How to Become a More Ethical and Conscious Consumer

When we shop, our purchases affect the planet, something we rarely think about. We would all love to see changes in the manufacture of goods, but we can make a difference as consumers as well. Thankfully there are more eco-friendly shopping options available today than ever before. Follow these helpful tips to help bring about a change in mindset and energize your own ethical practices.

Reference the ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’

If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’re not familiar, it takes a look at the structure of needs that influence our choices and behaviors. A few years ago, Sarah Lazarovic, a Canadian illustrator, created a newly imagined hierarchy of buying behavior. The ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’ looks at buying as the last level after all other areas have been tried. It’s a great way to look at the choices we make when it comes to buying and focus on going up the pyramid in how items are obtained that we need or want.

Here are a few of the main ideas gathered from the ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’

  • Shop your own wardrobe. You might be pleasantly surprised to re-discover some much loved pieces hiding in the back of your closet.
  • Stop treating your clothing as disposable. Learn to take care of what you have so you can love your pieces for years to come.
  • Only buy something new when you have to replace something that can no longer be worn or to fill a gap in your wardrobe. (Check out my article on Do You Need to Buy New and how to shop secondhand)
  • Invest in quality pieces and items that you’ll wear frequently or for a long time.

Shop and sell to secondhand stores

As consumers, we often don’t think about the impact that the clothes we wear has on our planet. Did you know that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of blue jeans? Rather than throwing out clothing after a few uses, donate or sell them to a secondhand store. This will ensure that your clothes go to a new home for many years to come. While it may not seem like you’re making a big impact, take a minute to think about where your clothes actually go when you throw them out; landfills. When things get thrown out by hundreds of people, at around the same time, it creates an exponential amount of waste. However, when people use clothes to their full extent, it can take up to a decade before they touch a landfill.

On top of donating or selling your used clothing to secondhand stores, consider shopping secondhand as well. This is one of the best ways to deal with textile waste as it creates a recycling community. Not to mention, you can save a ton of money on brand name items and even score one-of-a-kind pieces! Many thrift stores are now offering their clothing selections online, making it easier to shop your favorite styles. Online thrift stores, like thredUP, offer clothing from your favorite brands at a fraction of the price you’d spend at department stores. They even have a wide selection of hard-to-find items, including their collection of affordable Lularoe items.

Look for ethical fashion certifications

When shopping for clothes, check the labels for ethical fashion certifications. These certifications ensure that the clothing has been made under fair and safe working conditions. While there are hundreds of ethical fashion certifications, here are a few of the basics to be on the lookout for during your next shopping trip. You can read more about other ethical fashion certifications here.

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) – This certification is known worldwide as a textile processing standard. In order to gain this certification, a brand is assessed for the fair harvesting of their raw materials as well as their social responsibility, environmental impact, and water and energy use. Additionally, GOTS identifies that a product is at least 75% organic.
  • Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) – This is a non-profit organization that accredits facilities when they practice safe, responsible, humane, lawful and ethical manufacturing processes. On top of their accreditation, they also focus on training and education.
  • Fairtrade – This certification is the promise of fair trading terms, sustainable production practices, and the promotion of economic security. Additionally, Fairtrade advocates for fair pay and working conditions and the just management of people in farming and factory environments. Not only will you see this mark on many food items, it’s also used to certify and regulate the cotton industry.

Celebrate small changes

You may experience a sort of consumer paralysis as you begin to learn more about the changes that you should make in your lifestyle and shopping choices. You may even start to think that there’s too much that needs to be done and that you’ll never be able to manage it all. This is why it’s important to reinforce and encourage the small ethical changes that you do make. Be delighted in wearing your secondhand clothing, you thrifty eco-conscious person, you. Smile as you buy local. Celebrate when you drop off your gently used clothing to a local thrift store. Pat your self on the back every time you participate in eco-friendly shopping. Big or small, the changes you make can have a significant impact on our planet.

What are you doing to be more eco-conscious in your buying?

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Buyerarchy of Needs graphic found here

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