One of the major polluters in the world is the fashion industry, but when talking about lifestyle changes we don’t always address this. I know many vegans who still support the fast fashion industry, claiming that it’s not possible to fight on all fronts. I disagree with that and think that it’s necessary to shop ethically and quit fast fashion, especially if you’re vegan.
But that doesn’t mean everyone can afford super expensive sustainable and ethical brands. In this post, I am going to present to you four steps to shop ethically and quit fast fashion that are accessible to a variety of people.
1. Avoid Unnecessary Purchases
The first steps to shop ethically and quit fast fashion are more about what not to buy than what to buy. We live in a system where we constantly see ads for what we “need” to buy. Fast fashion brands use marketing campaigns to convince you that even though nothing fits in a tiny bag you need one.
So you have to become very conscious of what you buy. It’s something that everyone can and should do because it saves you money and is a form of resistance against the system. If you hate purple there is absolutely no need for you to buy anything purple simply because it’s trendy.
This also ties in with minimalism. Ask yourself how many t-shirts you really need if you usually wear dresses. How many of the t-shirts you own do you actually wear? I remember buying lots of fast fashion items and never once actually wearing them. Aside from the damage the fast fashion industry causes to our planet think about the money you spend. If you’re on a low income don’t let fast fashion brands trick you into giving them your money.
2. Wear What You Already Own
Moving on from the first point, it’s important to actually wear the clothes you already own. And wear them often.
The reason you see a lot of minimalists wear only black and white is that it makes it easier to match their clothes. (Though I am a firm believer in buying colorful clothes. You simply have to know which ones you like. There’s a good chance they match already!) And that means it’s much easier for them to actually wear all the clothes they have. I remember buying very pretty items that I needed but then I would have nothing to pair them with.
Make sure that you actually wear the clothes you already have. That way, the money you spent wasn’t for nothing, and you don’t have to keep buying new clothes because you’re under the impression that you “have nothing to wear.”
3. Buy Second Hand
Now if you’ve worn your clothes to death but really need a new dress what can you do? One of the best and cheapest ways to shop ethically and quit fast fashion is to buy second hand.
Most cities have thrift stores, be they the more expensive hipster kind or the much more down-to-earth ones in residential neighborhoods. By shopping at thrift shops you can be sure that your money doesn’t go to a fast fashion brand. And the items you buy at thrift stores have already been worn and are still good which means they will not fall apart after three washes.
If you don’t have thrift stores in your area there are second-hand stores online as well. Though this involves shipping the items to your destination which is not the most environmentally friendly option.
The main problem with thrift stores is that they usually sell clothes in the most common sizes meaning that there isn’t always something for every body type. Sadly, thrift stores are definitely not an option for everyone.
Personally, I never enjoyed shopping so the time I would have to spend in a thrift shop to actually find something I like and that fits is a bit too valuable for me. But if you love shopping you will probably have fun thrifting.
4. Buy from Ethical Brands
So this one is costly. Of course, small ethical brands cannot compete with big fast fashion brands. The reason Amancio Ortega is one of the richest people in the world is not that Inditex brands sell expensive products. He’s rich because he sells a lot of clothes at a fairly low price (and pays workers almost nothing).
Small, ethical brands that make sustainable and higher-quality products and pay their workers more will have to make their products more expensive to survive. If you have a lower income you probably won’t be able to afford their products.
That’s why the first steps are so important. If you make sure to only buy things you really need then you will buy fewer clothes than before. That gives you the option to spend more money on individual items that will last you longer.
But even with ethical brands, sizes can be an issue. Because they have smaller productions not all of these brands make clothes for all body types. This definitely has to change in order for everyone to be able to buy from ethical brands.
But what do you do if these options aren’t really available to you?
Which Exceptions Can You Make?
If thrift stores and ethical brands are not an option for you then you can support some of the less notorious brands. There are obviously different levels when it comes to how fashion brands operate. If you know of a brand that at least doesn’t exploit girls and women in Asia or Africa, they’re certainly more deserving of your money. Yes, fashion brands don’t necessarily pay garment workers fair wages in Western Europe either. But there are certain laws in place, and it’s not that easy to cover up employing teenage girls for example.
If there are reasons that make it impossible for you to shop ethically and quit fast fashion, then it’s okay. It’s important to put things in perspective. You, the individual, are not responsible for brands exploiting humans, animals, and the environment. There is an entire system that supports this behavior, and brands are doing their best to hide their crimes. Nobody is forcing these brands to do what they do, they choose to do so. And if they were willing to minimize their profits they could improve their business methods.
I am all for doing our own part, and I don’t want my money to go to these brands. But that doesn’t mean that if you are unable to choose a more ethical option the problem lies with you. Doing your best is all you can do.
Do you have additional tips on how to shop ethically and quit fast fashion?