Earth Day is April 22 and many people will go out to plant a tree, pick up litter, or simply remember to turn off lights when they're not in use. I encourage you to also celebrate Earth Day by shopping differently, by shopping earth friendly that is.
By re-allocating your fashion budget to companies that protect the environment, you can buy well in every sense of the term but where should you start?
Here is my advice and recommendations for saving the world through shopping along with some very practical and easy tips about shopping ethically.
Shop Second Hand Stores:
Before you dismiss the idea, there are several reasons why this is one of the easiest way to buy more ethically.
When you buy second hand, you are not participating in the purchase of NEW items. You should know that the fashion industry is one of the worst industries in terms of water waste, pollution, soil contamination and overall energy consumption. For example, it takes about 80 liters of water to make a single pair of denim jeans. Also, when you buy second hand you help keep clothes out of the landfill. As for finding formal suits and dresses appropriate for business, you can get some surprisingly amazing finds if you know where to go.
My recommendation: do a bit of research to find the best and chicest second hand store close by or you can also choose to do this from your home. For example, vinted, thredup, styleforum and grailed are all websites that allow you to shop second hand from your couch.
Invest in High Quality Items:
It seems that nowadays, it's ok to buy a shirt or a bracelet at Express you will wear only for the duration of the summer and toss in the trash by October. Crappy designs, badly cut and sewed shirts, tees and pants are now the norm. The average American buys on average 68 items of clothing/year and we sure can't store all those items on top of what we already have, so they end up in the trash after a few uses.
Fashion stylists will tell you that cheap clothes look... well, cheap. It is far more efficient, more chic and way more economical to buy fewer clothes, shoes and jewelry and buy really high quality, well-tailored and well-made items and it does not have to break the bank, especially in the e-commerce age.
My recommendation: J.Hilburn is a great solution for customizable, beautifully crafted and tailored men's clothes and suits using the best Italian fabrics at a very reasonable price. For Women I recommend a similar solution in Numari.
Look for Transparency:
Companies that are transparent on how their clothes are made are likely to be some of the best bets for eco-friendly fashion. My pick? Patagonia. They are very public about the way their gear is made, how they source their material, where they come from, etc. They are so environmentally conscious and responsible that they even asked their customers to only buy the gear they need and not more.
Recently, the company has decided to offer repairs on their apparel so that their customers can keep the gear they love instead of replacing it. Now that's responsible, smart and creates loyalty among their customer base.
My advice: I am not saying you should but If you are going to buy from a fast fashion label, make it from H&M. They are actually trying to do things a bit better by offering more information about their supply chain, by creating a recycling program of their own garments, releasing an eco-friendly collection and finally the company is now closely monitoring their suppliers and contractors. It's far from ideal but it's better than Zara or almost anybody else for that matter.
Cotton is a fragile plant that requires specific climate conditions to grow correctly. It requires an enormous amount of water from irrigation and is one of the most pesticide-sprayed crop in the world, contaminating the soil it grows in as well as your skin once you wear the garment. So, even if organically grown cotton is part of the solution, it's ever increasing popularity is partly due to the greenwashing of the material our clothes are made of.
My advice: Instead, get clothes from alternative fibers such as silk, wool, alpaca, bamboo and where I think the future lies: hemp. Compared to cotton, hemp uses very little pesticide and water, is extremely strong and grows very quickly. A few major brands have even started to bet on the fiber and are entering the market strong.
Buy Fair Trade:
Lastly, hands down, the best way to buy ethically is to buy fair trade. Fair trade is a trading system that allows customers to know that the product they are buying was made ethically. What that means exactly is that products were made respecting the environment and respecting the people that made it. It's especially popular with consumables like coffee, chocolate and bananas but it is rapidly expanding to other industries like the fashion industry. The importance of the fair trade label in the fashion industry is quickly rising and companies like Prana, Mata Traders, Pact or Indigenous are gaining traction among customers.
When I came across the fair trade system, it was a revelation. I could get high quality products at a decent price with a real commitment to improving the world. The existence of fair trade is partly what pushed me towards entrepreneurship and to co-found a fair trade fashion company of my own.