Expanding On What It Means To Participate In Sustainable & Ethical Consumption

After listening to one of my favorite podcast I was inspired to write this piece, Expanding On What It Means To Participate In Sustainable & Ethical Consumption. I am by no means an expert, I’m sharing my thoughts on the topic.

To Those In The Industry:

Through these past years of learning, observing and participating in the sustainable and ethical fashion movement, there’s a large segment of the population that I’ve noticed we are incorporating in the contribution of over-consumption and excess of waste but aren’t including in the solutions, conversations, and as ideal customers and they are the majority; everyday people. I’ve noticed that we talk more about the vast waste of materials, the problem, but not solutions.

It’s incredible that we are having conversations, summits and creating content that highlights the work and solutions people are providing and the issues and problems, where change needs to occur, but what good does that do if we aren’t sharing and making this information accessible outside of our groups? We can’t keep talking amongst ourselves.

I think that it’s great that in moving forward creating and renovating brands that are aiming for ethics and sustainability. But what about the hundreds of none household name brands that fill a majority of our homes, that aren’t focused on sustainability and ethics but are focused on fulfilling the following needs for everyday people; affordability, accessibility, newness, trending, and aesthetic? Which are determining factors I have noticed from working in a big box retailer and being a consumer myself.

For one thing, we have to understand that sustainability is not at the forefront of everyone’s mind when they are shopping, they are thinking about what can they afford and if it is fulfilling their needs in that moment and for the future. We must start being mindful and honest about the lives that everyday people are living and how they can participate in creating change. For a family of five with an average income of $45,000/year, in addition to buying organic produce, buying all natural, sustainable and ethically made products doesn’t necessarily fit into their budget. Or people living in areas where they do not have physical locations where they can participate in sustainable and ethical shopping, and the college student who’s shopping options include fast-fashion brands.

There needs to be more solution-based thinking and implementation for what people are buying and what is currently out in circulation because we can’t just throw it all away, that defeats the purpose.

To The Everyday Consumer:

So how can you participate? Start with where you are, meaning being more mindful and intentional about what you are purchasing and consuming. Buy pieces that you know you can mix and match, layer and dress-up and dress-down. If something doesn’t fit properly, get it tailored or altered, instead of throwing it away. If there is a hole, broken zipper, etc. repair it. Shop local. Educate yourself and others in a shame-free and aggressive-free manner, because it doesn’t hurt to be kind. Investigate! We all use the internet, research brands, ingredients, materials, etc. Read, the care instructions on your clothing it’s there for a reason. Not every piece of clothing has to be washed after being worn once, excluding underwear. That’s a topic for another day. When shopping, ask yourself questions; am I truly passionate about this? Do I genuinely want or need this? How much use will I get out of this item? What’s the game plan for after I no longer need and or want it? Donate, reuse, repurpose, upcycle, or resale?

We must begin expanding and being more inclusive of what it means in terms of participation in sustainable and ethical consumption, from our clothing to everyday items. Because currently, we aren’t! And It’s a very multi-layered and intersected topic. We all must work together and hold accountability for ourselves and our actions. We can’t always rely on the brand, designers, and factories to do all the work. It is then our responsibility from how we shop, to take it home and how we care for our items.

We all use the internet, and the content is out there. Here are a few places to get you started.