For today’s post I’ve once again teamed up with Emma from This Kind Choice, this time to tackle a question we both get asked over and over again: “I really want to shop in a more ethical way, but I don’t have the money to buy from ethical brands/ can’t find any I like/ don’t have access to them. What should I do?”
If you have wondered the same we have good news for you: Being an eco-conscious consumer is not just about where you shop! Yes, finding better sources for your clothes is an important step, but there are also plenty of other things you can do, little decisions that you can easily incorporate into your routine and that do add up.
Here’s a quick overview from Emma of the four most basic, but nonetheless crucial steps to becoming a more eco-friendly consumer:
How many clothes we buy obviously plays a huge role in the amount of water and other resources we're using. The average person now buys 70(!) new pieces of clothing a year. We're adding to our closets every five days. That’s more often than many people fill up their fridge and kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?
Before the introduction of offshore manufacturing in the 1970's brought us crazy cheap Primark-esque prices, this number was closer to 25 pieces. Buying less may sound like 'less fun' and 'less style' too, but I've found the opposite to be true. Buying less has actually made me a much more refined shopper. I'm more selective and more thoughtful now, and that ultimately has a positive effect on my style too.
Buy for quality
Buying for quality is an all-important part of building a more ethical and enjoyable wardrobe. High-quality clothes last longer and therefore need to be replaced less often. They also look and feel better. Of course, recognising whether something is high-quality or not can be tricky for those of us who have only been surrounded by one-wear wonders our whole life. But fortunately, it’s something that's easily learnable. Check out Anuschka's garment quality series and remember that natural fibres are generally nicer to wear and seams should be neat and strong.
Maintain what you already own
Mending clothes can seem like a foreign concept to the buy-new-throw-away generation (that's us). But if you want to build an ethical wardrobe that will last you many years to come, it is definitely worth getting those shoes repaired or sewing that button back on.
To make mending an item worthwhile it obviously needed to have a certain level of quality in the first place - no cobbler will repair ballet flats with cardboard inners, and it's hardly worth fixing a seam if the fabric is wearing away right before your eyes. But once you've invested in quality, mending let's you love your clothes for longer and ultimately also reduces the cost-per-wear of your items.
Another important part of making sure our clothes last and look good is storing them properly (no dodgy wire hangers, I beg of you) and washing them the right way (next point!).
Wash your clothes less often
What we do with those pretty new clothes once we take them home is more important than most of us think. Washing and drying might seem like environmental afterthoughts, but 60% of the carbon dioxide emissions of a pair of jeans happen when they are being used. And that means that washing cold, line drying and only washing our stuff when it's actually dirty can hugely improve the environmental impact of our clothes.
Washing your clothes less frequently of course also has a positive effect on the quality of the item itself, because each laundry cycle puts stress on the fibres.
For more ideas on eco-conscious shopping, check out our last two collaborations: