How Ethical Living is Affordable

I’ve heard this comment + have been asked this question a handful of times. It makes me reflect on how I’m portraying my wardrobe + lifestyle, how Slow Fashion portrays what S L O W actually means, and makes me question how I can better talk, equip + teach about living a sustainable, wholehearted + responsible lifestyle. The statement I’m referring to is: “I cannot afford to buy ethical clothes/I can’t afford an ethical lifestyle.” Have you ever said that, thought that, or made a decision based on that lie? I definitely have.

This blog  post focuses on this issue because I believe it’s real + it’s rarely talked about AND it’s stopping people from shopping + living ethically.  I tried my best to respond to the questions: Are we missing the point of what Slow Fashion means? Am I portraying my lifestyle accurately? And how can living ethically + responsible actually be affordable?

On this specific post I focus on clothes, although I know ethical living consists of more. I would love for you to continue reading, ask yourself similar questions, and add a response below. To check out what others are saying about the post, click here.

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Let’s Talk Clothes:

Before diving into how ethical fashion is affordable, let’s answer a few more questions. So what really is Slow Fashion; and how does it relate to me? The word Fashion, according to Jessica Navas, the head planning officer at Erwin Penland, “invokes the idea of a fast-paced industry across the board.” She goes on to explain that “[t]he definition of fashion is forward-thinking, innovative and fast-moving. It’s about going after the latest trends.” However, she describes slow fashion as being about purpose, realizing that “fewer is better.” (Sourced from article written by Hilary Milnes).

Slow Fashion does not take fashion out of the fashion industry, it simply makes the quality of fashion + the process of creating fashion better – better for the environment, better for those making the clothes and better for those of us purchasing the clothes. In other words, Slow Fashion is a wholehearted approach to fashion.

Clothes and products created with the Fast Fashion approach, the opposite of Slow Fashion, are designed and manufactured in the cheapest and fasted way possible. When dissecting what this actually means, a few things are revealed. First, the person making the clothes are working in poor conditions which leads to several health risks. And secondly, according to researchers, 60 million people are employed simply because fashion exists (both responsibly + irresponsibly) and 98% of those 60 million people are not getting paid wages that meet their basic needs. Those statistics are hard to overlook.

Slow Fashion was created to sustain our environment and, most importantly, help protect, nourish, and employ men + women around the world because they are innately worthy of love, fair wages and living a healthy life.

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And how does all of this relate to us who purchase these said clothes? We are the consumers. We are the people who are ABLE to make choices about where our clothes come from. We are the ones who decide whether we are going to help sustain the earth and provide good work + wages for others. If we aren’t the people who get to do these things, then who will?

It’s a direct correlation from the raw materials to us as the consumers. We choose to make a thoughtful, conscience and responsible decision or not. We have eyes to see others hurting + we have ears to hear stories about how poorly people are working and living. Will you make changes in your life or not? Will you be thoughtful when it comes to daily decisions? Will you make a shift in our consumerist culture?

My Current Lifestyle Portrayed on Social Media:

First things first, an apology. I’m sorry if I make my lifestyle look too “pretty” or seem unattainable. Living minimally, ethically and responsible is not fancy – it takes sacrifice and grit to say no to more things, to say no to taking the easier route when it comes to buying clothes + home goods. It takes longer to make certain decisions, to make things work, to be content with what I already have. But isn’t that the point – to live slower and more thoughtful, to give more thought to what I purchase and why I’m purchasing it, to strive to make wise choices that can help others instead of harming them? So yes, I am truly sorry if my lifestyle looks elaborate, but it’s not, it’s messy and unfancy and hard at times, but it’s beautiful and slow-paced, which I’m not at all sorry for.

I also want to apologize to the thousands, if not millions, of men and women around the world who I’ve hurt from getting wrapped up in our consumerist culture and for making decisions that were solely for my own benefit. What a misrepresentation of what it means to walk justly.

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I want to display my lifestyle more wholly and accurately. Meaning, I want to talk about the struggles with living minimally and ethically; I want to talk about the benefits of both without coming across as demanding; and I want to show how lovely it is to live with less. This has been a journey for me over the last 5+ years, and I don’t claim to know everything, but I’m in for the long haul.

I want to be seen as a resource and as an encouragement, but also as a learner. Please feel free to ask questions, along with commenting on my posts + blogs – your advice is welcome!

The Big Question Answered:

How is ethical living affordable? Well friends, I’ve asked myself this numerous times and it’s taken a while for me to understand it myself. Here is what I’ve figured out:

Living ethically doesn’t mean we have to get an entirely new wardrobe or throw away everything we have – home goods, toothbrushes and all – simply because we are making a lifestyle switch. I believe being content with the things you own is ethical and just. I believe wearing, stitching and rewearing the clothes in your current closet is more ethical than buying clothes from an ethical store.

What would happen if we all threw away, donated, and got rid of all of the things we possess – where would they all go? To waste, perhaps. Maybe shipped to third world countries + create more waste (which is already happening to the clothes we donate to certain places). Continuing to wear the clothes we already own, continuing to use the household items we already possess is probably the best thing to do.

But then another question is raised: When do we donate things we don’t need, and how do I, then, begin purchasing ethically? Those are valid and great questions! Here are my basic rules:

      1. Only buy what you need. If you’re on the hunt for a new dress, then simply look for a new dress, not anything else. Don’t let your clothes control you + your money – if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
      1. Only buy what you absolutely love. This has been my rule for years now – if I do not absolutely love it I won’t buy it. So ask yourself: Do I need it? And if so, do I absolutely love it?
      1. Only buy things when you need them. For example, a few months ago I knew I needed some new athletic clothes, so when the time was right, I purchased some from an ethical store.
      1. Wear, stitch, rewear. Keeping clothes you’ve had forever is good and no one probably notices how long you’ve had them besides you.
      1. Take good care of your clothes. Learn how to stitch your clothes. Educate yourself on how to preserve your leather bags and shoes. And if it rips or gets stained – fix it and keep wearing/using it!
      1. Shop second-hand. Clothes are cheaper + you usually support a local business when you shop second-hand. Look up stores in your area, there are high-end second-hand stores that are amazing!
    1. Shop at an ethical store. In general, ethically made clothes, accessories + household items are made better and are made to last longer than other products because that’s the point. And just like other, non-ethical stores, some are more expensive than others, but there are some that are reasonably priced. Here is a list of stores I love + trust.

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Tips on donating:

    1. Do your research. There are some places who box up what we donate/what they do not sell in their store, ship it overseas and it becomes waste in another country. Out of sight out of mind, right? Research and ask questions to the places you are donating to.
    1. Donate to local stores. In general, local stores do good with what is donated to them. For example, Rescue Missions give the donated clothes solely to the homeless in your city.
    1. Think of who you know. When I have clothes to giveaway I try to think about the people I already know who might need/want some “new” clothes. Think of your neighbors, friends, and family members, and ask them if they themselves or someone they know needs/wants to look through your clothes before donating them.
  1. Try to sell them. There are numerous websites where you can sell your clothes and why not get a little profit from getting rid of things.

Let us be a people who gives thought to what we purchase and why we purchase it. Let us be a people who see + hear the millions of men, women and children who are suffering for our sake. Let us be a people who make sacrifices to better this world + her beautiful people. Shall we?

Dear reader, if you are indeed still reading, thank you and I hope you found this article helpful and encouraging. I would love to hear your thoughts! And stay tuned for more posts that expand on some of the ideas I talked about in this post.

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