As I mentioned in my initial posts on consumption, I’m as deep in the dirt as anyone else when it comes to the ethics of my current closet.
I own Uniqlo, Zara, Gap, Banana Republic, H&M, you name it. I’m an average consumer, but I’m ready to do the work of trying to change that. I feel as though I’m at a critical moment in my economic life. I still have so little money that I’m essentially in a kind of spending stasis.
If I can examine and internalise the core values behind ethical consumption before I’m gainfully employed and receiving a paycheque, then I can make a difference with my money. I can reject the exploitation of women and men in the global production of garments and other goods. I can help stop the use of pesticides on cottons and other fibres. I can reject another Monsanto monopoly on seeds (I’m still so disturbed by their impact on central American corn, y’all).
One of the core values of ethical consumptions is that it must drive the shift toward ethical production. If you demand it, someone will supply it. We need to reduce the crush of fast fashion and unethically produced goods (supply) by redirecting our money towards ethically made goods – those that do not harm people or the environment in their production (demand).
It’s simple enough, but balancing the rate of wear and tear of clothing like jeans with the cost of purchasing an ethically produced garment is a challenge. I’m quite hard on my pants, and I put holes in the thighs of no fewer than 4 pairs of jeans last year. Will I be able to buy ethically made denim?
Another core value is that we simply need to consume less. This is the one that I’ve got covered. We produce a colossal amount of donated clothing each year, which has destroyed local textile industries in the third-world nations that receive the donations. The clothing that isn’t re-sold (either at home or abroad) is often relegated to a landfill, and continues to poison the earth as it degrades very, very slowly.
I view the overconsumption of goods as both the most insidious driver of the unethical consumerism cycle, but also as one of the most easy points of intervention. If I simply want to stop demanding a 5 euro blazer or a 30 euro pair of jeans, I can do it right now. In fact, by sitting here and writing this post, I am already doing it, by virtue of doing something other than buying those kinds of products.
The first core belief that I addressed is currently the most difficult one for me, because it addresses what I do, as opposed to what I simply don’t do. That is, it’s easy to simply stop demanding any and all goods by virtue of being broke, but it’s difficult to ease back into accepting that fact that we’re forced to wear clothes, and we need to demand them from somewhere.
My only clothing purchases of 2017 so far were undergarments, but I only have one pair of jeans, and as it’s from Zara, I doubt it will make it to June. Unless I plan to rotate through my tights until they rip, I will be faced with the choice to consume ethically or unethically in the very near future, and I need to be ready when that day comes.
Considering I’m feeling just a bit like a doom prophet, my next post on this topic will focus on the practical strategies that I’ve distilled from my mother’s advice in order to make ethical consumption choices moving forward.