The short answer is yes, shopping consciously will make a difference, you just won’t be able to see it (yet).
We know what you’re thinking, “like, okay, I get it, but it’s not like not buying this one cute top is going to save the world.” And we’d probably agree with you, it’s not.
Just like choosing the salad off the McDonald’s menu isn’t going to make you instantly shredded, going all-in on the pack of 20 chicken nuggets isn’t going to make you gain weight. But we do know that small actions can become habits, and the more healthy food choices we make (whatever that means according to our individual needs!), the more likely we are to retain a healthy weight for us. And just as we use weight gained or weight lost to measure the effectiveness of an action in this equation, we know that it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
Allow us to explain:
An analogy to sink your teeth into
Say you chose to eat plenty of McDonald’s salads, you might be focusing on how this decision might affect your weight or your waist size, right? Of course you are, because you can measure that. What you can’t measure is the increase in nutrient absorption and vitality your body experiences from not eating the chicken nuggets, or the flu you never picked up from having a stronger immunity, or the productive afternoons you had in the office because your body wasn’t exhausting your energy on metabolising the alternative. You can’t always see the consequences of your actions – just like the amounting result of your shopping habits.
While we may not be able to see how buying less and choosing well affects a community in Bangladesh or a factory in India, your actions are part of a growing momentum that could see a local designer keep their doors open or quality clothing hanging in your wardrobe that was produced free of slavery. Trust the process and be responsible with your spending by encouraging brands that are working towards a sustainable future with your purchases and bypassing the ones that aren’t. It’s that simple.
What can you do to shop more consciously?
“Shoppers need to be looking more into slow fashion. This is the idea of spending significantly more money on one timeless, quality garment that you would wear over a number of years, rather than buying several pieces that follow the latest fast-fashion trend,” explains AUT senior lecturer Lisa McEwan.
- Do your research and choose to spend at stores that score highly in ethical responsibility.
- Treat your clothing purchases like investments and consider all the important questions before you spend to determine whether or not you really need it.
- “Buy fewer but buy better. Buy the best you can afford and only get a few key items each year,” says McEwan.
- Assess the quality of the garment by checking seams, threads and hems to determine whether it’s been made to a high quality.
- Ask stores “who made your clothes?” and if they can’t tell you or don’t list their suppliers on their website, consider not shopping there.
- Consider resale or repair before disposing of clothing or, by the same coin, try resale, rental or thrift stores for alternatives to buying new.
- Don’t impulse buy or shop mindlessly – we’re the ‘woke’ generation for a reason.
Why does it matter where our clothes come from?
Melinda Tually, director of NDLESS: The New Normal and coordinator for Fashion Revolution Australia and New Zealand, explains that it was evident before the Rana Plaza disaster* that brands didn’t know where their clothes were being made, and that greater transparency is what they’ve all been calling for since day one.
Transparency leads to accountability, accountability leads to change
“Our mantra [at Fashion Revolution] is: Transparency leads to accountability, accountability leads to change,” says Melinda.
“The industry needs to be encouraged and we’ve developed the platform for them to be able to do that. Brands can talk about what they’re achieving and customers can ask “where are my clothes made?” without it being threatening.”
*On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building collapsed just outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, claiming the lives of 1,134 garment workers and injuring thousands more. It was a disaster that shocked the world, catapulting the plight of workers into the minds of consumers, companies, investors, and governments everywhere. Since then, the global fashion industry has largely responded by improving its systems, forming new alliances, and becoming more transparent. However, there is still a great deal of improvement to be made, particularly in terms of worker empowerment.
Words: Terri Dunn