Cast your mind back if you can to November 2021- I know, a it’s a reach at this point- but I remember listening to some incredible talks at COP26 about the Fashion industry’s plans in striving towards becoming Net Zero, one of them being by the wonderful Stella McCartney. It was incredibly inspiring to hear so many people, from the top of this industry, talking at lengths about the change they are pushing for in this industry that has caused so much destruction to our planet so far. We all know that things need to change in all aspects of the way humans live their lives if we want to give this beautiful planet, and the creatures that live here, a fighting chance at survival. The cars we drive, the way we heat our homes, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear are up there among those big important factors alongside sustainable shopping. And as well as those people in power at the top, it’s down to each and every one of us to change our habits for the better and demand change from the bottom.
A lot of people brush over their shopping habits as if it’s not that big of a deal, and looking good on TikTok and Instagram is somehow more important and productive than being a planet-conscious consumer. I hate the corniness of the phrase ‘there is no planet B’, but it’s true, so we all need to buck our ideas up and look at ourselves as to how we can all help, rather than hinder. I know myself that I am far from perfect, I love clothes and although I have massively cut back on the volume of new pieces that I buy, when I know the most sustainable shopping practice is to only buy pre-loved items, I do still buy into new pieces here and there. However I have massively changed my habits by reducing the amount I buy and the way I think about my purchases. Not to mention boycotting the brands that are promoting the ugliest side of this industry, which I personally could simply not buy from in good conscience unless they genuinely listened to the issues in the world and changed their business models, instead of simply greenwashing to try and fit into the sustainability ‘trend’.
Researching the brands we buy from should be standard practice to try and understand where your purchase comes from. I think in 2023, in the era of same-day deliveries at your finger tips, it’s easy to disconnect the end product from the lengthy, carbon and labour heavy process of sourcing and manufacturing that product we have ordered, and each of it’s components, as well as the transportation that brings those elements together, and finally brings it to your doorstep. Most brands should now be transparent enough in their product marketing that you should be able to find out where it’s coming from, what it’s made of and ideally what its carbon and labour footprint is. Checking this information should be becoming part of our shopping routine to be checking this info in the same way we would the colour, size and price when making our decisions as a consumer.
Another red flag to look for, likely the simplest of them all, is the price. Do you think it’s too cheap for what it is? I know this one is tricky as we are all bargain lovers at heart, and why would we want to spend more than we have to? Especially in a cost of living crisis, this is so much easier said than done. However this one is easier for my mind to focus on, I think because I work in clothing, and a big part of my job is negotiating cost prices with factories and reviewing margins, RRP’s etc. My job means that I can make judgements quite easily as to whether I think something is worth the money or not, and also if I think it’s too cheap. The golden rule to remember is, if we aren’t paying the full price of an item, and everything that comes with it, then somebody out there is. Whether it’s the cotton pickers in China working in military-like camps week in, week out. The talented machinists in Bangladesh working 12 hour days. Or maybe it’s the lorry drivers trucking container after container to the port in volatile environments. But it’s not always human exploitation paying for the price of that product, in most cases it is also be the planet, with most fast fashion garments being air freighted across the globe from areas of cheap, and often exploitative, human labour, into the warehouses of western fast fashion brands to feed the customers ferocious buying appetites of the trend they’ve seen on social media.
It’s all food for thought, and I think most people now are becoming more and more conscious of all of these points, but the louder the voices, the more likely they are to be heard. So let’s all listen to the signs the planet is giving us to push us towards consuming less and opting for more sustainable shopping methods. And change our habits even more for the better this year.