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How To Shop Consciously For Fashion

how to shop consciously

how to shop consciously

I’ve got a great guest post for you today from Kamea Chayne, the editor of Konscious World and the author of Thrive: An environmentally conscious lifestyle guide to better health and true wealth.  Kamea is one busy lady and she is also the marketing manager of Ethical Writers Co.  

She’s taken time out of her schedule to write this post on how to shop consciously for fashion, which I’ve personally found very useful, so I hope you will too!

We shake our heads in disapproval when reading about social injustice.  We cringe in disgust when witnessing environmental pollution firsthand.  And we frown in unison when hearing the ever-more-alarming statistics on climate change.  Yet we often hypocritically contribute to many of these global social and environmental issues through something that touches upon all of our lives: fashion.

Did you know that the textiles industry is one of the largest polluters on earth, or that it is the fifth-largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States?  Did you know that our clothes might have been made by underpaid, abused laborers in developing countries, or that they might be contaminated with toxic chemical residues from the dyes and treatments used to finish them?  Did you know that it takes a shocking 2,700 litres of water (enough to keep one person alive for three years) to grow the amount of cotton needed to make one single t-shirt, or that conventional cotton growing requires loads of toxic pesticides that eventually go on to pollute our fresh water sources?

The day I learned these dirty secrets of the fashion industry, my world turned upside-down.  How can something as (seemingly) innocent as buying new clothes with my friends turn out to be a potential act of harm?  This thought baffled me, and I knew there was no turning back.  Shopping would never be the same again.

Getting even a glimpse of what might happen behind-the-scenes in the fashion world made me realize how impactful our purchase decisions can be.  It also made me realise that we can no longer judge a product solely based on its physical properties and price tag, completely neglecting the history that comes along with it.

I concluded: we have to dig deeper; we have to ask questions; and we have to make our choices count.

By digging deeper to understand the histories of our consumer products, we can make more informed purchase decisions and pound (or dollar) vote for responsible businesses helping to drive positive change in our world.  In other words, we can shop our way to a better, healthier world by simply supporting companies that value not merely the bottom line (Profit), but the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.

Okay, but how?

While every conscious consumer might have his or her own approach to shopping more mindfully, here you will find a list of questions I personally ask before buying a fashion product:

1. What material is this product made of?

Check the fashion product’s tags for its material composition.

Prefer products made with low-impact, biodegradable, natural materials or recycled synthetic materials (see “Some healthier alternatives” within Table 1).

Avoid products made with virgin, non-biodegradable synthetic materials or high-impact, natural materials (see “Minimize” within Table 1).

Table 1. A shopping guide for Healthier Textile Choices

eco friendly textile choices

 2.  How was the product made?

Look for voluntary information provided by the company regarding where the raw materials came from, what dyes/chemicals were used, etc.

Prefer products made with natural finishes or dyes and products with credible certifications (see Table 2).

Avoid products with special properties such as stain-resistant, permanent press, anti-static, etc., and products with labels that provide no insight as to how it was made.

Table 2. Common Labels in the Fashion Industry

eco clothes labels explained

3.  Where was the product made?

Prefer products made regionally or imported products labeled “Fair Trade*.

Avoid imported products from the other side of the world that provide no information regarding how the product was made.

4.  Will I cherish this item? Is this a keeper?

Prefer durable, timeless, practical products you will wear 30+ times.

Avoid cheap, disposable, highly fashionable products you will wear only once.

5.  Does the company that made this product care about our world’s greater good?

Prefer products made by responsible companies transparent about their supply chain, supportive of social/environmental causes, and contribute to our world’s greater good.

Avoid products made by companies that show no regard for human or environmental health and make no effort to practice responsible business.

Although it’s not always possible to buy responsibly and transparently made products, realising how much power we each have as fashion consumers and starting to ask more questions like the ones I have provided are crucial first steps toward reshaping the fashion industry.

How do you make more informed consumer choices?

