Conscious Living

7 ways to be a more conscious consumer

7 ways to be a more conscious consumer

As Fashion Revolution Week urges individuals to question their clothes come from, we take a look at 7 ways you can become a more mindful consumer.

1. Ask questions
On April 24 2013, Rana Plaza – an 8 story garment factory in Bangladesh disastrously collapsed killing approximately 1,130 workers and injuring a further 2,500. What’s more, the tragedy could have easily been prevented had the illegally constructed factory not been under the immense pressure of well known fast fashion brands. While almost 1 in 3 garment factory workers are medically underweight, most live in a dirt floor shack in a cramped slum and painfully work 15-17 hours per day in dangerous factories earning just a fraction of what they need to survive. The ridiculous demand by profit-driven, fast fashion brands wanting more clothing cheaper than ever before sees huge stress placed on factories without a second thought spared for the workers. Don’t be afraid to ask brands who made their products and double check they have valid ethical and sustainability policies. Encourage companies to have a transparent supply chain to ensure you can find out where your clothing is manufactured and in what conditions to guarantee everyone in the supply chain has been treated and paid fairly.

2. Buy vintage
Satisfy your quench for new clothes without buying into fast fashion and invest in some preloved pieces instead. Gone are the days where you have to sift through musty old shops searching for something salvageable – with the abundance of groovy vintage stores popping up you’re bound to find something you’ll love. Sieve through Ponsonby Road classic Tatty’s, or update your jewellery stash with vintage designer jewels from Love & Object. Or, check out every fashion stylist’s favourite The Mercantile (think Christian Dior coats and Gucci suede skirts) and navigate your way through a teeming treasure trove of the unusual and interesting at Tango.

3. Think before you buy
The inexpensive nature of clothing and the astounding rate at which it is produced means fast fashion has simply become disposable. It’s cheaper and more convenient to just buy a new item, rather than the repair the one you’ve got. But with roughly 80 billion items of clothing being produced every year (and similar volumes going into landfills), the unbelievable amounts of greenhouse gasses, air pollution, harsh chemicals and water used add up to monuments amounts – not to mention the tragic treatment of the workers overlooked in the supply chain.

Before you next grab that bargain buy, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I really need this?
  2. Will I wear this at least thirty times?
  3. And if it is for a special occasion: Can I borrow or rent something instead?

4. Say bye bye to beads in your beauty bag
Avoid exfoliators and scrubs that contain microbeads and choose products that use natural abrasives such as sea salt instead. Beauty brands opt for the synthetic ingredient largely as they’re cheaper to manufacture, however once the floating plastic particles make their way down the drain and into the ocean they wreak havoc on the environment – often taking up to to 50 years to break down. So, though it is tempting to pick up the sweetest smelling bottle on the shelf, be sure to check out the ingredients list. Microbeads can be snuck in under a number of guises including: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate or polymethyl methacrylate – or if you’re still not sure Beat The Microbead has a helpful list of brands who exclude the nasty plastic. 

5. Shop local
Support the local economy and our brilliant home-grown designers by buying New Zealand made. Not only will you reduce the heavy environmental impact that comes with shipping clothing to our corner of the globe, you’ll help create jobs, support independent, locally-owned businesses and you can rest easy knowing that the clothing you’re purchasing is most likely ethically made.  And, with talent like Kate Sylvester, Juliette Hogan and Harman Grubisa manufacturing right on our door step – why would you not?! 

6. Invest in quality pieces
Rather than regularly buying handfuls of cheap clothes, invest in one quality, well-made piece occasionally. Though an expensive price tag doesn’t always mean it is ethical, it’s easier to assume the garment is manufactured to a greater standard using superior materials – therefore lasting longer than a disposable fall-apart and throw-away $20 top. Read this full graded Brand Index to see how local and international brands and designers stack up.

7. Clean out your closet
We get it: Last year you panicked in the frenzied sale season, you went ballistic at the sight of the two-for-one deals and you couldn’t resist getting the perfect fitting jeans in three different shades of blue. Now, its time to clean out your closet and say sayonara to the clothes you no longer wear anymore; because if you haven’t worn it in the last 12 months – chances are you never will. Donate any clothing, shoes and jewellery in good condition to The Women’s Refuge, Salvation Army, Dress for Success or other charity of your choice – that way they won’t end up in landfill and it’s an easy way to help out those who need it most. 

Words: Anna Lee
Photo: Getty Images