6 Reasons I Refuse to Shop Ethically
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Yes, I love the earth. I’m about as hippie, tree-hugger as they come. And yes, I do care about others and the lives of those who make my clothing. But I’m still not going to practice ethical shopping. Allow me to break it down for you before you start sending me hate mail.
I simply don’t have time. Shopping for ethical and sustainable clothing (because who can choose just one) is massively time consuming. Since ethical clothing stores is a fairly new trend in the past few years, it isn’t incredibly easy to find. Which brings me to my second reason.
Ethical products and ethical shopping are kind offff a trend. It’s the newest, hottest bandwagon to jump on and helps otherwise unremarkable brands set themselves apart. Which loops us back to number one, because ethical shopping is such a trend right now, tons of retailers are touting their sustainable practices and ethical treatment. So that means if I want to shop ethically, I have to reallyyyyy spend a lot of time assessing each and every “ethical” brand to see if they meet my ethical preferences. Maybe I can stand non-vegan products but I won’t purchase non-organic fabrics. Or sustainable practices are most important to me, but this brand I’m looking at has an emphasis on ethical treatment. I don’t have the time to go through this every time I find a new place to shop.
Now you might be saying “well, just thrift shop!” Sure. I would If I had the time to rummage through disorganized racks every week to find new inventory and then wash it all several times to get the granny smell out. And what if I’m looking for a particular piece? Thrift stores aren’t exactly known for a vast inventory of items in multiple sizes. Not to mention that I, and the majority of people, don’t live near the best thrift stores. I’m not gonna find quality leather goods or discount designer pieces in my thrift store. More like six year old Aeropostale graphic tees and women’s suits with shoulder pads.
We talked about how being ethical and sustainable is pretty on trend at the moment, which means some big retailers are picking it up. I know of various “fast fashion” retailers (Old Navy, H&M, Adidas, Levi’s) that have made significant improvements and pledges to have better practices. I am personally comfortable with shopping at stores that are working on the issue, even if it isn’t fixed. And I am also comfortable shopping at stores that haven’t made any promises towards sustainability or ethics, because I still make an effort to check the quality of my clothing and usually strive to buy natural fabrics or natural blends.
Another reason I’m comfortable shopping at “fast fashion” brands, is the price. I refuse to spend money on a t-shirt at an ethical brand that is marked up simply because it is ethical. I can find really great quality craftsmanship and fabrics for low prices at plenty of places, and saying something is ethically and sustainably made is partially a reason to make the price higher. Oftentimes exorbitantly higher. I’m with Macklemore, $50 for a t-shirt?!
I’m not sacrificing my style. Hold on, I can feel people getting their panties in a twist after that sentence. But let’s think about style. Style is an extension of my identity, like it is for most people and particularly women. When I’m wearing something I don’t feel good in, I don’t feel great. My confidence is lower, I lose focus, and I just don’t feel like me. Sacrificing my style permanently would be detrimental to my confidence and self-worth in the long term. The problem is that most fair trade/ethical/sustainable brands cater to minimalists with a minimalist style, because that’s the demographic in which ethical shopping is most popular. But that is not my style AT ALL. And pretending to be someone you’re not day in and day out can get pretty tiring. It wears on your soul. This isn’t about vanity, it’s about being you.
So what can you do?
I get it. You’ve been forced to watch The True Cost on Netflix and now you’ve been indoctrinated. But documentaries are TV too, and TV means drama. Shopping ethically can kind of seem all or nothing. Like if you don’t ONLY thrift shop or ONLY purchase from vegan, gluten-free, fun-free retailers, then you have utterly failed. But that’s not true. Little contributions add up. If you are feeling compelled to try and make a difference for the earth and for the people that manufacture clothing, here are some things you can do:
Consider eating vegan or vegetarian meals
Check the labels when you shop and purchase natural fabrics (cotton, linen, wool, silk, etc)
Thrift shop if you enjoy it, not to replace your whole wardrobe
Be mindful of how much you buy
Try to buy clothing that isn’t going to wear out quickly
Buy clothing that works for multiple outfits
Try the One Week Wardrobe
I don’t mean to offend anyone with this post, but rather try to reach the majority of regular people like me who care about our earth and her people but aren’t environmental superheroes. I know when I first started researching ethical shopping I was overwhelmed and put off by how elitist it seemed. As if people felt they were superior because they could afford to buy crazy high priced sustainable clothing and spend time researching all this. Most of us don’t have that luxury, but we still care. This post is for the rest of us.