Ethical fashion, sustainable living and zero waste seems to be all the rage right now, and rightly so. The amount of environmental damage and slave labour required for the modern lifestyle is horrific.

Education and exposure of the destruction that fast fashion, mega corporations and animal agriculture has on the world is essential in encouraging us to be more mindful with our choices.

I think everyone needs to take a look at their lifestyle and recognise where they can make choices to be more sustainable.

However, conversations regarding sustainability are often conducted with the same dialogue as a diet or saving money. “I feel really guilty for buying XYZ”, “I should probably stop shopping here, but it’s a treat for me”, “I really need to cut back on XYZ” and “I was doing so well with cutting down on fast fashion, but then I just lost willpower.”

If you’re able to have the awareness and conversations about how and where you should improve your sustainability, then you’re also in a very privileged position. Fast fashion VS sustainable/slow fashion is a political and social debate.

A mother of 2 on the cusp of poverty wouldn’t be focused on how much zinc or gluten is in her bog standard weekly food shop – she would be grateful that she has enough food to suffice for a week. Whereas a mother on a high income may be more inclined to chose her weekly food shop based on nutritional value, dietary considerations or “health benefits”.

Equally, fast fashion is sometimes one of the only options for individuals on a lower or stretched income. £3 for a brand new T-shirt from Primark is far more appealing to someone with barely any money – compared to a potentially higher quality £45 T-shirt from a slow fashion brand; or even a £6.50 well-worn T-shirt from the local charity shop.

Fast fashion stores like Primark, H&M, New Look, Peacocks and Sports Direct can capitalise on the keep them cheap, stack them high business model. This appeals to people, because the fashion stores have branched out from just selling clothing and into basic homeware, beauty and essential care. Damaging to the environment and garment workers, yet easy on the wallets of shoppers.

Coming from a household that greatly struggled with money, I can testify that sustainability is not the forefront of a family’s agenda when trying to clothe growing children. Furthermore, the gentrification of charity shopping and “thrifting” has lead to second hand shops becoming a more expensive option for people who used to depend on them.

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you have some awareness about environmentalism and sustainability. If you’re in the privileged place to notice that your spending and consumerism can be adapted – then that’s the first step.

However – you don’t have to go into full blown eco mode. Be realistic with your previous spending habits and current ability to alter how you spend your money.

As a student with a part time job, I have the option to chose a mid range of where I get my clothes from.

Here are the ways in which I am adapting my shopping to be more sustainable.

Avoiding Greenwashing

Research the term “green washing” for a better description, but essentially green washing is a way of marketing clothing as environmental or eco friendly – when it’s actually just fast fashion wearing a linen aesthetic. Don’t fall for marketing ploys; if it looks too good to be true – it probably is.

Assess what you actually need

The classic uni student galavanting on usually starts with a need for a dress for a night out and results in a £95 order of clothing you never even wanted, probably won’t fit you and you can’t be bothered to return. If you do return the clothing, there’s a big grey area in where fast fashion websites put the returns, as often they aren’t even worth the cost of putting back into the warehouse.

If you desperately need an outfit for one night out, consider shopping in person first. Shopping in person has become physically repulsive for some people, and the actual action of purchasing something over a till makes you consider your shopping choices, whereas browsing the internet at 2am becomes detached from reality. If you need one dress, buy one dress. If you think you need 6 dresses to try on – do it in person.

Second hand fashion

Second hand fashion is honestly one of my favourite things. If you’re from Nottingham, I would highly recommend taking a look the White Rose (they also have an online store). Depop is one of the most commonly used online second hand stores, but actually I find EBay much better. Ebay usually comes without the hiked up prices and popularity contests – plus the sellers are usually a bit older and less aware of how much brands are worth.

The old local charity shop is always a great option, but you really have to rummage. Be prepared to spend a while there, and you can find some great pieces.

Being realistic

You’re not going to buy a second hand pair of pants. You’re also not going to buy a £45 pair of pants. If you need to buy a few basics or last minute pieces from a fast fashion brand – don’t beat yourself up over it. Consider how frequently you need to buy these items, but also recognise that in the UK it’s very difficult to be completely anti fast fashion on a low income. If you associate a high level of guilt with every purchase you make from a less than perfect retailer, you make yourself more likely to give up.

Those are my tips for now. I’m still in the learning phase of sustainability and being more ethical with my choices.

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