It’s that time of the year when the festive season starts and the holiday sales begins. Gift wrapping is complimentary and gift set combinations are endless. Before the offer tags pull you in to pull out your wallet, it’s really important to be more mindful when consuming as it’s so easy to get lost in the discounts and bundles.
Conscious consumerism refers to making positive choices throughout consumption, with the intention to help balance negative impacts that consumerism has on the planet to an extent, examples include buying locally grown produce (lowering carbon footprint), fairtrade chocolate or using toiletries and products made from a natural source, as well as supporting ethical businesses.
With Black Friday upon us, we’re here to give you a few culthread tips on being a more conscious consumer in the midst of the sales frenzy!
Look out for certified companies
From Fairtrade to B Corp, there are certifications of companies which you can look out for in order to know that your purchases are investing into companies that takes pride in making sure their standards of impact on all factors from the environment to workers to customers are upheld (social responsibility!). Certified B Corporations are defined as “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”. These communities work towards creating a healthier environment and purposeful impact of their brand, whether it is to their employees, customers or as simple as mother earth.
Interested in knowing what companies and brands are classified as B Corp? Check out the online directory here! Our culthread favourites are teapigs (quality real tea with over 100 Great Taste Awards) and Pip & Nut (a must have in our pantry!).
Understanding the background story
When we were younger we were taught the 5-W’s and 1-H: What, Who, Where, When, Why and How, and this is a principle that can be taken to any context and most definitely our journey in consumption. When you’re out at a restaurant, aside from picking what your heart desires from the menu, find out where the restaurant sources their produce demonstrates conscious consumerism. When shopping for a cashmere jumper, is the brand transparent about where the fabric comes from? Brands like NAADAM, a US-based cruelty free cashmere fashion brand, allows customers to be a part of their purchasing journey by showing them who they work with in Mongolia and how they give back to the herders, charity and environment. Looking beyond the fabric and materials, are you in the loop of how companies treat their workers? Research through available resources on how companies treat their workers, are they paid at least a living wage? Are they working reasonable (and humane) hours? Are their working conditions of a certain standard? Child labour and human rights violations should not be tolerated and it is vital for us as consumers to educate ourselves and consider these facts in the process of consumption.
In the process of producing artificial and man-made materials such as polyester greenhouse gases are emitted into our atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Whilst organic materials still account for emissions and climate change, we need to look at the bigger picture as consumers. The increase in consumption and demand feeds into the increase in production, therefore we need to consume better and smarter. Purchasing items that are of a higher quality will last you longer (hello lower cost per wear!) thus keeps demand and production under control.
It is natural to be drawn to an attractive price tag, but be sure to also know that cheap does not always (most likely not) equate to fairness to all stakeholders.
...and questioning quantity
Making conscious purchasing decisions isn’t a yes/no answer to the question “do I need this?”, but rather the effort put into rethinking what you currently own and the process of purchasing. Is the demand purely a necessity or are there ways for us to change or upgrade what we already own? Take a pair of jeans with a small hole in them, for example, do we need to buy a new pair can the issue be solved by simply taking it to the seamstress? Or using one of those nifty hotel sewing kits to stitch them up ourselves?
One of our favourite sayings goes: “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backwards”.
With endless ways to reach the overall goal of consuming better and smarter, it is tempting to be the heroine and want to do it all. The truth is that when there’s too much to be addressed, it would take a small village to manage and execute it all. Our best advice is to start small, and embrace the imperfections along the way.
Being more conscious when making a purchasing decision is doing anything beyond observing the label. It is about asking yourself questions about the brand as well as the industry, and being crystal clear about your values. At culthread we’re committed to making jackets and accessories that will last a lifetime, as well as using recycled materials that would otherwise end up in our oceans or in landfill. Our mission is to show the world that we can create beautiful things that last from man made and recycled materials. Thank you for being part of our journey.
‘Our house is on fire’. The words of Greta Thunberg that reached tens of millions of people this year, stating that we so desperately need to change. Just by looking to make a positive lifestyle change, you’ve made the first step. Being a conscious consumer is not about being perfect, it’s about making a change, then making another change, and so on and so forth. Here are 10 small ideas for you to try to live more sustainably.
- Educate yourself.
‘‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” - Maya Angelou.
