Sometimes we have to buy things, which is not the same as being a consumer. Here are good shopping habits, and ethical retailers.
- Conscious shopping is, first and foremost, NOT shopping. It’s not a way of greenwashing a shopping addiction.
- Don’t buy what you don’t need, or at least make it a rare and special occasion rather than a regular indulgence. The system may be constantly telling you that buying stuff is good and essential and deserved, but you don’t need to listen.
- Don’t buy cheaply-made things thinking you’ll wear them out and replace them. Think carefully, save up if necessary, and buy something that will last a lifetime if properly taken care of — see BuyMeOnce for more on this. (This is not necessarily costly. After a succession of plastic lemon presses that were either left behind or broken, I bought one in glass. It only cost £3, but it’s an item for life.)
- Always think of who or what your money is financing. The future is shaped by where it goes.
- Prioritize ethical retailers that have been thoroughly vetted (and don’t fall for big brands that wrap their industry in ethical language; talk is cheap, and meanwhile overproduction and exploitation continue.) Specialized ones are listed below under their respective area, while online shops with a wide range of products are listed on the Suppliers page.
- Independent makers and small local businesses need your custom more than high-street shops or big franchises, and are by nature less harmful and wasteful. If you notice something they can improve (for instance avoiding plastic packaging), you can actually talk to them human to human.
Charity shops are a great place to shop for clothes. You’re preventing perfectly good clothes from going to waste while not creating demand for new production, and your money goes straight where it’s needed. It’s also really rather fun.
There is also a rise in the number of ethical clothing makers around the world:
- People Tree make lovely clothing that are both fair trade and organic, with very good credentials on both accounts; they pride themselves on being Slow Fashion. “We make beautiful garments that are a living blueprint for our values: people and the planet are central to everything we do. Our garments are made with organic cotton and sustainable materials, using traditional skills that support rural communities.” They even ship the clothes by sea as much as possible rather than air, and weave the fqabric by hand. The clothes are sent in a paper envelope with only a recyclable polythene bag inside.
- Skunk funk use organic fibres (linen, tencel, ramie, organic cotton), polyester recycled from plastic bottles, and recycled leather; they aim to be completely zero waste in the next few years. “Rather than doing an eco-line, we apply this principle across all our operations, from fibers to wet processes, from packaging to transport, and also in the interaction with the consumer.” It would be too long to list all their good practices here, so see instead their Global Approach to Sustainability report. Based in Basque country, they are in many stores around the world and also sell online.
- Zand Amsterdam makes women’s skirts with reversible designs, detachable elements and adjustable sizes (e.g. for pregnancy or fluctuating weight), minimizing the number of clothing one needs to buy. They are Fairly Made in India, but environmental practices are not mentioned.
- Moshiki‘s clothes are handmade in Fair partnership with artisans, with “a strong emphasis on natural, pollution-free materials”
- Netherton Foundry: Pots and pans that are handmade in Britain by craftsmen, from locally sourced materials; anti-waste, chemical-free, easy to re-season at home, and a host of other enticing reasons to invest in them once your current pans die, as industrially-made ones inevitably do. Free delivery in the UK, in recyclable packaging. “In our own small way, we are committed to reducing our impact on this fragile planet by building products that will last, from materials we trust.”
- Myriad carries kitchenware and cleaning hardware in natural materials.
For thoughts, ideas and recommendations, read this post dedicated to Gift-giving.
- Sac à Main en Liège (Fr) makes cruelty-free, vegan items out of cork: handbags, golf bags, umbrellas, belts, hats, bracelets, wallets… Cork is light, waterproof, soundproof, thermal and, above all, recyclable and biodegradable. The items are handmade in Portugal, incredibly resilient, and soft to the touch. Contact them for international shipping.
- Before buying shoes, here is some great advice on how to select shoes that will be as durable as possible.
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