Sustainable shopping is the process of thinking and buying ethically and in ways that will benefit the environment and society around us. In this article, I have aimed to pose the question why we should ‘ask ourselves why before we buy’ and have outlined why swapping for sustainable alternatives is environmentally and ethically beneficial, as well as ways we can bring about this change and justice through the way we shop.
Ending modern slavery and mistreatment of staff in manufacturing factories
The 2013 collapse of the Dhaka garment factory in Bangladesh, which provided clothing manufacturing for Primark, Matalan, Gucci and Moncler to name a few, awoke the world to the poor labour conditions faced by workers in sweatshops operated by big brands. More recently, fashion suppliers Boohoo and I Saw It First are currently involved in allegations of ‘modern slavery’, by paying their staff less than the minimum wage and failing to protect them from coronavirus in a Leicester factory. This only highlights further that now is the time to swap our shopping habits for more ethical alternatives and stop funding these big brands who exploit and mistreat their workers.
Seeking eco-friendly alternatives and prioritising buying clothes made from sustainable textiles
Recent studies show that the fashion industry accounts for 20% of wastewater and 10% of carbon emissions globally, with clothes accounting for half a million tons of non-biodegradable microfibers reaching the oceans every year- the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles, demonstrating some of the reasons fast-fashion is hugely increasing to global warming and pollution. Generally, natural fabrics such as organic cotton and linen are more sustainable than man-made fabrics like Polyester and Nylon, which are petroleum-based and take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
According to the Global Fashion Agenda, 26% of business owners surveyed believe that ‘low consumer willingness to pay a premium for sustainable products’ was the greatest barrier for them to become more sustainable. However, with 60% of millennials and young adults saying they would be willing to swap for more sustainable alternatives, as students we can make a change to make sustainability stylish, as the responsibility to promote sustainable fashion and ethical change does not lie solely with big brands, but with us shoppers who invest in these retailers and choose where to spend our money.
Thrift shopping and second-hand clothes
The trend for vintage fashion began in the 1960s with the rise of concern for environmental preservation and change. In modern day society, vintage is highly popular today with 70s, 80s and 90s fashion and shopping in thrift stores, at kilo sales, charity shops or on online second-hand clothing sites, such as Depop, being popularised by influencers and celebrities. Especially popular among the younger generations, mainstream fast fashion has become less unique and is too generic, with timeless vintage clothing allowing for self-expression and individuality, as well as allowing for clothes to be reused, reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing new clothing.
Supporting black-owned businesses
Exclusive analysis of Office for National Statistics data reveals that one in every 3.7 people in Reading was either black, Asian or from another ethnic minority in 2017, with ethnic diversity continuing to increase in more recent years. For a greener economy, holistic sustainability is impossible without the inclusion of all. With the recent increase of Black Lives Matter advocacy, now is the time to support black businesses locally to help fight racial economic inequality globally and increasing visibility and representation within fashion and retail.
Shopping at local independent businesses
The recent threat of the coronavirus pandemic has left many small businesses being at risk of permanently closing, so with shops and businesses now starting to open, support your community by shopping in local boutiques or independent fashion retailers instead of shopping at big high street superstores. Research has shown that for every £1 spent with an independent business, up to 70p goes back into that local economy, compared to just 5p with a big corporation. Local businesses are also more likely to source their products locally or even make them by hand, so they are also more environmentally friendly.
By favouring sustainable fashion and being more mindful whilst shopping, we can work towards a more environmentally friendly planet whilst also supporting our society and local communities too.