A perfect quote I found whilst reading a blog post by Sophie Tait. The basis to understanding is knowledge. Set aside an hour of your week and do a bit of research. You can start somewhere and these below ideas will definitely help you on your way, but continuing to improve your knowledge will enable you to keep doing better and better.
A key word which kept popping up in most articles during the research for this was the word less. Forget about trying to be perfect, it’s practically impossible. Buy less, throw away less, use less plastic, drive less and so on. Always have this on your mind and just be aware.
- Think before you buy. Value quality over quantity.
We wrote about the environmental costs of fast fashion.
Think hard about every purchasing decision you make- how much value will the item you’re so desperately after bring to your life? A brilliant piece of advice from a quartz article is to ask yourself these 3 questions before making a purchase:
- How much will I wear it?
If you’re shopping for an outfit for a specific occasion, will you wear it again or will it end up folded in your drawer for months (or years, eek!)? Could you wear something you already have? Or ask a friend if they have something you can borrow?
- More of the same?
If you find yourself stood in a shop with a summer playsuit in your hand, count up how many you have at home before buying another. We’re creatures of habit, we tend to gravitate towards things that we like that may be similar to what we already have.
- Will it stand the test of time?
So you’ve found the perfect piece which made it past the first two hurdles. Is it made to last? Is the brand known for quality and longevity? Are the materials used durable?
For self diagnosed online shopping addicts reading this (you know who you are), we challenge you to keep a shopping basket or wish list tab open for two weeks. If you’re still as crazy about your items then the odds of you wearing them more often are much higher. Fight the urge to impulse buy.
- Don’t put your clothes in the bin!
Swap the bin liner for a charity bag and send your once loved items to someone in need or take them to your local textile recycling bank. Most large high street stores offer a service where you can take in bags of clothes for them to recycle. Or if you’re up for a bit of arts and crafts, transform them into something new!
- Have a ‘Clothes Swap’ party with your pals.
How many times do you wear a piece of clothing after buying it? Answer that truthfully. When was the last time you complimented a friend on their outfit? All the time right? Us too. It’s natural for us to lose interest in outfits that we’ve worn multiple times, even if they’re still pretty much good as new. Sharing clothes with friends will not only increase the number of times our clothes get worn, but we’ll also come away with a brand ‘new’ wardrobe. What’s not to love?
- Be conscious of how often you are washing your clothes.
Aside from using an average of 100L of water per wash, putting our used garms in domestic washing machines has a drastic negative effect on the planet. A lot of our clothes are made of polyester, which is essentially plastic. When polyester is washed, it sheds tiny bits of plastic that eventually end up in our oceans and get ingested by small fish like plankton.
There are some innovative companies making products which minimise the shedding of these microplastics, such as GUPPYFRIEND or Cora Ball. More simply, be conscious of how many times a week you’re using your washing machine. Make sure it’s full every time to minimise washes.
- Plastic wrap on your veggies at the shop... SAY NO.
It’s pretty easy to shop plastic free in the fruit and vegetable isle in most city supermarkets, but as Venetia Falconer says we might have to forgo buying condom cucumbers for a little while.
Search for markets or greengrocers near you, you’ll not only be able to purchase most if not all of your veggies plastic free, you’ll also be supporting a local or small business rather than a big supermarket chain.
- Find out where the products you love have come from
We’re not used to checking the origins of the products we buy as historically that information has never been available to us. With consumer interest in fair trade and sustainability growing fast, more and more companies are trying to be as transparent as they can with details of their supply chain and the origin of their products. One way to do this is by putting data on a Blockchain, which is essentially a way of storing data and product information in a completely secure and trustworthy way that is open to the public. Head to Provenance to find the most transparently sustainable products on the market.
- Get a keepcup for your coffee and a reusable bottle for your water or tea.
An investment that will benefit everyone in the long run, and you might even make the money back over time. Most coffee shops offer discounts for people who bring their own mugs- win win!
It’s very easy to feel like the only options are the really fancy and expensive bottles, but this isn’t the case at all. There are all sorts of different products on the market, ranging from high end Swell Bottles to reusable ones you can buy at Sports Direct.
- Keys, card, phone.. cutlery?
Keeping a set of cutlery with you everywhere you go (apart from through airports… of course!) will reduce waste from single use plastic equivalents. Better yet, preparing meals at home in reusable tupperware will save you money and is much better for the environment than a plastic wrapped sandwich.