethically. I recommend checking out the app Free2work: a consumer information platform with barcode scanning technology that provides users with data on a brand’s responses to forced and child labor practices. There are an estimate of 400 brands currently on the app, and are graded from A to F using self-reporting. Another app that is a great asset is aVOID. This is a downloadable plugin for your Internet browser to tell you if products are associated with child labor while you shop online. It works with major shops such as Asos and Amazon, and currently works for those in the United States, France, Germany and the UK.
Take your time
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to notice that everything is presently done with the word ‘fast’ in mind. We are encouraged to decide quickly, live fast and shop impulsively, which commonly causes us to consume without rhyme or reason. Conscious consumers contradict this wonderfully by taking time to think about the impact of their purchases, and how a product or brand might add or take away from their daily lives and perhaps the world around them. They don’t follow trends- all of which are useless by next season- but instead follow a personal rulebook where they buy what they need, how it aligns with their values, sensibility regarding money and of course if it is in fact needed. Disregarding thoughts about an immediate want or momentary purchase.
When you find yourself adoring something you see, fight those urges pull out your purse and instead take a moment to really think about all of the above. If it helps, you could write down a series of questions that factors in your values, financial budget and needs and really makes you consider your buying urges in a different light.
Consider the bigger picture
Perhaps the most vital step for a conscious consumer is taking a look at the bigger picture. This means considering the long-term effects of your purchase, rather than just the momentary product in front you. This includes thoughts on what is presently hanging in your wardrobe, how the environment is effected by your purchase and what benefits can come from your purchase. These are all ways to keep the big picture issues in mind as thinking long-term results in more sustainable planning and larger impacts (like improving factory workers’ lives) that might not normally be considered.
If you really love a dress you’ve seen in store but can admittedly see yourself chucking it away in a few months time, then you need to reevaluate. Sure, you love it now, but if there is a chance that love is superficial and won’t last then it’s best to hold off. There are plenty more beautiful dresses that you will love more if you just take a moment to think about the future. It may even be made with a more sustainable fabric or made under fair trade that could really help better some one else’s life!
It’s said that on average, we only wear 20% of the things we buy. Twenty percent! I think that this is something we really need to start addressing. Think about the amount of waste we are causing and the harm this does to our planet, not to mention our bank accounts. Through time, I have found that it is far more rewarding and satisfying to always think about the bigger picture when making a purchase. (This really does give you a constant euphoric feeling every time you wear that item.) For instance I have a black dress that is very versatile but is usually worn for everyday. I cherish it, for both it’s design and how amazing I feel wearing this dress, as well as, the amount of stories it holds: I’ve met my current boyfriend in this dress, said my first ‘I love you’ to him months later, in front of a christmas fair with millions of twinkling fairy lights, the stories go on and on… I love that I have this one special dress, instead of four or five that I look at and think ‘meh’. I am working towards a wardrobe where I treasure each item and will only be thrown away when they are ripping at the seams twenty years down the line.
There’s a notion that thrift shops and charity stores can’t possibly hold anything reasonably decent. This is simply untrue and I have personally found some amazing things in a second-hand store such as this tartan dress. You just need approach second-hand shopping with an open mind and armed with some knowledgable advice, I’m going to bestow on you right now…
Before you buy, make sure everything is at a decent quality. Look through everything! When I mean everything, I mean literally the whole store, and don’t skip sections as you may be surprised at what you find. Even the kids section. Even if the black shirt section appears to have nothing special, there could be something really cool that you would have otherwise missed. One of my top tips is to have some photos of outfits you found and liked on your phone that you can use for inspiration. Sometimes, you see something you like but are stumped on how to style it, so the likes of Pinterest can be very beneficial. Finally, take a friend along as they can find stuff you might like and vice versa.
Shorts: Alice McCall bowie shorts (similar)
Socks: Thigh high socks with lace top (similar)
Are you a conscious consumer?