What kind of consumer are you? This is a question I have asked myself and something I try to be conscious of. In this time of fast-fashion and mass chain stores selling clothing at cheap prices it's easy to get swept up in trends and not think about how our involvement in consumerism matters in the big picture. However we have the ability to make small choices that can make a positive impact on the world we live in, and your closet is one place to start.
Here are a few ways I am trying to be a better consumer:
- GIVE unwanted items away.
Whenever I purchase new items I try to give away the same amount of items to my younger sisters, friends, or sell or trade them at a second hand store. That way I can keep roughly the same amount of clothes in my closet at all times to keep things minimal and organized (and not over consume). At resale shops you can either choose cash giving your clothes or store credit worth more. In Toronto I like Common Sort, in Santa Monica I like The Closet Trading Co.
- If you are shopping at chain stores do some research to find out if the garments are ethically and sustainably made. Try your best to avoid stores that aren't.
I can't say I don't love a cute cheap top from Zara, and my wardrobe isn't perfectly eco-friendly, but I think it's important to have a conscious awareness of it and do your best. As I'm sure you are aware the garments of most chain stores are made in factories in China and 3rd world countries where the employees (generally speaking) do not have fair working conditions, then they are shipped to wholesale companies, then they sell to the giant retail stores. The garments are usually made with processes and materials that are harmful to the environment and then even if they are super cute they fall apart after a few washes and are thrown away, and thus the cycle of consumerism continues.
- Shop with local & ethical brands, shop consignment, and remember quality over quantity.
If you can, seek out local designers, ethical/sustainable brands and/or buy second hand to reuse and recycle. Sometimes local brands can be more expensive however the quality lasts longer so I look at it as investing in a piece I will have for many years to come. And on that note I try to avoid overly trendy pieces (or save trends for accessories or a couple trendy items) and aim to build a wardrobe that is timeless and that can one day be passed down to my grandchildren like my grandmother did for me.
Just having an awareness, and asking questions is a good place to start. Beyond your closet...in the rest of your home as well as what you consume on a daily basis (like where you eat out - the kind of packaging they use - plastic bags at the grocery store vs bringing your own re-usable ones) are obviously just as important. Some good questions to ask are - Where was this made? How was it made? Who made it? What is it made of? Is it recyclable? How long will it last? At first this may seem like an annoying extra thing to think about, but when you consider that each little choice you make can have a positive impact on our home - planet earth - you can get a little rewarding sense of positivity every time.