Throughout my wardrobe workout challenge I spent a great deal of time writing about shopping ‘values’.
It’s all well and good to go on-and-on about shopping with a set of values but we haven’t really spoken on here before about how to find your values.
First up, what is a value? Here is ‘values’ according to a quick google:
‘A personal value is absolute or relative and ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based’
Sounds confusing hey!
Let’s break it down. First up, when dealing with shopping decision making we are dealing with personal values. So making a list of values is something that you personally sit down and complete. However, these personal values are influenced by external forces such as a value system or principle value. Value systems are morals, ethics, standards, preferences, beliefs and world views that define an individual, group or culture (thank you Wikipedia).
If we look at the fashion world as a whole we might say that they believe in growth at any cost, preferring a strong economy, with fast stock turnover and ‘disposable fashion’ as standard practice, and with ethics and morals that ‘cheaper production is better’ regardless of human suffering and environmental degradations.
This paints a pretty negative view of the fashion industry, but this is due to the authors principle value of environmentalism. Someone in the fashion industry who supports the way it currently operatives may paint a very different picture of the industry saying that fast fashion is an opportunity for creativity and that the industry supports millions that otherwise would have work, regardless of their working conditions.
Someone entrenched in the world of sustainable fashion who has a strong belief that the industry is changing it’s traditional practise would have different values again saying that the industry is changing it’s operations and placing a value on smaller runs, higher priced items and ethical production.
None of these views are right or wrong, they are all personal values and beliefs, which are accurate to the person who made them!
This is why there is no specific way to shop sustainable.
However, there is one golden rule. Regardless of what you value ‘less is more’. Sustainability and environmental protection is founded on the basis of cutting reliance on natural resources. Everything comes from somewhere so it doesn’t matter how sustainable the process of making a product is, nothing tangible is guilt free (yet! Technological advances and embracing natural energy sources may change this).
So here’s how to create your own shopping values. First and foremost think about your core personal beliefs.
Are you a serious passionate planet lover like me? Or are you a strict animal rights advocate? Are you fighting for a better world for women? Do you really and truly love your country?
All of these factors can be a jumping off point.
With my background in fashion and environmental science and sustainability my world view is that of environmentalism and conservation (I believe in the right of all things natural to ‘just be’ but also understand that we as humans still have to fit into the equation as mass genocide isn’t an ethical option), I would prefer a world economy with no negative environmental impact, and set myself personal living standards that align with environmental ‘best practise’, and my ethics and morals are basically ‘treat others how you would like to be treated’.
So, with all that in mind my purchasing values for fashion items are as follows
1. Quality- If something isn’t made well then it’s not worth purchasing. I don’t care how sustainable or ethical the manufacturing process was I will not buy poorly made items. This is due to my environmental standpoint. I don’t want to buy things that will fall apart quickly as they will then have to be disposed of. As we have discussed before ‘there is no away’, so anything cheap and nasty will be stuck in landfill for a very long time creating nasty methane gasses.
2. Aesthetics and Performance- Again, like quality, if something doesn’t look or perform just how I want it to it doesn’t matter how ‘eco-awesome’ it is, I won’t be buying it. This may sound horrible but it’s true. I have learn from experience that if you don’t buy the exact item you want that performs the exact way you want it to, the chances are you will spend a very long time and sometimes a lot of money on alternatives that never live up to your ideals. I like to buy it right the first time and save the hassle.
3. Fabric- This one comes close to being a part of number one and two but sort of deserved it’s own bullet point. As a sweaty person who lives in a hot climate good breathable fabric is essential. This rules out pretty much all synthetics (except leggings which I spoke about here). A love of breathability, aesthetic longevity, sustainability also sees me shun vegan leathers, which do not fulfil either of these requirements for me. From personal experience this synthetic based fabric is hot and sticky, never last more than a season on bags and shoes, and isn’t biodegradable. Again, this is MY value, if you are vegan your values will be different. I like organic natural fibres like cotton, linen, hemp, wool and silk, and will wear breathable man mades fabrics like viscose and rayon. On a side note I haven’t had any luck with bamboo as it always falls apart too quickly for my liking. I expect with good care for fabrics to last at least ten years.
4. Sustainable production- This to me, means using the best method possible to make an item. Taking into account the fabric, transport, dying process, manufacturing process, marketing (charity affiliations are my favourite) packaging, and at home washing of a garment. Generally if an item can tick all these boxes for me I am over the moon. If I can tick off quality, aesthetics and performance, fabric, and just one or two of the above sustainability factors I am happy to buy. Ticking just one or two of the boxes isn’t fabulous but at least it’s a step int he right direction and I am leaving with a product I can actually use. Rather than a very sustainable one that doesn’t fit my other criteria.
5. Ethical Manufacturing- While many of my views are environmentally focused, caring for people is part of my personality make up. I like to know that my purchase isn’t made under inappropriate working conditions. This can be a difficult task but fortunately there are loads of tools to assist now days. Unfortunately ethical doesn’t always mean sustainably produced. But it is a good thing. So with really difficult items like underwear or sneakers (no causal shoes, actual running ones) sometimes you need to get the best you can find, like sneakers from a company with some sustainability ethics, or bras and knickers from a company that supports women but doesn’t necessarily have an environmental focus.
6. End of life- This has sort of been covered above but I often buy based on the disposal of the product. If the company has a recycling system for good (like Nudie Jeans) this will definitely be a consideration for me. It is nice when a company can follow through and reuse or reclaim your no longer functioning item.
So now that I have shared my values you can feel free to share yours! They may be similar to mine or totally different. That’s the joy of individuality. It is also the reason why you will never find a definitive guide on how to be sustainable. Because it means something different to each and every one of us.
Hit us up with your values below.