A couple of weeks ago I decided to set myself an ethical clothing challenge for 2012. I’d been down to one of the January sales and bought some cheap shoes and I couldn’t help but feel a stab of guilt as I have been a lot lately – if I’m getting these for such a bargin someone has got to be missing out here, someone else is paying the price for my purchase.
Ever wondered about who made the clothes you buy? What were their working conditions? How much did they get paid?
Or take it a step back further and ask yourself how was the fabric made? Were the natural fibres grown using sustainable farming practices? How much energy was needed to manufacture it? How far did it have to travel to get to you? What about the company selling it – do they have a good environmental and social record?
A lot to think about and certainly it’s not easy to find out all those answers. But there are some simple steps you can take to get yourself a greener wardrobe.
1. Buy Second Hand. Scour those op shops! It may not be as easy to find something you like – but it’s so much more satisfying when you do! Savers have a loyalty card, so that each time you take in a bag of donations you receive and increasing percentage off your next purchase. Vintage shops are great too but a little more pricey. You can also pick up a bargin at pre-loved markets.
2. Swap. The Clothing Exchange is an event I’ve always wanted to go to. Events are held throughout the year in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. You bring along your (good quality) unwanted clothing, get some buttons to use as currency and swap away. Local councils also organise events on National Swap Day or why not organise one with your friends?
3. Source Ethical Clothing. Ethical Clothing can mean a number of things depending on what is important to you. Is it organic? Or fair wages and conditions? Is it the carbon footprint? Or is it a company’s environmental & social record? A website I highly, highly recommend is this ethical consumer guide. It’s aimed at supermarket shopping (a whole other challenge!) but you can apply the principles to any consumer purchase you make. Find out what is important to you and start from there. Ethical Clothing Australia is an independant committee that promotes fair wages and decent working conditions by assisting businesses through an accreditation process. You can view the list of accredited brands here. Etkio promote fair trade and sustainable. Sustainable Hemp Products focus on sustainable natural fibres.
Livia Firth in a dress made with fibres derived from the mechanical, non-chemical recycling of plastic bottles
So great to see some ‘green’ dresses on the red carpet – check out Livia Firth’s (Colin Firth’s wife) Green Carpet Challenge.
4. Make Your Own. Go on, try it! I bet you know someone with a sewing machine. Start simple, maybe get some lessons and get a good basic instruction book. You’ll be so proud of yourself!
A dress I've made from a tablecloth - you find some fantastic fabrics in op shops!
The whole subject of Ethical Clothing can get quite overwhelming when you start to research – and I’m only just beginning the process myself. But just remember that everytime you buy something you’re sending a message. You are supporting that company and it’s activities, whether you are aware of it or not and whether you like it or not. Be deliberate about what you buy, make your money count.