We can make the changes necessary to transform an industry that is, in many cases, dangerous to garment workers and hazardous to both consumers and the environment. Alternatives do exist, some of which are based on shopping decisions, but many rely on simple adjustments to the way in which consumers treat their clothes on a daily basis. Here are nine ideas.
Transparency is the first step to transform the industry. Buy from companies that are willing to disclose information and be transparent. It’s impossible for companies to make sure human rights are respected and that environmental practices are sound without knowing where their products are made. That’s why transparency is essential and necessary. Transparency means companies know who makes their clothes and communicate this to their customers. We need to be able to see what is behind the seams.
Look for certain certifications and affiliations
Because there is no single standard for the garment industry, it can be hard to identify which items are truly ethically made. There are a few well-respected certifications out there that can make the search a bit easier, though it’s hard to find all of these in a single place.
– Certified B Corporation (non-profit certification for businesses that meet environmental, accountability, and transparency standards)
– OEKO-Tex Standard (found on garments that have been tested for harmful substances)
– Bluesign Certified (a third-party health and safety standard for chemical use in the textile industry)
– Fairtrade International / Fair Trade USA (seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system, primarily through fair wages paid to workers)
– GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard – defines high-level environmental criteria for organic textiles)
Seek out ethical, sustainable, and fair trade suppliers
Give preference to those who offer their workers fair living wages and provide clothes made of organic, recycled, or upcycled fibers. You can search for green providers through: www.treehugger.com
There are companies who are dedicated to becoming more sustainable. Go for the ethical decision if it’s there. When buying at H&M, choose their conscious line of clothing and so forth.
Be thrifty and buy wisely
There are many factors to consider beyond fit and style. Think about quality and how the garment is actually stitched and pieced together. Think about the cost per wear; you’ll get better value from a expensive pair of pants that fits fabulously, gets worn 100x a year, and lasts a decade than you will from something cheap that wears through in a few months. Think about cross-seasonal use, versatility, and longevity.
When you shop (both in stores and online), you can ask how the clothes you are buying are being produced, where it was made and who made it.
Buying second-hand cuts down on manufacturing demands and keeps more items out of the landfill. Because a large amount of man-made goods are routinely thrown away, re-using gives a longer life to common household items another family could use, saving the environment in effect.
Buy directly from small, local designers
The more “middlemen” eliminated from the purchasing chain, the closer you’ll get to the source of your clothes. If you buy from a small designer who actually sews the garment themselves, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what’s going on behind the seams than purchasing from a huge clothing corporation.
Spread the word
Use your influence on social media, by helping spreading the word and demanding that companies, consumers and policymakers do the right thing. Add #whomademyclothes and #behindtheseams to help people redirect to its feed.
You can help by donating to our organization or other organizations determined to improve the conditions of workers in the international fashion industry and dedicated to raise awareness about the negative environmental consequences of the fashion industry.
We are a low-overhead organization guaranteeing that your support will be used as efficiently as possible: 100% of any donation – big or small – to us goes to drawing attention to the consequences of the international fashion industry.