Fashion + Sustainability

Conscious consumption: the cure for our mindless approach to fashion

Mindless consumption is the biggest problem for the sustainable and ethical fashion movement. And whilst this movement has made great advances the statistics still look worrying. The Global Fashion Agenda has predicted that by 2030 global apparel consumption will rise by 63%. This is shocking given our climate crisis. But there is still time to change this, and it’s easier than you think.

What is mindless consumption?

Put simply, mindless consumption is when you buy something without thought. In the past decade this type of damaging consumption has increased drastically due to fast fashion. Clothing has been produced at much quicker and cheaper rates making it easy to put a cheap item of clothing in your basket without thinking about whether you actually need, like or will use that item. I am guilty of mindless consumption myself. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of a good deal or sale item. But I’ve found that on reflection way too many of my clothing items were something that I definitely didn’t need.

Why we need to reduce mindless consumption

We’re all buying more clothes at such a fast rate but why does this matter? It’s over the past couple of years that the damage mindless consumption has had has really been revealed by mainstream media. When you pick up that £3 t-shirt you might not think your actions are really affecting anything or anyone else but the truth might surprise you. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world and fast fashion is quickly doing irreversible damage to the planet.

But it’s not just about the environment, it’s also about people. Mindless consumption also occurs when we purchase an item without considering how it was made and how that affects someone else. Fast fashion abuses workers. They are paid low wages, work in unsafe conditions and for unsafe amounts of time so that production is cheaper. A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labour in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam and other countries.

How we can consume more consciously

Most of us are guilty of mindless consumption and changing these bad habits can seem daunting and difficult. What do I need to change? How can I do it? How do I know what’s good or bad? But there are really easy ways we can make our world a better place by consuming consciously.

Firstly just being aware of the affect our choices have makes us more conscious consumers. I still make mistakes, but now I think about what I’m supporting, or the environmental impact it’s production had when I pick up that £3 t-shirt. Just this moment of thought has been enough to make me put down so many items that I would have bought not long ago.

Buying from conscious brands

Sustainable and ethical fashion brands have become more common. Instead of shopping with fast fashion brands we can switch to the brands doing their bit for the planet. Some great examples of these include People Tree , Veja and Stella McCartney. By properly researching a brand and product before buying, and thinking of clothing as more of an investment we are making more educated and better decisions. It can be difficult to distinguish between which brands are sustainable and ethical but a simple way to do this is to check the label. This can tell you so much about the production of an item to help you with your less mindless decision.

Second-hand shopping

Whilst it’s becoming easier to find conscious brands the main difficulty I have with them is the cost. Now I completely understand why the cost is higher. Sustainable materials are more expensive to produce and if we wan’t our clothes made ethically then workers need to be paid more and work in better conditions. This all drives up the cost of the product. If you can afford this way of consuming that’s great, but for many that’s just not a possibility. But that doesn’t mean shopping consciously is impossible.

A great way to do this on a budget is to buy second hand. This is something I’ve done since I was very young, mainly because it was affordable. I’ve been really glad to see that the sustainable fashion movement has made second hand fashion trendy. I would have been embarrassed to tell someone my clothes were from a charity shop in high school, but now I can’t wait to tell someone that I found something I’m wearing from a charity shop. Charity shopping prevents clothing from going to landfill and gives back to amazing causes. There’s also loads of other ways to shop second hand from car-boot sales to online sites like Depop and ThreadUp.

Cutting down on purchases

Sometimes taking a more conscious approach doesn’t have to cost anything at all. One of the best ways to reduce mindless consumption is to stop consuming. This can be one of the trickiest habits to break but all it takes is a bit of thought. One of the biggest changes I’ve made when buying my clothes is asking myself whether I really need it or if I will actually get enough wear out of it. Asking this alone had been enough to stop me from overbuying unnecessary items. Instead I’ve focused on a smaller wardrobe of clothes I love, will wear and will last a long time.

Mindless consumption and the future

I’m still far from perfect with my conscious consumption, and I’m sure a lot of others are too. We can all be a bit mindless sometimes and that’s okay as long as we’re trying. Making small changes really does work and If you can make big changes in your consumption then that’s great too. As people become more educated on the affects of our mindless consumption they will start to consume more consciously. And whilst the statistics can be scary they can also still change. In fact some studies are already predicting this. Fashion revolutions survey found that 1 in 3 consumers are already considering the environmental and social impact when buying their clothes. The more we talk about and take responsibility for our consumption the higher this number will go.

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