Shopping sustainably can seem very expensive to the average Joe or Jane, and is then quite intimidating.

As humans living in this growing world of ethical investment, we already know that it's important to support local makers and farmers, however feel a little bit out of our depth when applying these ethical and sustainable rules to fashion and apparel. We want to do the right thing, but need a little bit of guidance in making the right choices. So - we put the topic to a sustainable shopping expert (!) 

Our gorgeous friend, Jasmine Mayhead from Ethical Made Easy gives us the low down on why it's important to know where your clothing comes from and what it's made of. 

Hey Jas! Why is it so important for people to shop with sustainability and ethics involved? 

I think the one thing we forget is that every single item of clothing we own, was handmade. Yet, do we know who made it? 

Instead of diving further into the reasons why here, I figure I’ll hit you with a few stats to get your brain thinking differently about the things we purchase, especially in fashion: 

  • Levis did a study, finding that it takes 920 gallons of water to make one pair of their 501 jeans. This is equivalent to leaving the garden hose on for almost two hours
  • The textile industry is the second largest polluter, with almost 20% of industrial water pollution coming from textile dyeing and treating 
  • We consume 80 billion new (key word, new) pieces of clothing globally every single year
  • 10% of all global carbon emissions come from the textile industry which is more than shipping and aviation combined
  • Fewer than 1% of garments that exist are made into new clothes 
  • Only 9% of Australian fashion brands pay their workers a living wage 
  • 4% of what Australians spend on clothing goes to the wages of workers in garment factories across the globe 

These stats are just the beginning. But they paint quite a detailed picture as to why we need a sustainable and ethical approach to buying the clothes we wear. 

What are your tips for those who are starting their sustainable fashion journey, but are a little intimidated by the price tag?

I think it’s only expensive because we’ve become so accustomed to being able to purchase a top for $5 and a dress for $20. When you get to the crux of it, we’ve been conditioned that we can throw our clothes away, that they’re so disposable and so cheap that we can replace them when we’re bored. 

Did you know that the average woman wears only 33% of her wardrobe? Why does the other 67% exist? 

Instead of looking at fashion as being ‘expensive’ I think the first question that needs to be asked is how can it be so cheap? 

How can you pay $5 for a top where we know the fabric has been grown ethically and sustainably (let’s not talk about the sheer number of suicide rates within the cotton industry and monsanto), it’s been dyed without run off poisoning rivers, has been cut and sewn ethically, and sent to the store - for $5? I understand economies of scale, but I think this is the issue. We’re so disconnected from where things come from. 

Yes, absolutely. So how do you personally approach the task of shopping with sustainability in mind? 

To begin with, I personally feel the most sustainable and ethical thing you can do, is to not purchase anything at all. Love the clothing you already own. Actually read the wash tag and follow the instructions on how to wash it properly. 

From there, I think it’s time to look into the cost per wear (CPW) of what you purchase. When you look at clothing this way, you begin to look at things a different way. 

I’m very cautious of the clothing and things I bring into my life now, and think about the cost per wear whenever I try something on. Will I wear it more than 30 times? Can I wear it across multiple seasons? Can I layer it? 

CPW is the price you pay for a garment, divided by the number of times you wear it. For example, if you buy a garment for $100 and wear it 4 times, that garment cost you $25 each time you wear it. Though personally I’ve found the garments in my wardrobe now cost well under $2 per wear (and getting cheaper on this front per day). 

CPW encourages us to think economically about our clothes. It helps us to consider what we are buying, and how long it will last. CPW pushes us to purchase long lasting, high quality garments that cost us more up front, but save us money in the long term. If you totally embrace the cost per wear ideology, while keeping ethical fashion values at heart, you’re in for a much more pleasant dressing experience in the morning, less waste thrown to second hand shops or the bin, and a wallet that thanks you. 

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