The Woke Woman’s Guide to Ethical Shopping

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Fashion may be a billion dollar industry, but it is also one of the least eco friendly. In fact, EcoWatch cites fashion as one of the dirtiest industries in the world, second only to oil. The manufacturing of clothes may involve excessive use of pesticides for cotton farming, gallons of water for a single shirt or chemically harmful dye for fabrics. Aside from all this, many fashion brands tend to exploit their workers with long hours, low wages and dangerous working conditions. 

This is why against harmful and unfair practices for both people and the planet. We continuously strive to prove that fashion can be sustainable and that companies can observe fair trade if they tried. You can contribute to ethical practices as well, by supporting brands that fight for the same thing. Ethical shopping is not easy, but the environment and the hardworking people behind your clothes will thank you for it. Here’s how it’s done.

Do Your Research

Ethical shopping involves a lot of information gathering. You need to know the backgrounds of each fashion company, especially regarding their practices. Look for answers to questions like, “where are your clothes manufactured?” or "do you practice fair trade?” To help you on this, you can check whether these brands have fair trade or environment certifications.

You would also need to educate yourself on which fabrics are eco-friendly. Keep away from pieces made of virgin polyester and traditional cotton, which are some of the least sustainable fabrics. To help you in this process, you can use the app Good Guide, which lets you scan barcodes so that you can retrieve info on whether a product was made ethically and safely. 

Look for Local Brands

Some fashion brands may claim that their clothes were manufactured locally, but their components could come from other places. Unfortunately, this is not information you can easily find. Most brands share details on the approved factories that produce their clothing, and these factories are often overseas. However, it’s a common practice for approved factories to also subcontract work to nearby, unapproved factories as well. 

If you are unsure about a brand’s ethical background, you can play it safe and focus on local brands instead. It is in this light that designer Ruchika Sachdeva advises to “make that effort to buy a little bit less from the mall and a little bit more from smaller brands, because it’s difficult to trace who is making high street brands and how responsibly they’ve been made.”

Go Thrift Shopping

Shopping with ethical brands isn’t the only way to buy with a clear conscience. You can also find great pieces of clothing from vintage or second-hand stores. Thrift shopping lets you keep otherwise wearable clothes out of the landfill and helps cut down on harmful gas emissions that come with production and distribution of fast fashion clothing.

Aside from being eco-friendly, thrift shopping benefits you in several ways. You can save money and score a quality item at the same time. Plus, you might just discover some unique finds that can inspire you to play up your usual wardrobe. There are a few clothing gems in rummage sales and consignment shops that you won’t see anyone else wearing, so you can use them to your advantage. 

Clean Out Your Wardrobe

The path to sustainable fashion can also begin from taking a good, long look at what you currently own. This is because ethical shopping means consuming less for more value. Therefore, don't be afraid to cut down on the items in your closet — you can either upcycle them or redistribute them to charity or thrift stores. This will give your garments a second life with those who need them more.

If you're stuck on where to start, Pretty Me's guide on wardrobe cleaning suggests identifying clothes you haven't worn in a long time and pieces that are too small. These can easily go to a donation or upcycling pile. If you're crafty, you can transform clothes that are worn out into pillow cases or blankets. Save your dresses, gowns, or other special occasion attire for consignment stores and secondhand shops. Your everyday clothing can then be collected for donation to the less fortunate. In this way, even though you’re giving up on certain clothing pieces, you’re not entirely throwing them to waste. The idea is to keep things sustainable and to invest in quality clothing that you will definitely love in the long run.

Written by: Amanda Higgins for

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