Conscious Consumerism and Your Purchase Power

 

There is power in our purchase.


The first step to becoming a conscious consumer is declaring the awareness that the way we spend our profit aligns with our ethical consumption, regardless of exterior motifs of affordability, convenience, or trends.  


So what should conscious consumers be aware of before they make their next purchase? 


Externalities 


There are three externalities that conscious consumers should be aware of:  


1) Human time and labor 

2) Environmental damage

3) Quality of product 


1) Human time and labor 


According to the non-profit Remake, 75 million people are making our clothes today, and young women between 18 and 24 make up 80 percent of apparel workers. These factory workers suffer grueling hours to survive. A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labor in the fashion industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam, and many other countries. 


Garment workers in Bangladesh make about $3.50 a day. The government's wage board suggested that a garment worker needs four times that amount to live a "decent life with basic facilities."


2) Environmental damage 



More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are synthetic and derived from fossil fuels, so at the end of the clothing's life, and when it ends up in a landfill, it will not decompose.  


One way to be aware of the environmental impact of companies is to research fast fashion. 


Fast fashion is cheap, disposable clothing, made without considerations of the environment or ethical labor standards. Companies like Zara, Forever 21, Nasty Gal, and H&M are all examples of fast fashion brands. The factories from these brands have turned rivers in China, Bangladesh, and India into toxic waste zones, causing cancer, deformities, and diseases in the local communities surrounding the factories. 


One way to be aware of a company's environmental standards is to look at their transparency with their clients. Look for transparency in the company's reports, marketing, and overall communication with their consumers. Be aware of "greenwashing," which means companies false claims to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly.


You can find companies' credibility through certifications such as Fair Trade USA Certified, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and cruelty-free. 



3) Quality of product 


Taking a look at the product's materials can drastically change the longevity of product usage. Fast-Fashion is an issue due to our consumer habits of the constant need to purchase, use, and throw away materials. 


For example, 70 million barrels of oil are used to produce polyester in fabrics, and that synthetic garments are the largest source of micro-plastic pollution in our oceans. 


Are you interested in taking your awareness the next step further and seeing the carbon footprint of your closet? The Fashion Footprint Calculator can educate you on your carbon estimate after answering 12 straightforward questions, such as how often you buy new clothes and from which companies. Then it identifies what your fashion footprint is and compares this to the national average, which is 1,620 pounds of carbon a year, which translates to driving 1 million miles on the freeway!


If consumers focused more on longevity rather than disposability, fast-fashion brands would need to change their practices. Following these three steps will help you distinguish from disposable to sustainable purchasing. There is more power in our purchase than we may think, and as consumers, we hold the responsibility to support the planet, people, and purpose behind a brighter future.