Shopping with a conscience on the high street can be done, even if it does sound like an oxymoron. I’ve written before about shopping ethically on the high street. The ranking weren’t particularly high for many high street shops, and it can be confusing navigating the labels and the woolly ethical statements that some shops issue.
In spite of this, I don’t want to not shop on the high street. Rows upon rows of empty shops don’t make for pleasant or livable towns and cities so I do sometimes shop for clothes on the high street. In order to shop as ethically as possible I’ve put together four simple questions to ask myself before purchasing each item to help me make the best choices:
Do I really need the item – is it an impulse buy or is it absolutely necessary?
I find that with impulse buys I tend to wear them much less compared to purchases I’ve carefully considered.
Will I wear/use the item for years to come, or wear it only a few times or for one special occassion?
I try to buy items I’ll wear for a long time rather than a few months. For special occasions (items I may only wear a couple of times a year) I tend to buy secondhand.
Does the item look well made, or does it look like it might fall to bits after a few wears and washes?
A cheap £7 top that looses it shape and colour after a few washes and needs replacing often will actually end up costing more than a better made top that I have saved up for.
Does the cost of the item reflect the cost of the materials and labour necessary to make the item?
Although expensive doesn’t go hand in hand with being ethically made, there are some things to look out for. For example, a hand beaded top for £8 may look like a bargain, but a person being paid a fair and living wage would need to be paid more than £8 to hand bead the top, before you’ve even taken into account the cost of the materials and production of the top.
I’ve been asking myself these questions before every purchase, making sure I’m being completely honest with myself, as it can be easy to justify an impulse buy.
These habits won’t transform the high street’s ethical practices, but they do help me to be a more considered shopper. It’s helping to change my spending and shopping habits, and encouraging me to buy less, not buy into fast fashions, and to save up for timeless pieces that will always look good.
To help encourage retailers to be more ethical then you can email them to ask them about their ethical stance, especially if their website is a little vague or confusing when it comes to their ethical practices. If you don’t get an adequate response let them know that ethics is important to you. That you would be happy to pay a little more on each item to know that the workers that made it were treated and paid fairly, or that you will take your business elsewhere to a shop with stronger ethical practices. If enough people do this companies will hopefully get the message that there is a demand for ethically produced items and be more transparent and fair in their production methods.
What do you think? How do you feel about shopping on the high street? And have I missed any questions?
Image from here.