Ethical consumerism is best defined as “the practice of purchasing products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and/or environmental damage, while avoiding products and services deemed to have a negative impact on society or the environment.” An ethical consumer is aware on the consequences of production, consumption and disposal. But what does that really mean in terms of shopping for clothes?
Surrounded by so many brands with such poor business practices, it seems almost impossible to shop in a truly ethical way. Good news – there are some steps you can take to become a more ethical consumer. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Do your research, and do it well. Do some digging to gain a greater understanding of the world of fast fashion. Whether it be laborer rights, environmental concerns, or safety concerns, there are many issues to familiarize yourself with. There are many websites available including Free2Work.org and EthicalConsumer.org that serve as great resources.
- Vote with your wallet. Spend your money on products that align with your values. Buycott is a free app that is helping ethical consumers in this exact way by allowing users to scan any product’s barcode to learn about its history. It also provides other features such as offering suggested alternatives to products that don’t meet your standards.
- Buy secondhand. While thrifting is not the answer to all of the fashion industry’s problems, it does minimize waste and prevent the abuse of laborers. Secondhand shopping is pollution-free, cost-effective, and it often supports charities as well. The best part? Unique and original pieces that show off your personal style.
- Help raise awareness in any way you can. One brilliant thing about our world today is the fact that social media has an incredible amount of power. If you aren’t happy about the way a clothing brand is treating its workers? Let everyone know. If you are happy? Let everyone know. Raising awareness is easier now than ever before with the help of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
- Be willing to adjust your spending habits. Purchasing ethically means purchasing higher quality items, but sometimes those items come at a higher cost. While it might be hard to justify spending your money on fewer items than you could get at a fast fashion retailer, the global cost is much greater when purchasing cheap clothing. It’s also important to consider that the cost-per-wear is often greater with ethical clothing because of its high quality.
- Don’t lose hope. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re making any impact, especially when the fast fashion industry is as monstrous as it is. History shows the great power of the educated consumer – take a page from Nike’s book.
While ethical consumerism may not seem as easy as fast fashion, it will ultimately better our world. Together we can make a difference in the fashion industry to enforce a change in the way our clothes are made.
About the Author
Jaime Ruck is a sustainable fashion enthusiast and communications intern for Tribe of Lambs. Tribe of Lambs is a nonprofit ethical jewelry brand creating brighter futures for HIV-positive children in India. They are committed to using fashion as a vehicle for social good and environmental sustainability. Jaime is currently studying Public Relations at university in Vancouver.