Don't sweat it: shop ethically February 21 2013, 0 Comments


When I’m standing in a change room staring at myself in the mirror trying to decide whether or not to purchase a particular item of clothing there are only a few things going through my head: a) Does it fit; b) Can I afford to buy it; c) Do I like it or do I love it; d) Do I already have something similar hanging over a chair at home? Sometimes I’ll check what the garment is made of, but to be honest often I won’t bother. The question of where the garment was made, who it was made by, whether it was made ethically, or whether it will last a long time rarely come into play when I’m shopping for clothes....


The fact that 2 million tonnes of clothing get thrown in the bin every year makes me think that I’m not alone in my decision making process (or lack thereof). This is not a case of safety in numbers but more a realisation that we should all be a bit more conscious of where the clothes we purchase are coming from, how they are made, and by whom.


Most people are aware that larger companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma use sweatshops in poorer countries (Indonesia, China, India) to make their clothing and shoes; however, there are still a lot of people (i'm guilt of this too) who haven’t quite connected the knowledge with action. Many of the workers in clothing factories around the world are subjected to poor working conditions, abuse, intimidation, some have their government documents taken away from them, and some are locked in the factories overnight.


If you did some research you would find that there are a large amount of clothing  companies that outsource their production to third world countries or use methods that aren’t environmentally friendly. Creeks and rivers are often used to die clothing, introducing a potentially lethal chemical to an ecosystem. When we choose to buy a product or clothing item from a store we are endorsing their use of potentially unethical production methods.  One example is that 20,000-40,000 cotton farm workers will die each year from handling dangerous chemical pesticides used in producing non-organic cotton..


The real issue is in our consumption and how the ‘fast pace’ society that we live in affects our decisions. Cost of items is a large factor in the choice a consumer makes about whether to buy a product or not. If an item of clothing is cheap then it is more desirable to the buyer, even though the quality of the material might be subpar. We end up spending more money because we have to constantly replace clothing that doesn’t last.


We are encouraged by society to change our wardrobe each season to keep up with current trends. We end up with a cupboard full of clothes that don’t get worn anymore.... lime green spandex dress anyone? Even though I know about the horrible situations of people working in sweatshops, I’ve never properly connected this information with my own behaviour. I’ve realised that the decisions I make when I’m shopping are not only affecting my own life but also the quality of life of many other people around the world. The decision I make after staring at myself in a change room mirror is both affecting other human beings and greatly impacting the beautiful environment that I live in.

1. Make conscious decisions

Research the brands and clothing shops that you frequent before making purchases. Find out where the clothes are made, what the clothes are made out of, and whether the company is ethical. Do they have a SWEATSHOP FREE policy? Do they use recycled/vintage fabric? Does the making of that garment provide meaningful work for those involved or are they used and abused for that $9.99 price tag?


2. Buy clothes that will last

Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it is worth buying. Make sure that you are only purchasing clothes that are made of a good quality, long lasting material. Also ask yourself whether the item reflects your PERSONAL style - not what the fashion magazines are telling you to buy. If you are going to wear it for years to come, buying a well-made and ethically made garment (even if it's more expensive) will win out in the long run!

3. Raid your mum's wardrobe and buy second hand/vintage

Instead of creating a bigger carbon footprint by buying new things, recycle clothes that have been pre-loved. You know that they will last because they have already survived owner number one (or more).