Some Thoughts and Links on Ethical Shopping

For much of my life, I shopped almost constantly and brought hundreds of new items into my closet each year.  Over time, I came to realize some of the negative consequences of my behavior, but I thought those deleterious effects were limited to the confines of my personal closet, bank account, and relationships.  It was only after I started my recovering shopaholic project that I became aware of the ways in which my overshopping was also harmful to people outside of my inner circle, as well as to the environment.

Fashion Ethics

How much do you know about ethical shopping?

When We Know Better, We Can Do Better

I am still a neophyte when it comes to the vast topics of ethics and sustainability, but I am eager to learn more and change my shopping behavior.  I know that for many years, I was a much larger part of the problem than the solution, but now that I’m coming to know better, I can also do better.  Some of the resolutions I’ve made to mend my shopaholic ways will also help me to be more ethical and sustainable, including buying less, aiming for quality over quantity, and wearing what I have instead of always looking to buy more.

Those are wonderful steps we can all take to make a difference related to the way our shopping impacts the environment and the people in other countries who produce the clothes we wear. We can also buy from manufacturers who produce garments using sustainable fabrics and ethical practices.  Such companies can be difficult to find, but here are a few links that can help point us in the right direction:

Many bloggers have also started to write more about the topic of ethical shopping and I plan to share the best posts with you from time to time, as I know that many of you are also looking to do better.  Today’s installment includes seven articles – some recent, some from a while back – that cover various aspects of the ethical fashion question.

Posts on Ethical Fashion and Shopping

This informative article was written by Shannon Whitehead, a sustainable apparel consultant who was also the co-designer of the Versalette.  Shannon explains six big reasons why we should care about what’s in our closets.   She also links to resources where we can learn more about the serious issues she raises.  Did you know that there are chemicals on our clothes?  Scary, but true!

This post on “Into Mind” is a collaborative effort with Emma of “This Kind Choice.”  Included are tips for how to find out whether a brand is ethical, some examples of ethical brands, and a useful flowchart for guidance on developing an eco-conscious shopping strategy.  A key point made in the article is that an eco-conscious approach to fashion is not solely about buying from eco brands.  It’s also about avoiding excessive consumption, repurposing things you already own, and buying for quality.

Sally from “Already Pretty” explores a variety of issues in this comprehensive post, including ethical manufacturing processes.  The main crux outlined is that consumers have very high expectations for the clothing we purchase. We want variety, quality construction, low prices, local production, and ethical practices all at the same time, but such wishes don’t match up with the realities of the marketplace.  If you read this article, I also recommend you explore the comments section, as some excellent points are made there as well.

I had never heard of the blog A L’Allure Garconniere, but the tagline has me wanting to read more:  “A critical take on fashion culture.”  This post is in response to some questions from a reader on various aspects of ethical fashion.  Two topics explored are whether second-hand buying is automatically considered ethical and if it’s okay to buy “fast fashion” brands in resale shops.  Lots of links are included within the article for those who want to learn more about the issues in question.

Over to You – Your Thoughts and Links

I hope you enjoyed this “useful links” post.  If you come across any helpful articles on the topics of ethical shopping and sustainable fashion, I invite you to send them to me for inclusion in a future post.  You can also share them in the comments section of this post.

14 thoughts on “Some Thoughts and Links on Ethical Shopping

  1. Thanks for sharing all of this great information. We need to be more mindful of where all of our stuff (food, clothes, fuel, etc.) comes from, how it gets to us, and what ravages of nature and humanity take place to allow us to consume all stuff on the cheap.

    • Very true, Dottie! Don’t even get me started on the food stuff… That’s off-topic for this blog, but I have a lot of thoughts and opinions there as well. We can’t control the ravages of nature and humanity that you mentioned, but we can be more mindful, speak our minds, and vote with our dollars. I truly hope things will turn around at some point.

  2. Some really good info here. I just finished reading all of the ones from Emma and followed along on her 12 item/18 outfit challenge. Quite good. I’m just beginning to explore ethical shopping and I have lots to learn so thank you for the links!

