About a year ago I wasn't a conscious consumer. I visited fast fashion stores weekly and didn’t pay much attention to what I heard about the industry being unethical and bad for the environment. I really don’t know what happened, but one day I started to research and what I found was so shocking, that I changed my behavior almost overnight. I was wondering why people didn’t talk more about this, and how I could become a more eco-friendly and ethical consumer. I felt like doing something, and my blog et grønt hjerte (a green heart) was born, to collect and share the information that I found, and hoped that other people would follow and get inspired.
The third most polluting industry
So why is this so important? The clothing industry is the third most polluting industry in the world, and the second largest consumer of water (reformation). In addition to this, it uses around 20 billion pounds of chemicals every year. Many of these chemicals are damaging and toxic to the environment, for our own health and for the workers that make the clothes. To give an example, you need 18 bathtubs of water to make one single cotton t-shirt, and in addition to that, you have the very damaging chemicals added in the process (reformation). Did you know that you can find traces of the chemicals in the fibers when the t-shirt has reached your local store? And that regular cotton, which is considered a natural material, is one of the materials that use the most chemicals? (onegreenplanet).
"(...) you need 18 bathtubs of water to make one single cotton t-shirt (...)".
Luckily, when I started my research, it turned out that there is quite a lot you can do to become a more conscious consumer! I found that the common excuse we so often tell our self "I’m only one person, what difference can I do?" is not at all true. There are already many ethical and eco-friendly labels out there. These brands choose more environmentally friendly materials and don’t use harmful chemicals. These materials can be organic cotton, bamboo, tencel, and hemp.
"My favorite brand that uses up-cycled materials is the Danish brand Sissel Edelbo, that redesigns vintage saris that are pre-loved and used by Indian women".
Recycled materials like polyester and wool can also be good eco-friendly options, as well as up-cycled materials that are being redesigned to make new beautiful clothes. My favorite brand that uses up-cycled materials is the Danish brand Sissel Edelbo, that redesigns vintage saris that are pre-loved and used by Indian women. How cool is that?! We need more brands like this!
Great material choices
- Organic cotton
- Recycled polyester
Not to forget that we should look for fair-trade brands. If you have not yet seen the documentary "The True Cost", I highly recommend it! It’s an eye-opener about how workers in the fashion industry are being treated, working under horrible conditions and not getting paid enough to provide for a good life for themselves and their families. Therefore I think we should use the power we have as consumers to support the brands that are eco-friendly and fair-trade. Together we can show the fast fashion industry that we want change now, and that we wish for better and more ethical practices for the people that make our clothes. Use the hashtag #whomademyclothes and join the fashion revolution.
Why we need to go from fast to slow fashion
The term slow fashion is getting more attention and it’s a concept where timeless pieces come before trend items and quality comes before quantity. The change to slow fashion means that the insanely many seasons that is seen in the fast fashion industry is being ditched, and that’s really awesome in my opinion. Did you know that some fast fashion labels have 24 seasons during a year? That’s insane! This means that there is a new season every 2 weeks and that they want you to buy the items right away. What this also means it that the items you buy then, will be out of fashion within the next 2 weeks! In other words, the item will then be "useless" and there is now a new trend that they want you to follow.
"I think we all, including myself, could get better at respecting the materials and the labor that has gone into making the pieces of clothing we own".
I think we all, including myself, could get better at respecting the materials and the labor that has gone into making the pieces of clothing we own. To me, it seems like we often don’t really want what we end up buying, and that we just buy it for reasons like "it was on sale" or "it was a bargain", and not because "it was the right shape for me" or "this fits my wardrobe perfectly". Then what happens is that we too often just throw it away, without giving much thought to it, when we have only just used it a couple of times. Even though some of it goes to charity, much of it still ends up at the landfill, and sometimes the items will still have the price tag on them. What a waste of resources!
My best advice
I recommend checking out the concept of making a capsule wardrobe, which helped me change my perspective on what clothes I actually need for one season. It’s also a really good help to get to know your own style, what items you actually use weekly and how to stop the impulse buying. After becoming more conscious about my own actions when shopping for clothes.
"I have also really fallen in love with secondhand and vintage shopping, and now I always try to look in thrift shops to find what I need, before I consider buying something new".
I have also really fallen in love with secondhand and vintage shopping, and now I always try to look in thrift shops to find what I need, before I consider buying something new. It’s like going on a treasure hunt every time because you never know what you are going to find. It’s really exciting! Apps for selling and buying secondhand clothes are also a good option, and repairing old clothes is something I try to consider doing more. If you don't have the skills to do it yourself, ask a friend or take the clothes to a tailor. In my experience, it often ends up costing less than buying something similar new. You also get the added bonus of it getting customized to you, plus you’re supporting a local sewer, their skills and business, it’s win-win.
So next time you want to buy something, start by asking yourself some questions:
- Do I know of any thrift shops where I could find what I need?
- Would I wear this item 30 times or more?
- Can I wear this with multiple items from my wardrobe?
- And if it’s a new item, is it fair-trade?
- What materials are used?
- Do I think that I would still be using this in a year?
Asking questions is a part of becoming more aware and starting the process to become a more conscious consumer. It’s actually not that hard when you get into it, and I think we owe it to the workers and the environment to at least try. Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.Follow a green heart on Instagram, Facebook and visit her magazine for lots of inspiring eco-reading.