The impact of clothing
When you buy something new, you can know with certainty that it has made an impact on people and planet to get to you. To some extent, you get to decide what that impact is. Yet if you’ve been waiting for someone to tell you exactly what to buy that creates zero harm, you’re going to be waiting forever because there is no perfect answer.
I like to describe sustainability as a moving target. Our understanding of what is the “best” choice for creating a thriving world for all life is constantly evolving as we learn more. Maya Angelou sums it up best: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
In the absence of a perfect choice when shopping, what positive impact could you make if you started to focus your energy on doing just one thing “better”? And I’ve got a quick shortcut for you to figure out what that one thing might be.
First, you’ll need to decide what’s important to you. Let’s do this together. It might help if you’re in a quiet spot, but wherever you are, you’re going to want to pay attention to the first thing that pops into mind.
Ready? Here we go (and it’s a big question):
When you look at your life, what is one thing you’re most grateful for?
Go with your gut reaction.
Maybe you answered family, your health, education, travel, community or your pet. Maybe you’re grateful for clean air to breathe. Don’t judge whatever popped into mind. There’s no right or wrong answer.
Now, think about how that thing might translate to a practices and standards or attributes you can discern when shopping.
A few examples:
- Love to travel? Maybe you’ll feel connected to Fair Trade if you’ve visited other countries.
- If you thought of your family, maybe you might connect with ethical and transparent supply chains to ensure worker safety as you think of workers who are also brothers/sisters/daughters/sons/mothers/fathers.
- When health is wealth, perhaps Organic certifications feel important because they give workers and other communities the same opportunities for good health.
- For animal lovers/people whose pets come first, you might try shopping vegan.
- When your community is the most important, maybe shopping local is for you.
And the list goes on.
The next step
Here’s the challenge: What if you always tried to shop with that one value in mind? Does it feel like a doable or difficult challenge? How would you have to shop differently? How might the contents of your closet change?
I get that this might be harder than it sounds. And you might be thinking “what about all the other things?” Your goal is not to solve everything at once. If you try to shop from one value for a month, a season, or a year, you’ll start to notice how it feels to align your shopping values with the values you lead in your daily life. Once you’ve tackled one, you’ll likely be ready to keep going.
Don’t worry if your values change as time passes. We’re all learning, evolving and growing at our own paces, and as we know better, we can do better.
Rebecca Magee is a sustainability professional in the fashion industry, a writer and a passionate problem solver. Follow her on Twitter @ThisIWear.
Thanks so much for collaborating with us again Rebecca! Check out her other piece on The Role of Hands in the Clothing Industry and don’t forget to check the blog out for other pieces about ethical living, capsule wardrobes, and sustainable fashion.