*The concepts and tables in this post have been adapted with permission from Thrive: An environmentally conscious lifestyle guide to better health and true wealth by K. Chayne.

Thanks Kamea!  You can learn more about Kamea here and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Resources

Green Blogging 101: Promoting Your Blog Post

promoting your blog

I’m back with the final installment of my Green Blogging 101 series.  This last part is about promoting your blog and blog posts.  It’s a bit of a lengthy one so I’d advise brewing a cup of tea before sitting down with this one.

And if you’re not interested in blogging then do come back tomorrow for a return to normal services – or try out these posts from my archives – a Cornish house tour, how to make fresh food last longer, and sell your crap, pay your debt, do what you love (a favourite of mine)!  No more blogging chat after this post, I promise!!

Promoting Your Blog

I promote Moral Fibres through a variety of different channels – mainly Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  I don’t like to keep all my eggs in one basket because things can change on the internet so quickly.  As a blogger it’s important to be flexible and try and keep abreast of social media trends.  Granted, it’s not easy, especially, if like me you just blog in your spare time, but it could just be a case of looking at your Google Analytics figures every so often so you can see if traffic from one source is declining or increasing compared to others.

how to promote your blog posts

Pinterest

The main site I use to promote Moral Fibres is Pinterest.  I pin my own content to Pinterest but I also pin other relevant content from other sites so that my Pinterest boards can act as a resource for anyone interested in the different aspects of green and ethical living.

At the start of this year I received a nice email from Pinterest telling me that they recognised that I was pinning great content and consequently they made me a recommend user.  They now promote several of my Pinterest boards to new users of Pinterest, and consequently my Pinterest followers grew rather dramatically to currently over 340,000 (!) people.  It’s given me a great traffic boost, but more than that I really appreciate that sense of community that Pinterest offers compared to sites like Twitter and Facebook who only help their users out if they pay for it.

Even if you’re not made a recommended user, it’s still worth using the site in promoting your blog.  Pinterest has the added advantage in that your posts tend to stick around.  If you think about how Facebook and Twitter work, posts disappear after a couple of hours because these sites prioritise new content.  With Pinterest content sticks around as people search for content and pin and repin time and time again.  Some of the biggest sources of traffic to my site from Pinterest are images I pinned two years ago that just keep popping up time and time again.  You can check which images from your site are being pinned just by looking at www.pinterest.com/source/yourwebsitedomain (e.g. in my case www.pinterest.com/source/moralfibres.co.uk).

My top Pinterest tips are as follows:

Create Pinterest-friendly graphics for your blog posts – i.e. take vertically orientated photos rather than horizontal ones, as vertical photos are more visible on Pinterest.  The photo above is a good example of a Pinterest friendly graphic!

Installing a ‘Pin it’ button on your website, that appears over your photos helps to make it easier for people to pin your photos.  I use the official Pinterest WordPress plugin for this – it’s really simple to add to your site.

When you pin photos to Pinterest write a rich description so that people can find your pins easily.

Join group Pinterest boards and share content on there.

Don’t just pin your own content – share others too.

blogging tips

Facebook

I used to get a lot of visitors from Facebook, then it fell quite dramatically when Facebook introduced paid for advertising.  This works ok if you’re a business wanting to promote a particular product that you’re selling, however when you’re a blogger wanting to promote a blog post that you’ve written that doesn’t make you any money then it’s not particularly good!  That being said, recently I’ve seen an upsurge in traffic from Facebook without doing anything differently, which I cannot explain, so I’m not going to turn my back on it!

My top Facebook tips are short but sweet:

When you set up a Facebook page make sure it’s a community page that people can like and follow, rather than a personal page.

Always include an image in your post.  Facebook is quite a visual medium and an image means more people are likely to interact with your post.

Occasionally share your Facebook posts on your personal Facebook account – not all the time as your friends won’t be too happy about being spammed!

