Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Trying to Shop Eco-Consciously

Julia from Color Me Green shares her complex and laborious approach to shopping.

My approaches to shopping tend to skew toward opposite spectrums. On one end, about half of the clothes I have collected over the years have been gifted to me for free by friends or my sisters. Most of the rest of my clothes are bought at thrift or consignment stores.

On the other hand, if I get in mind a particular item I want, I try to find a high quality version of it that will best meet my needs, even if it's expensive. While it seems contradictory that I am both into cheap and free clothing while also willing to spend a lot when buying something new - it's really all part of my approach to reducing resource consumption.

I welcome clothing cast offs from friends because it means I don't need to go out and buy something new and waste the world's resources - and I also don't need to spend my time or money on shopping. When I do need to buy something new, I want the best version for me that will last a long time, so I won't need to keep buying more stuff. For example, when I buy a pair of shoes, I want it to be classy enough for the office, but also comfortable enough for walking all day or dancing all night. I don't want to own multiple shoes to fit many different situations when I can find one or a few pairs to fit lots of purposes.

This leads to extensively long and laborious searches for the perfect this or that, which makes shopping seem like a lot of work and reinforces my desire to buy only the best so that I won't have to spend the time shopping again for a while. But finding high quality clothing is surprisingly hard. There are not a lot of good resources out there, and I don't trust price as an indicator.

Eco-friendly lines are often available only online or can not be found reliably in stores, which makes it hard to try things on. For my current shoe search, I'm using Zappos, even though I'd rather frequent local stores, just because I don't have time to go all over town from store to store until I find something that works. Lately, I've also had some success with Etsy, as many sellers are willing to custom-make items to fit your size or wants.

Much of my wardrobe doesn't fit perfectly because they're castoffs from friends or I've had it for so long that it's worn down and stretched out. But I'm not willing to go out and spend a small fortune to replace my whole wardrobe.

When things happen like the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, I stop caring that my wardrobe isn't perfect and am glad that I'm already doing what I can to avoid contributing to the ethical and environmental problems of the fashion industry, and then I stop car. Apparently Bangladesh is in the news again today as hundreds of garment workers have fallen sick from contaminated water.

What's your approach to shopping? Do the recent news about the conditions of garment workers make you think twice about where you get your clothes? Do you have any favorite brands or places to shop for eco-friendly clothes that you can share?


Miz.November said...

You are so right. Shopping is hard. And finding quality items is even harder. I am very intrigued by clothing and shoes that are made with recycled material. Like you said, they are hard to come by, but they may be worth the hunt.

Green Bean said...

I have a similar philosophy to you. I mostly stick with second hand stuff that falls into my lap. I will very very occasionally shop at local boutiques for Made in America stuff if it is high quality and not outrageously expensive. I'd rather have 3 nice shirts than 10 cruddy ones. For the shoes, don't get me started on Simple Shoes closing down a few years ago! I was SO sad. I know the quality, what shoe size I needed. Argh! Hard to find quality, eco friendly stuff that it cute but seems to be getting more plentiful.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE patronizing small clothing companies. You get items tailored to your exact measurements, all made from sustainable fabrics and supplies (low impact dyes, etc.). They are WAY expensive...but I've found the pieces I've invested in so far to be totally worth the price. My favorites are Gaia Conceptions and Soul Role.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

My clothing philosophy is similar to yours. Recently, I've bought a couple things from the online clothing company eshakti. The prices are reasonable, and compared to what I used to buy (revovering Target addict), they are well constructed and good quality. The thing I really like about eshakti is that you can customize the clothing to fit your size and style. On the downside, I can't find much info about their factory conditions.

The biggest part of my wardrobe that I have trouble filling is plain, fitted t-shirts, which I wear pretty much every day because I'm boring. Because people tend to wear t-shirts out, the thrift store is not a good source for those, but I'm also not a fan of American Apparel's marketing practices (half-naked waifish extremely young models). If anyone has found other sources of good quality, sustainably-made t-shirts, I'd love some tips!

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Even more than buy second-hand for myself I mostly just buy nothing. I just don't have time to shop. When I do buy new, I'm afraid it's usually not eco-conscious b/c I just don't have the time or energy to add that layer of complexity (hopefully in the future!).

For my kids, it's almost all second-hand/ hand-me-downs/ gift cards. Occasionally I find myself needing to buy them something new, and I try to buy high quality that will last for multiple kids. I've been checking out some organic lines for them, like Hanna Anderson, but kids abuse their clothes so much and need more than adults generally, so it can be hard to fork over the dough knowing it will soon be stained and caked in mud.

Eco Yogini said...

my clothing shopping habits are also similar to yours! loved this post for the realistic and honest message :)


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