I get so many questions about how to shop ethically. It’s easily the most frequently asked topic from readers… and I love talking about it! I love helping people get started and I am always looking for new ways to talk about ethical shopping with you. I’ve done how to shop ethically on a budget, I’ve done how to get started shopping ethically, etc. So today, I thought I’d give you an A to Z list of shopping ethically! I hope this is helpful and interesting!
A – Ask yourself. Ask yourself the question: “Will I wear this at least 30 times?” before you buy a new piece of clothing! If the answer is no, then think twice about making that purchase.
B – “Buy less, choose well.” -Vivienne Westwood. I love this quote by Vivienne Westwood because it is such a simple reminder for all of us! Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop… but I shop VERY differently now than I did 10-12 years ago… I buy way less, but I choose well made, high quality items that I know will last.
C – Conscious consumerism. This is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot these days and we can often wonder if the terms really mean anything in the end of if they’re just a bunch of buzzwords… this is one of those terms! Honestly, if I’m being frank, it’s not my favorite, but the meaning behind it is important. It simply means that as consumers, we are conscious about every purchasing decision we make. It means we are aware that our purchases do make a difference!
D – Directory! Don’t know where to start? Start by checking out my ethical brand directory here on my blog! I have 375+ ethical brands in various categories that you can shop from!
E – Educate yourself. Always be a student willing to learn! I am no expert and I learn something new every day. Read a book or read articles about issues and topics around the fashion industry, consumerism, etc. The more you learn, the more you can do better!
F – Fair trade! This is one of the cornerstones of changing the world… shopping fair trade truly can empower people, change lives, and impact the world on a greater scale.
G – Give grace! No one is perfect (I certainly am not perfect!) and when I can’t shop ethically for something or I have to make that purchase on Amazon or from a big box store, I give myself grace… and you should give yourself grace too!
H – Help support your local community! When in doubt, shop local! I love supporting independent, local retailers… it’s so fun to know that when I am shopping with a small business in my community that it is directly impacting my local community.
I – Invest in quality, not quantity. I always think about cost per wear. If I buy a $20 pair of jeans and they were cheaply made and I end up just having to buy a new pair of jeans in 6 months or a year because they fall apart… the cost per wear is going to be so much higher than if I invest in the $100 or $200 pair of jeans that will last me 5 – 10 years. I have a pair of designer jeans from Rag&Bone that I bought for $178 three years ago and with the exception of one small hole that I patched up, they still wear like new and have so much life left. I’ve worn them hundreds of times and the cost per wear is pennies on the dollar at this point. Same with shoes… a pair of $200 or $300 handmade leather boots will last me so much longer than a cheap pair of boots from Target. Make sense?
J – Just say no to fast fashion brands. At the end of the day, if you do one thing, one major thing you could do is just not shop with fast fashion brands… brands like Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy, etc. are all brands that are churning out clothing way too much and are contributing to massive amounts of harm in the fashion industry (not to mention the harm on the environment).
K – Know better, do better. I love that famous quote by Maya Angelou that says, “When you know better, you do better.” 12 years ago, I certainly didn’t know about how the fashion industry directly contributed to human trafficking or global environmental issues… I certainly didn’t know about the impact that shopping fair trade can have on the world… but once I learned… I made different decisions going forward. Know better, do better.
L – Little by little. Little by little progress in this area really does add up! The more you make little changes in your buying, spending, consuming habits… the more they add up over time and they really do make a difference!
M – Meet up with friends and host a clothing swap! Obviously this hasn’t happened this year, but in previous years, my friends and I have gotten together and done a clothing swap. We all bring stuff we’ve outgrown or don’t wear anymore and we do a trade! Anything that doesn’t get swapped up, we donate! It’s super easy and really fun!
N – Needs? Ask yourself… is this a “NEED” or is just a want? It’s okay if it’s a want, but if it’s a want and not a need, maybe that’s something that you can take a little bit more time to shop more thoughtfully… if it’s a want, you can take more time to make sure that what you’re buying is ethically made. If it’s a need, then you can be a little bit less stringent. I hope that makes sense!
O – Organic matters! Making an effort to purchase organic products is a big deal. Companies that you know use organic cotton, hemp, or other sustainable materials are making a positive impact on people AND the environment!
P – Purchase with purpose. You have the power to use your purchasing power for good… so in every opportunity that you make, use your purchasing power for good. Whether that’s supporting a small business, shopping second hand, or even choosing to abstain from buying for a period of time!
Q – Questions! When you don’t know about the ethics of a brand, ask questions! You can always email, call, or post on social media asking brand questions about their supply chain, their manufacturing practices, or how they run their businesses!
R – Reduce. Reuse. Recycle! Is it 1996? Because that’s basically what I think of when I hear that phrase… but it’s true! The more that we can reduce our waste, reuse items we might throw out, or recycle them… the better! Textile recycling is a big one… instead of just throwing out that old shirt, send it to a textile recycler so it can be turned into something new.
S – Shop second hand. Shopping second hand is easily one of the most ethical ways to shop (and one of the most affordable ways to shop ethically!)
T – Trust and transparency! I love supporting companies that have shown that I can trust them through their transparency! Brands that go above and beyond to show a behind-the-scenes look at their factories, their design and/or manufacturing process, or even how you as the consumer are directly impacting their business. Trust and transparency go A LONG way!
U – Upcycle! If you can’t recycle, why not upcycle? I’ve taken old clothes and cut them up to use as wash rags or cloth napkins! We had to get Lilly a new bed over the summer because her bed broke and instead of just throwing out her old bed, John took it apart and used the boards for arches and lattices in our garden! The bed went from a sleeping bed to a garden bed! 😉 The more you can upcycle old things, the better.
V – Vote by the way you spend your money. We don’t just vote once or twice a year! We vote every single day by the way we choose to spend our money… so vote wisely with your dollars!
W – What’s in Your Wardrobe! Guess what? You can probably already shop what’s in your wardrobe! I use my Cladwell closet app every single day when I get dressed and it helps me shop my own closet and put together outfits that I might not have considered putting together.
X – Xenophile! (This is the *opposite* of a xenophobe) Be someone who loves to learn about other cultures, customs, languages, etc! I absolutely LOVE learning about other cultures and customs… and I definitely love to learn other languages. The more that we can learn about cultures and customs different from our own, the more we can have an appreciation for the amazing creation that God made! I also love supporting artisans from other countries and filling my home with beautiful things that tell a story of the people that made them and the places they came from.
Y – Your voice matters. Don’t stop at just shopping ethically! Use your voice to speak up! Sign petitions (Freedom United and Fashion Revolution often have petitions around ethical shopping, human trafficking, etc.), write letters or emails to brands, and share on social media! Your voice really does matter, so don’t for a second think that it doesn’t.
Z – Zealousness! Being zealous about your passion for ethical shopping can go a long way… when you are truly passionate about something, you will make big strides in making a difference. Don’t underestimate the power of a zealous attitude for making change happen!
So there you have it! The A-Zs of shopping ethically! Anything you’d add or change from the list? Anything you learned? Share in the comments!