Ethical Shopping & living : 10 Golden Tenets for buying clothes

My kids are big on conservation ; though conservation of the earth is the last thing on their mind when they see something they love in a shop or online store. The excitement of buying and receiving new things  trumps keeping the earth intact, I suppose.

Buying too many clothes you may wear only once or twice for exorbitant prices to stuff into already crowded wardrobes, and taking them all in plastic bags that the shops give with nary a protest, forgetting all about that reusable fabric bag you have made, then in a few weeks coveting more clothes – these are small crimes I commit frequently.

If you are not convinced that these are crimes you may want to read this post on the 7 main concerns in sustainable fashion in this site and you will be convinced. 

Most of the time, for many of us sustainable living is just hogwash – we are big on talk but in action, not so much. Maybe you and me do not know how to go about it properly. Maybe we are treating earth as if it is a neighborhood uncle whom we love, but does not care enough to do anything, let alone sacrifice something.

Terms like sustainable, organic, ethical, eco-friendly – all sound good; But would you be willing to let go of something you love for them or make small compromises. If yes, you can explore the ideas given here.

Tips to shop ethically  

Maintain your existing clothes well

Learn more about keeping your clothes intact so that you do not have to buy new ones. This way you can be ethically responsible and be fashionable. Learn more about garment care here.

Shop wisely

Control the urge to ‘over shop’. Being prudent in buying clothes is a very important step. More clothes means more pollution.

One super duper tip my daughter told me she read somewhere to prevent over shopping is to plan carefully what you will buy before going to shop and Write in a piece of paper and go with this shopping list and stick to it. This way you will not buy unnecessary things aka indulge in impulsive shopping.

When you compare what you have put in the cart and what was listed in your shopping list you will realize your folly and put it all back.

And do not even open an online shopping site if you have nothing to buy.Stick to the plan then too.

Do not be too hard on yourself, but not so lax that you will develop what is known as ‘crisis of conscience’. 

Decide to buy only classic quality items which can be mixed and matched with anything else on your wardrobe. This is a very wise way to prevent wardrobe overload. These may cost you more in the short run but in the long run they prove their worth. You can read about a capsule wardrobe here.

When clothes rip/tear/grow small or big do not discard; Alter 

Most people do not have the time or inclination to mend clothes that have developed problems. If you use some basic sewing skills, you can mend them yourself. If they are worth anything to you, you can wear them again almost the same way with alterations.

You can find some tips here in the posts on mending holes in clothes; mending holes in jeans; darning; clothing alterations 

clothing repair

Do not reject used clothes – in fact welcome them

As poor cousins in our family we are always on the receiving end of used clothing – and we love them. But I can imagine some people balking at wearing clothes worn by others. Do not. Especially if they are well preserved and you love them.

You can also up cycle/recycle them into something suitable for you. Like turning a jeans into a skirt in this post or turning a jeans into a bag or making yarn for many projects from old t-shirts.

Donate /Swap clothes

Rather than dump all your old clothes you can ask your dear and near ones if they want them – provided they are clean and well maintained.

Another trend is to swap clothes with friends so that you need not buy anything new to wear to that wedding – you get to wear clothes which your relatives have never seen before and at the same time be socially responsible.

Decide not to buy clothes made by exploiting living beings

This includes clothes made by exploiting human beings and animals and a dedication to never ever wear a fur coat even if you got it for free. 

You can check for a “Fair Trade” stamp on clothes to ensure that they are made in conditions favorable to sustainable development. “Fair trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, shoppers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first” as per the site fairtradecertified.org

Boycott strictly Unethical companies and buy only from companies with ethics

This is a continuation of the above point. Many big brands follow shockingly unethical practices on their road to super stardom. Turn a blind eye to their marketing attempts to bring you into their profit chain – You can buy from small local companies who adhere strictly to ethical practices. This includes the way the fabric is sourced, produced and sold – all the processes that change a fiber to fabric.

You can read about some ethical companies here.

Buy clothes made of natural fabrics made with natural processes

Cotton, Linen, Silk, Wool are all biodegradable – ie. they will decompose after you dump them in the waste. They turn into a compost for your earth. But synthetic fabrics will remain in the soil in the same state for years and years. 

Even if it is a little costly buy eco-friendly or organic fabrics and garments made out of them. With these fabrics you can be sure that the cultivation and harvest of plant fibers are ethical and sustainable.

When this becomes the norm it will gradually prevent pesticides being used in raw materials of fabrics slowly as consumer demand will spur industries to move into a sustainable direction.

It is even better to go for natural textiles dyed with natural dyes. Dyeing is a major pollutant of water so you can also opt for clothes dyed with eco-friendly dyes or even better bio-regional dyes which is dyeing with plant based dyes available locally.

You can learn more about the eco-friendly and organic fabrics available here.

Decide to never bring home clothing in a plastic bag

Control the plastic bag menace by carrying your own bags when you go clothes shopping. About 2 million single use plastic bags are used every minute as per this site. That is a lot for our poor earth. Remember that the plastic bags that have already been used are there weighing down the earth. You can stop adding to it in your own way.

Learn more about ethical shopping and sustainable living

If you have made a choice to be conscientious, you need to learn how to go about it properly.

Following socially aware and very vocal celebrities like Emma Watson, reading the writings of a tribe of bloggers who write about ethical fashion and checking out movements like #whomademyclothes (started with the purpose of calling for greater transparency in the fashion industry; ), slow fashion, cradle to cradle, and Reading relevant books  on sustainable living- All these can create learned consumers who can spearhead an ethical shopping revolution. 

Read more about #whomademyclothes movement here.

Sooner than later everything we do on this earth is going to come back and affect us or our future generations. If the least I can do is to have some control over my shopping habits and using clothes, I will do that. What are your efforts ? 

Comments 2

  1. Thank you so much for writing this and providing a wealth of resources! I’ve been re-fabbing clothes for awhile now. And I’ve really wanted to start buying eco-friendly fabrics from good sources. I have found a few but the links offered can help me even more. I will be sharing this on facebook. Thank you for your time and effort!

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