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How To Become A Conscious Shopper

by Laura Lindholm and Micaela Ferreiro

It's an exciting time for the fashion industry, both for consumers and brands. From plant leather to recycled fibres and compostable packaging, innovations are popping up across the industry, with responsibility and sustainability acting as two of the main drivers. 

As hopeful as the situation might seem, further actions are needed to reverse the fashion industry's adverse effects on our green and blue planet. According to the World Economic Forum, fashion production makes up 10% of humanity's current carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Along with the drying up of our water resources, the industry also contributes to the pollution of rivers and streams, often through chemical waste and microplastics. 

With these issues on the table, it's natural that shoppers want to take action by changing their consumption decisions, but with so much information out there, it can be challenging to know where and how to start. 

To help this issue, we've curated a list of things to look out for when trying to make conscious shopping decisions. And for any founder/business owner/brand manager reading this, we hope these tips can inspire you to expand your business approach towards one that is more centred on sustainability. Enjoy!

What is circularity?

One of the most important levers that the fashion industry can pull to reduce its environmental impact is closed-loop recycling. This is the process by which a product is used, recycled, and then made into a new product, which saves each piece from ending in a landfill after its former user decides to part from it. 

This cycle's two main goals are to limit the extractive production of virgin raw materials and decrease textile waste. For this reason, companies should be encouraged to embed this thinking into the design phase of product development.

How can consumers get involved and help to promote circularity further? 

A great way to start is simply by taking better care of the clothes that are already owned along with mending those pieces that can be fixed to prolong their lives. Washing clothes with gentler soaps and using more delicate washing cycles (when possible) is a great place to start. 

Re-selling and donating those clothes that are still in good condition is another way to provide them with a second life. For those pieces that have become worn out, asking brands if they have any recycling policies in place could be an option. At home, transforming cotton t-shirts into cleaning rags is a quick and easy way to reimagine old clothes. 

Lastly, buying second hand and renting are great ways to contribute to the circular economy and can help to save money (as they are usually cheaper alternatives to buying new clothes). 

How to reduce water consumption

The fashion industry is a massive consumer of water globally. Did you know that an estimated 20,000 litres of water is needed just to produce a t-shirt and pair of jeans? Given that billions of people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year, fashion brands and textile manufacturers play a significant role in contributing to water scarcity throughout the supply chain. 

For all the conscious consumers out there, a quick search before purchasing from a certain brand is always a good idea. Many companies now disclose their water and energy use on their websites, alongside information related to production methods and factory locations. Besides, when deciding which materials to go for, it’s a good idea to research the production details to see which alternatives align with your preferences. 

Choose safe working conditions  

Want to know where and how your garments were made? Pay attention to whether brands disclose details on where production takes place. Are they hiring a third party? 

As a leader in the global movement to make trade fair, Fairtrade supports and challenges businesses and governments while connecting farmers and workers with the people who buy their products. The Fairtrade certification allows consumers to determine whether the brands they shop from hold some of the necessary environmental, production and trade standards. You can also search the Fair Trade Organisation website to see which companies are aligned with their principles. 

Remember: becoming a more mindful and conscious stakeholder of the fashion industry is a choice we can make and start exercising today, and it's never too late to start!