Finally, Facebook Insights is a really useful tool – you can tell which days and times your followers are most active on Facebook and you can time your posts accordingly.  Find the button at the top of your Facebook page and click on POSTS:

facebook insights

My followers are most active at the weekend around 9pm at night – handy to know!

Twitter

Twitter is another useful site to have a presence on.  I get less traffic from Twitter than Pinterest or Facebook but that doesn’t mean I ignore it.  I still promote my posts on Twitter but as well as that I find out lots of useful information from Twitter, keep abreast of current news on Twitter, keep up with my favourite bloggers, and more.  It’s also a good site to make connections with people and to take part in blog chats.  As a blogger one of my favourite chats to join in on is Blogtacular – Wednesdays at 9pm  (GMT) on the hashtag #blogtacular.

A good strategy for Twitter is, as well as sharing your own content, to share other people’s content too.  It can get a bit dull when a Twitter feed is just all self-promotion!  And try to include an image if you can – posts with images tend to get more engagement than just Twitter posts with text!

If I’m feeling a bit sassy then sometimes (just sometimes) I tweet people who I think might be interested in articles I’ve written.  For example, recently I tweeted the Vegetarian Society about an article I wrote for the Huffington Post on vegetarianism, saying it might be up their street.  Not only did they share it on Twitter but they also shared it on Facebook where it got over 100 shares, over 500 likes and sparked lively discussion in the comments.  I don’t like to go down this route too many times as to me it seems a bit impolite and a bit too self promotion-y but very occasionally I think it’s ok.  People would soon get sick of you if you did it all the time!

Something I do though, without shame, is if I mention a company or blogger in a post then I will tweet about the article and mention them in the tweet so they know I’ve been talking about them.  I think that is definitely a-ok, and not self-promotion-y.

Can I just take a moment to point out a common Twitter mistake I see often.  Say I want to let my readers know that Ricky Gervais has been doing some great work highlighting animal cruelty.

If I tweet:

@rickygervais has been doing some great work in highlighting animal cruelty

This means only people who follow both Moral Fibres and Ricky Gervais will see this tweet.  Only 3% of followers of Moral Fibres follow Ricky Gervais so I’m really limiting the size of my audience.

But if I tweet:

.@rickygervais has been doing some great work in highlighting animal cruelty

This means all followers of Moral Fibres will see this tweet.  Can you see the difference?  All I did was make sure the second tweet started with a different character – the ‘.’ –  and not an ‘@’ sign.  You should only start a tweet with an @ sign if the tweet is a direct conversation to someone, otherwise make sure you start a tweet with a different character.

Instagram

One site I also wanted to address here is Instagram.  It’s growing in popularity massively, but to be honest I haven’t seen much return from it.  I used to think users tended to stay on Instagram rather than coming off-site to view blog posts, but recently I have read articles from people who say their site traffic has doubled because of Instagram.

The truth is I’m a little intimidated by Instagram – to me it’s all artfully styled shots of coffee and flowers and ‘ vignettes’ and it’s a community that truth be told seems a little cliquey and bit not really real or in tune with my life (or real life for that matter).  I still post on Instagram but generally it’s photos from the blog rather than taking photos solely for Instagram.  From what I’ve heard, people can take hours styling and taking a single Instagram photo and this working mum ain’t got no time for that!

I’m keeping my eye on it because if traffic does grow from Instagram to Moral Fibres then I’ll divert a bit more attention to it!  A chicken and egg situation, but right now I feel like I get more back from the lower hanging branches of Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest so I’m happy to focus my efforts there! If anyone’s got any tips for using Instagram for promoting your blog or can offer advice for being less intimidated by it then do let me know!

