Just some random links and thoughts on sustainable style and ethical shopping this week…Let’s discuss!
The Value of Clothing
This is a good piece in the Guardian about the consequences of Mari Kondo-inspired de-cluttering: many of us are purging and donating clothes, but it turns out that in Britain at least, one-third of all clothing, donated or not, goes to landfill anyway. That means that on average, one out of three pieces we may donate gets thrown away, not used like we hoped it would be.
This high percentage (also in the US, incidentally) is partially because of the low quality of a lot of clothing nowadays – it can’t possibly be re-sold – but there is also over-saturation; we simply have to much stuff.
What’s the answer? For me, it’s buying less over time (and trying not to re-buy everything I purge), and valuing our clothing more: buy high quality, take care of what we have, don’t over-launder it, repair it over time, and wear it often.
Gloria sent me a link to this article on Lenny about being a socially responsible shopper – it’s a good concise piece with some resources for more sustainable, earth- and people-friendly shopping. And fun too. But speaking of Lena Dunham, I might be over her…and Girls. I just feel OLD when I watch now.
We Hate Ethical Shoppers
A couple weeks ago, I read some articles on a study about ethical shopping and wanted to write a whole post about it. Then a reader sent me a couple links with some good comments, and I started thinking about it again.
To summarize, the study finds that:
No one wants to knowingly buy products made with child labor or that harm the environment. But a new study shows that we also don’t want to work too hard to find out whether our favorite products were made ethically. And we really don’t like those good people who make the effort to seek out ethically made goods when we choose not to.
Before even reading more about the study, I thought, well, yeah, sure, it’s guilt and jealousy that makes the consumers who chose to remain ignorant on ethical issues judge those who try not to ignore those issues more harshly. I know this because I feel/have felt the same way about things I know I should care about/do differently, but don’t for various reasons. If I don’t, I can definitely react “negatively” to people who do because I feel guilty that I was not principled enough, and jealous that the other person made the effort that I should have also.
And of course one of the study author’s herself says
“Willfully ignorant consumers put ethical shoppers down because of the threat they feel for not having done the right thing themselves,” Reczek said. “They feel bad and striking back at the ethical consumers makes themselves feel better.”
On the other hand, though, many ethical shoppers and consumers (and writers) CAN be quite holier than thou and denigrating of people who choose not to consider ethical issues when buying clothes. Like vegans, LOL (I can say that because I have been a vegan…but I’m mostly joking). Yes, some vegans and ethical shoppers are snobby and judgmental to a certain extent, but again, I think most of it is just perception, and our own feelings of guilt.
Another interesting point the study brought up is that many shoppers are not willing or able to do the work necessary to find out how an item is produced, where, and if, as the study uses as an example, it was produced with child-labor. I cannot grasp that myself, because I always want to know as much as I can about everything, and am constantly seeking out information, but I do know people who aren’t like that. Probably most people aren’t. They don’t know where to begin, and get overwhelmed, or many are simply just ignorant of the issues.
Ultimately, the study raises more questions than it answers, but it’s interesting to think about the questions. How do we get people to care? How do we make the information more readily available? At what point does a shift occur? When prices come down?
This video by Fusion Network made the rounds on Facebook recently, partially because of the cute butt at the end. But it’s also a not-so-well-known look at organic cotton vs conventional cotton: farmer suicides in India. The True Cost movie also touched on this issue, but GMO-modified seeds aren’t usually one of the factors we think about when choosing organic cotton, it’s pesticide use, and health risks from residue getting in the water table.
Anyway, it’s worth a look, but then, please also read this contrarian piece that debunks the “myth” of the GMO/farmer suicide link because there are ALWAYS multiple sides to every story. Of course, I think that’s a rather moot point, because choosing organic cotton is always a better idea, but doing so isn’t going to miraculously decrease the number of farmer suicides in India – we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will.
Ah, denim, the bane of my existence. As if finding a great fitting pair wasn’t hard enough, it also turns out
Synthetic indigo dyes derived from coal tar and toxic chemicals are slow to decompose and are used in most jeans
Also, and I knew this already, denim uses a TON of water to produce, distressed denim even more. Some brands make an effort to use less water, and some use organic cotton, but they are few and far between (Eileen Fisher uses organic cotton in her jeans, but I’ve yet to find a pair I’d buy). I’m going to make more of an effort to find and review more inherently sustainable denim, but I do still believe we can do better now by buying fewer pairs of jeans, and only what we “need.”
It’s a tough issue, because I don’t have high hopes for a lot of denim brands on me, I’m rather picky about fit. And if jeans don’t fit well, I won’t wear them, which would quickly take a “sustainable” pair to un-sustainable. More on this over time…
*Actually, I went denim shopping yesterday and tried on some Eileen Fisher. Will report on that next week!