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4 Tips To Shop Sustainably

by Annabel Stewart

When I started my swimwear brand, AquaJelly, it was important to me that we had an ethical supply chain and reduced our impact on the environment. I made the choice to produce swimwear in a manner that was better for the environment and my conscience. This meant paying higher production costs for a quality product, handmade by manufacturers operating under Australian regulations. It was important that I could visit the factory whenever I wanted and could see with my own eyes that workers were safe and looked after. I reduced shipping in the design, sampling and manufacture process by using local suppliers wherever possible. My fabrics were printed in the least environmentally-harmful way available to me and I chose to only use compostable and recyclable packaging materials that contained no plastic.

All of the above meant not going for the easy or cheap option. It meant sacrificing profit to bring ethically-made, competitively-priced products to market. Unfortunately for consumers, not all brands do the same. All brands are at different stages in their sustainability journey and it’s your job as the consumer to determine whether you're comfortable purchasing from them. 

I’ve put together a few thoughts for the ‘conscious shopper’ to help us all to be more informed and mindful as consumers.

1. Understand the brand’s sustainability practices

Before you make a purchase, take the time to understand the brand’s sustainability practices. Many companies will have their sustainability story or environmental impact listed on their website. Even if they have not yet undertaken the compliance processes required to become a certified B Corp, you should be able to find out what they are doing to act in an ethical, sustainable way. Check this out before you make a purchase.

2. Ask questions to decide what is important to you

  •   Does the brand use eco-friendly fibres and printing practices?
  •   Are the garments made from quality materials that are meant to last?
  •   What are the working conditions of those making the garments?
  •   Does the production process involve practices to reduce waste, consume less water and emit less Co2?
  •   Is the packaging compostable and/or recyclable?

3. Choose quality over quantity

Look for products that are built to last. Ensure the brand is using quality fabrics and components. This might be hard to pick, but usually the brand will have listed some features about the fabric they use. For example, I use an Italian lycra for my swimwear which has better qualities than your standard. It’s quick drying, UPF 50+, buttery soft, chlorine resistant, and also resists fabric breakdown more than five times longer than your average chlorine-resistant lycra.

If you go for a brand that claims to use recycled fabric, ask yourself how this has been verified? What percentage of the fabric is actually sourced from post-consumer recycled material? What was the process involved in recycling this material? I found it difficult to verify post-consumer recycled fabrics which met the quality standards I was looking for. 

You can also choose more versatile pieces that have multiple ways to wear them. Choosing quality over quantity will save you money in the long run and ensure that more fashion products don’t end up in landfill.

4. Take care of your clothes

This might sound like a simple one, but take care of what you have! You’ve spent a lot of time finding those perfect must-have pieces to purchase so make the most of them. Try to keep your items organised so you can see what you have before buying more, and keep track of what you don’t wear.

Make sure you read the care labels of your items. This will help you to look after and care for your things for longer. For example, when it comes to swimwear, it makes a huge difference if you rinse the garment and all metal components in fresh water after use.