Friday 27 November 2020

5 Ways You Can Support Ethical Fashion Without Spending a Penny

Whenever discussions around sustainable and ethical consumption happen, they inevitably come around to the topic of inaccessibility and the costs this can take. Products which are sustainable and ethical should naturally cost more than products which are unethical (for example with the simple act of paying workers a living wage), but at the same time, this often means excluding a significant number of people from being able to buy these products. I talk more about privilege and sustainability in my post We Need to Talk About Privilege and Sustainable Fashion, but I want to emphasise the fact that we need to fight for wage increases globally, and to avoid placing blame on consumers who don’t have the privilege to be able to shop sustainably and ethically, and instead focus that blame where it belongs: on the billionaire brand owners. It can still be frustrating when feel like you can’t take action on a cause you care about for whatever reason, so here are some ways you can support ethical and sustainable fashion without spending a penny!*

*It is important to note that while these actions don't require immediate payment, most do require Internet access. 

1. Contact fast fashion brands and ask them for change

Tell fast fashion companies that you disagree with their actions. Tell them you want to know more about their supply changes, who makes you clothes and how much they’re paid. Ask them about the materials they use, the chemicals, safety procedures and recycling policies. 

That sounds scary. I know, I’m sorry. It’s daunting. But you don’t have to email them if you don’t want to, and instead start contacting them on social media. Tag them in Instagram stories highlighting their policies, tweet them (for example during promos such as #PrettyPleasePLT) and comment on their posts (if the comments haven’t been turned off). Contacting brands on social media is a very quick and easy way of getting to brands directly, so if you’re limited on time, this could be the way to increase your impact.

Oh So Ethical compiled a list of contact details of companies who have not paid for cancelled orders after the impact of coronavirus and lockdown, with links and templates to tweet and email them. This can be accessed here. If you do want to email brands, I would encourage you to do so. You may not get the best replies (if any), but it fills inboxes with these pressing issues. 

Do be respectful and mindful of how you speak to them though. They may just be a logo, a face of a corporation, on your screen, but there is at least one real life person behind that screen, and it’s not the social media manager who is exploiting garment workers and they should not receive abuse simply because they’re dependent on the same billionaire who does exploit garment workers.  

2. Sign petitions

Petitions are everywhere, and some argue that they do nothing, but I disagree. They show governments, organisations and companies that you care and want your voice to be heard. The #PayUp petition by Remake Our World calling for companies to pay up after refusing to pay for orders that had already been made following coronavirus disruptions, has had huge successes. At the time of writing, it is estimated that the #PayUp campaign has unlocked $1 billion for suppliers in Bangladesh and $22 billion globally, with 19 brands committing to pay for canceled orders.  

As well as the #PayUp petition, there are lots more you can sign and it takes less than a minute to sign them. Several fashion related petitions have been compiled by Oh So Ethical and International Labor Rights Forum, which you can access here and here

3. Unfollow fast fashion brands on social media

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re one of the 3.8 billion people using social media worldwide. Even though you’re in a pool with literally half the world, each one of those active social media accounts has an impact and has even a little bit of power. You can use this power and stop giving fast fashion companies your public approval by unfollowing them on all social media platforms. At the time of writing, H&M has 35.6 million Instagram followers, with Topshop following up at 10.3 million, Primark at 8.4 million and Boohoo at 6.6 million. Yes, your unfollow would only be a small dent, but imagine if everyone who thinks workers should be paid a living wage and want to reduce their impact on the environment unfollowed fast fashion accounts? That would probably be a hell of a lot of people. 

There are also other benefits of unfollowing fast fashion on social media. By unfollowing, you’re no longer being bombarded with advertising of clothes you probably don’t need, likely don’t even like, and that you’ll probably forget about as you scroll further down your feed. Unfollowing with help you unpick the consumerist mindset we have all been conditioned in and help you fight the urge to buy new clothes just for the sake of it. 

4. Research where you can!

Do what you can to learn about the fashion industry, and the many different issues which crop up within it. With increased knowledge, you are better equipped to campaign and tackle any issue. This is one that will take up lots of time, but that’s okay! Do whatever you can to learn something new about the industry, even if it’s reading one article a week. If you don’t have much time, I’d recommend using podcast as tool for research. You can listen to them while commuting, doing house work, cooking, and any other activity you do about your day. Some of my favourites are The Yikes Podcast by Mikaela Loach and Jo Baker and Remember Who Made Them.

If you’re wondering where to start, I have a resource document called Fast Fashion 101: Stay Informed and Take Action, which has resources on everything fast fashion, including articles on Rana Plaza, greenwashing, #PayUp, working conditions, colonialism and more! 

5. Keep wearing the clothes you already own

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the most sustainable way of consuming clothes is to continue to wear, love, and take care of the clothes you already own. Take pride in rewearing outfits, mix things up with different combos and make sure you know how best to look after all of your clothes (i.e. make sure you’re not tumble drying items which really shouldn’t be tumble dried, and be extra careful with any fabrics which may be quite delicate).

Do you know any other ways to support ethical and sustainable fashion without spending any money?

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