Tips on Not Being Overwhelmed

The above is mainly how I promote my blog posts.  If it sounds like a massive amount of work let me share a little secret: there’s a fantastic service out there called Buffer.  It lets you schedule Tweets, Facebook update and Pinterest pins in advance.  I write Moral Fibres in the evenings – by day I work part-time and on the days I don’t work I’m busy with my daughter, so there isn’t really any time in the day for social media.  I regularly set aside 30 mins of one evening a week to schedule these things in advance, and it means I can keep a presence on these sites without it dominating my life or stressing me out!  I also have the Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook apps on my phone so when I’m doing something really glamorous like sitting on the bus home, or standing in a queue at the Post Office, I can check in to these sites and respond to people so it doesn’t look my feeds are being manned by a robot!

promoting your blog

Outside of Social Media

Outside of social media, then if you’ve got the time guest posting on other blogs is a really good strategy in promoting your blog (hint hint – I’m always open to guest posts on Moral Fibres – just drop me an email!) or taking part in a blog series (you can take part in Your Ethical Style for example!), or writing for other sites that accept contributors is a good way to expand your reach.  Basically anything that increases exposure beyond your own blog is never a bad thing.

Before I sign off on my blogging tips series, I wanted to end with probably the two most pertinent of points about blogging, that will help keep you motivated and blogging for longer:

#1.  Don’t Pay Too Much Attention to Your Numbers

When you start writing a blog it can feel like no-one else is reading.  And if you’re reading other blogs with thousands upon thousands of readers it can feel a little intimidating.  The truth is everyone has to start somewhere, and generally in the world of blogging you start at the bottom and have to build a readership up over time.  The key words in that sentence are ‘over time’.  There is no magic shortcut to building up loyal readers – it does comes with time (a long time).

When I first started Moral Fibres about 10 people read the blog a day – which I think were some very lovely friends and family.  Even when I posted something I thought was great, the numbers didn’t go up and I felt as if no-one was really reading.  I quickly realised that if I wanted to keep blogging I should just ignore the numbers and keep posting blog post after blog post.  If you just keep writing it means people have more chance of stumbling upon your blog – through search engines, social media or word or mouth.

After two and half years of blogging here I have published 334 posts.  That means when some searches the internet for something there are 334 chances my blog will show up in search results.  If you have a new blog, with only four posts there are only 4 chances your blog will show up in search results.  So don’t pay too much attention to your visitor statistics – just keep posting!  People will find you!  And if you wrote a really great article when no-one was reading your blog – share it again when your blog is bigger!

#2.  Define Your Blogging Success Early On

Everyone who sets out blogging wants to have a successful blog.  It’s human nature that we want to be successful.  I’d suggest when you set out blogging that you define what you want your success to be.  Very early on in the blog’s life I decided that success to me is having a space I enjoy writing in, and a space that you enjoy reading and enjoy coming back to time and time again.

I don’t want the blog to be my full-time income – I have an environmental job I love and don’t have any intention to be a full-time blogger, and the stresses that entails of relying on the blog to put food on my table and keep a roof over my head!  Defining my own success means I’m judging myself on the terms I’ve set for myself, and not comparing myself to others (e.g. that blogger gets more page views/comments than me; that blogger makes more money than me), which only ever leads to negativity and resentment and can burn you out faster than anything.

If by successful, you mean that you want to be a full-time blogger then do be aware that most full-time bloggers don’t support themselves just through advertising on their blog (to be honest I think sidebar advertising is on it’s way out) – they have book deals, product lines, e-courses, e-books, teach classes, speak at conferences, a complimentary business, etc.  The food blog Pinch of Yum publish their monthly income reports, and is an eye-opening look at to see how a full-time blogger makes their money, and to see just how much work goes in to being a full-time blogger.

Hope you’ve enjoyed and found this series of blogging tips useful!  I think I’ve exhausted all of my blogging pearls of wisdom now, but if you have any other ideas on promoting your blog and blog posts then do let me know in the comments below.  As this is my third and final post on blogging, I think I’ve shared everything you could ever want to know on blogging, but if there’s anything you’ve felt I’ve missed then do also let me know in the comments and I’ll address them there rather than in a future post.

ps: in case you missed it, here’s how to set up and start and blog, my tips on blog post writing.