Learning to Ride: A Beginner’s Intro to Ethical Shopping

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Photo courtesy of The Root Collective

As we head into the biggest shopping season of the year, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress and excitement associated with the holidays especially when it comes to our buying habits. It’s not just about how much money we spend, but how we choose to spend it. Today I’m pleased and honored to share a guest post from Brooke Fontoura, blog manager of the Root Collective, about how we can make our buying choices more consciously. (This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support.)

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. Once you’ve learned, it cannot be unlearned.

The same can be said of conscious consumerism. Because once you’ve seen the atrocities that occur daily in many garment factories across the globe, you cannot unsee it. Poor working conditions, low wages, child labor, etc.

It sticks with you.

And that’s a pretty scary thing. Because you’re left feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and lost. Like a five year old on a bicycle.

But the best thing about learning to ride a bike… is that there are training wheels.

Becoming an ethical shopper isn’t always easy. It takes knowledge, effort, and a whole mess of patience. It takes honesty, persistence, and heart. Like any new challenge, it needs to be met with understanding. It’s easy to say that you are going to completely change your shopping habits overnight, but the reality can become a bit less easy. (This may or may not be from my own experience of picking up and then putting down the same LBD ten times at a fast fashion outlet, my conscious and vanity competing with each other.)

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Photo courtesy of The Root Collective

Below are some (what I hope will be) helpful suggestions and tips for riding through the murky world of shopping. Remember to keep your helmet on and don’t stop peddling.

  • Keep calm and think of why you’re doing this: Be real with yourself. Ask yourself, “Why am I committed to changing my purchasing habits?” Is there a personal story that effected you? What was it about that story that caused you to rethink how you spend your money? Keep that in mind when you shop. Remember why.
  • Do your research: Researching isn’t just for term papers. Like any important change in life, researching is going to be the golden rule in your journey to an ethical closet. Knowing where your goods come from is important. It may seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll be surprised at the amount of resources a simple Google search can yield. And always read your labels. (I suggest this post from The Art of Simple for a handy list of awesome, ethically sourced companies.)
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Generally speaking, a quality ethical company will be transparent about their supply chain. However, if while researching a company, you find that they may not be as see-through as you’d like – ask! Ask where they source their goods from, how their workers are treated, or anything else you can’t seem to find the answer to.
  • Don’t beat yourself up: Life is tough. Some of us have a flock of kids in the backseat, others are college students with not a lot of spending money, while others are in the somewhere between. Do what you can. Don’t feel awful about yourself if you find that one of your favorite companies may not be on the ethical shopper’s good list. We’ve all made mistakes before and that’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. Instead of buying from that brand, search for an ethical company with similar products. If that search is taking a bit of time, try buying used products from that brand at a local thrift shop while you wait. (There are also awesome online used clothing stores. The Root Collective featured some for our weekly blog series, #FashionFriday.)
  • Take it one step at a time: What do you normally buy most? Scarves? What do you need at the moment? A good pair of shoes? Look for an ethical supplier (like The Root Collective!). After that, incorporate something else – like jewelry, then handbags, etc. When you make one step, you’ll start making more and then it all becomes second nature. (Also, many companies offer more than one fashion category. Your search for ethically sourced leggings can lead you to dresses, skirts, hats, and more!)
  • Sharing is caring: Share your findings with others. Often times, shoppers feel discouraged by what they feel is a lack of options. They simply don’t know that there is another choice out there for them other than what they see in the stores, on T.V., or on a billboard. They may already know of the abuse within the fashion industry, but don’t know what they can do themselves. When you talk about your favorite new ethical fashion brand or wear your new earrings to the office Christmas party, share the story behind your purchase and let everyone know how they can contribute to the change.

 

Taking on a new way of life is frightening stuff and starting an ethical fashion journey is no exception. It’s a big step, a genuine step, one with the opportunity to create real change. It may be a bumpy road but you’ll notice the difference with each turn of the peddle. And, donned in your ethically sourced fashion lovelies, you’ll look pretty great doing it.

Brooke photo

Brooke Fontoura is the blog manager for The Root Collective, an ethical fashion company with a mission for good. She’s a tea drinking, chocolate loving, book reading girl next door who pins more things on Pinterest than she actually makes. A fair trade activist and animal lover, she can usually be found singing silly sings out of tune with her little one. She also has difficulties writing her own bio.

Don’t forget that The Root Collective is offering the coupon code JOYTOTHEWORLD that is valid from Friday to Tuesday for 25% off your purchase! (Don’t worry, all the artisans have been paid in full.)

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