Ethical consumption refers to the conscious decision-making process where consumers consider the ethical, social, and environmental implications of their purchases. With the fashion industry’s complex supply chain and the environmental impact of fast fashion, it’s crucial for consumers to become more informed about the consequences of their choices.
Read on to get a better understanding of ethical consumption in the context of purchasing clothing and how to make informed decisions as a consumer that aligns with your values.
Understanding the Fashion Industry’s Impact
The fashion industry has a significant influence on the environment, labor rights, and human welfare. A few notable issues associated with the industry include:
1. Environmental pollution
The production and disposal of clothing generate significant waste and pollution, including hazardous chemicals and microplastics. The fashion industry alone is responsible for an estimated 10% of global carbon emissions and consumes large amounts of water and other natural resources.
2. Labor rights
Many garment workers worldwide face inhumane working conditions, low wages, and exploitation. The Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, which resulted in over 1,100 deaths, is an example of the disastrous consequences of neglecting labor rights in the fashion industry.
3. Animal welfare
Animal-derived materials such as leather, fur, and wool often involve cruel treatment of animals. Moreover, the use of these materials contributes to degrading the environment and depletion of natural resources.
Becoming an Informed Consumer
To make informed decisions when purchasing clothing, consider the following steps:
Start by learning about the ethical and environmental issues related to clothing production. Understand the fashion industry’s impact on the environment, labor rights, and animal welfare. Familiarize yourself with certifications and labels that indicate ethically-produced clothing, such as Fair Trade Certified and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
2. Evaluate your values
Reflect on the values you prioritize when making purchasing decisions. Do you care more about environmental sustainability or labor rights? Are you concerned about animal welfare? Identifying your values can help you focus on the aspects that matter most to you when shopping for clothing.
3. Seek out ethical brands
Look for brands that align with your values and are transparent about their supply chain, labor practices, and environmental impact. There are many resources available online that can help you discover ethical fashion brands, such as the Good On You app or the Ethical Fashion Guide.
4. Check certifications and labels
Look for certifications and labels on clothing that indicate the ethical and environmental standards the brand adheres to. These certifications may include Fair Trade Certified, GOTS, OEKO-TEX, or Bluesign, among others.
5. Ask questions
Don’t hesitate to reach out to brands directly to inquire about their manufacturing practices, environmental policies, and labor standards. A brand’s willingness to engage in dialogue and provide transparent information about its practices is a positive sign.
6. Support local and independent businesses
By shopping at local and independent businesses, you support your community and reduce the carbon footprint associated with shipping and transportation.
7. Purchase second-hand clothing
Shopping for pre-loved clothing is an eco-friendly and budget-friendly way to minimize your environmental impact. Look for second-hand shops, consignment stores, or online platforms such as Depop, Poshmark, or ThredUP.
8. Invest in quality over quantity
Buying fewer, high-quality items that last longer can easily save you money in the long run and reduce waste. Look for timeless designs and durable materials that can withstand frequent use and laundering.
9. Care for your clothes responsibly
Properly caring for your clothing can prolong its lifespan and minimize its environmental impact. Wash your clothes less frequently, use cold water, and hang them to dry whenever possible. Repair damaged items or upcycle them into new garments or accessories instead of discarding them.
10. Participate in the circular economy
The circular economy is a system that aims to reduce waste and pollution by reusing, repairing, and recycling materials. By participating in clothing swaps, renting clothes for special occasions, or repurposing old garments, you can help reduce the demand for new clothing production and contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry.
11. Raise awareness and advocate for change
Educate others about the importance of ethical consumption and support campaigns that push for fair labor practices, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability in the fashion industry. Use social media platforms to spread awareness and engage in conversations about ethical fashion.
Embrace Online Shopping as an Ethical Choice
Purchasing clothing and accessories online can be an ethical choice, as it allows you to access a wider variety of ethical brands and products that may not be available in your local area. Additionally, online shopping can provide the opportunity to find more sustainable items at competitive prices.
Some items that are good to buy online ethically include customizable eyeglasses and sunglasses, which can be sourced from companies that prioritize sustainability, fair labor practices, and give-back programs. When shopping online for ethical clothing or accessories, keep the following tips in mind:
Research the brand
Before making a purchase, research the company to ensure they align with your values. Look for information about their supply chain, labor practices, and environmental policies.
2. Check for certifications and labels
As with in-store purchases, look for certifications and labels on products that indicate their ethical and environmental standards.
3. Read product descriptions carefully
Ensure the materials used in the product are sustainable and ethically sourced. Look for brands that use recycled or eco-friendly materials, such as bio-based acetate or recycled metals.
4. Look for give-back programs
Some eyewear companies have initiatives in place to donate a portion of their profits to social or environmental causes, or offer buy-back or recycling programs for their products.
5. Consider shipping and packaging
Opt for companies that use minimal packaging, recycled materials, or provide carbon-neutral shipping options to reduce the environmental impact of online shopping.
6. Read reviews and testimonials
Customer reviews can offer insights into the quality and durability of a product, as well as the company’s customer service and commitment to ethical practices.
The Ethical Choice
In a world where the fashion industry’s environmental and social impacts are increasingly significant, ethical consumption is more crucial than ever. By becoming informed consumers and making conscious decisions, we can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable fashion industry.
The steps outlined above provide a solid starting point for individuals looking to align their clothing purchases with their values. Ultimately, every choice we make as consumers has the power to create positive change, and by prioritizing ethical consumption, we can contribute to a more just and sustainable world.