    • Glad you liked this information, Kim. Like you, I still have a lot to learn, but we’re lucky that Emma and others like her are doing their best to inform us so we can all do better. I loved Emma’s 12 item / 18 outfit challenge. That’s going beyond Project 333 for sure, but it shows us what’s possible with the right choices and a bit of creativity!

  3. This was fascinating — esp the “ethical donation” aspects. I have to admit, I haven’t given this enough thought. I assumed I was doing good when I donated excessive clothing — now I see, donation is not the panacea or guilt-reducing solution I thought it was!

    • You and me both, Bette. I often felt at least a little virtuous when I’d bring bags and bags of cast-offs to a charity shop. I never realized that some of the clothes don’t end up being sold and end up contributing to environmental waste. I’m glad I’m not buying as much now and am slowing down the whole cycle.

  4. Good post Debbie. One thing that has become increasingly important to me in dressing consciously is the right use of world resources. And the exploitation garment workers globally calls me to reflect deeply before purchasing an article of clothing. It is important for me to ask myself:

    How much do I actually need it, in comparison to what it has taken from the planet and from workers, and from others in order to produce it?

    How long will it last?

    When and how will I dispose of it?

    Yesterday I took my first well worn out article of clothing to Patagonia to be recycled in their Worn Wear Program.

    • These are really good questions to ask, Terra! I didn’t know about Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program, so I looked it up after seeing your comment. I will definitely keep that in mind for the Patagonia items that my husband and I own. I will also keep your questions in mind for future shopping I do. I never used to pay much attention to clothing longevity because I was turning things over so fast, but I also didn’t know about all of the ethical and environmental implications of my actions. I’m glad to be learning more and am happy to be able to share some of this information with others!

  5. Thank you for sharing my work, Debbie! I’m so glad it’s proving useful. I’m very interested in taking a look at those other posts, too. That tagline is intriguing and I’d be keen to hear their take on second hand shopping, as it’s something I do a lot of.

    • Happy to share your work, Emma! I know many others will benefit from your knowledge and perspective. I’m eager to read more from A L’Allure Garconniere, too, as I enjoyed the article I shared. It’s great to read others’ takes on these important issues.

    • Glad you’re enjoying the articles, Meli. I know it can be a lot to take in, but I’m happy to share what I’m learning with all of you.

  6. Thanks Debbie. I am trying to be more mindful when shopping, but I get a bit paralyzed over how far I “need” to take things. For instance, I found this nice brand of yoga/active clothing (Lole). They seem to have lots of eco-conscious fabrics and good policies but when I spoke to the store owner about where the products are made, I find out that they are made in the far east. They used to be made in the US and Canada but it wasn’t economically feasible to continue. So then I think…well, is that good enough? Should I say, no, I am ONLY buying organic/sustainable/recycled/sweatshop free? And then some other times I have searched for US-made clothing to find stuff that is made with non-organic materials.

    I suppose if I keep stopping myself from buying stuff, that’ll be good in the end. But I do want to replenish some worn out things and some things that really don’t fit! So I bought two tops that are organic, but probably not sweatshop free. Sigh.

    • I struggle with some of the same issues you mentioned, Sarah. There are no easy answers and we all need to do what’s best for us, but I don’t think eco-conscious shopping needs to be an all or nothing proposition. I think this quote from the Into Mind article articulates it very well:

      Emma and I believe in a ‘next best option’ strategy to eco-conscious shopping. The idea is to start out from the most eco-friendly alternative (which is always using what you already have). If that alternative is not feasible for whatever reason, you move on to the next best option and so on, until you arrive at one you can do.”

      You’ve done due diligence in asking questions and searching for eco-friendly fashions and while the Lole clothing may not perfectly fit what you’re looking to buy, it seems to be the next best option based upon what you wrote. There aren’t a lot of made in the US and Canada clothing options these days, but I believe (hope really, but try to think positively…) that the number of options for us will increase. I think you’re doing great and taking things quite a bit farther than most people do. Just do your best and take comfort in the good you’re doing for both the environment and ethics. We need more people like you!

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