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How to Become a Conscious Shopper in 4 Easy Steps

It’s easy to say you want to live in a more sustainable and ethical world. But how can we make that happen? In fact, the power to make a difference is right there in your hands: every time you spend a dollar you’re voting for the kind of world you want to live in!

Take our clothing choices for example. Fashion is fun, a key part of our identity. But it’s also an incredibly polluting industry with lots of dark secrets. Did you know that fashion’s right up there with aviation and agriculture as a source of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change? Or that 80 million people work making our clothes, most of them badly paid women in unsafe working conditions?

Becoming a more conscious clothing shopper isn’t hard when you’ve got the right intel. We’ve broken it down into 4 easy steps, so you can feel good every time you make a purchase knowing you’re doing your part!

1. Prioritise what you already own

Start by rethinking how and why you consume. Most of us buy things we don’t really need from time to time, and end up throwing them away when they aren’t up to scratch. This harmful practice contributes to landfill, one of the most pressing waste issues of our time. In Australia alone, a shocking 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill each year! This rapid consume-and-dispose cycle also underpins the fast fashion business model—where the people who make our clothes often work 10-18 hours per day, with minimal breaks, for very little money.

Here’s a few ways to prioritise what you own: Look after your wardrobe by learning how to care for your pieces; have things mended or altered (or even learn to do it yourself); and fall back in love with your clothes by mixing and matching them in new ways. Incorporating these actions into your fashion routine means that whenever you do need to fill a spot or two, you know exactly what to get and why. 

2. Shop secondhand when you can

In a world with more products than we know what to do with, there is one key step that fights back against throw-away culture in a big way: shopping secondhand. By buying stuff that is new to you (for a fraction of the original price), you extend the life of something that would otherwise end up as waste, taking any number of years to break down. For a denim jacket, you’re looking at around 12 months. And for that cute lycra yoga set? Up to 200 years! 

Buying secondhand is also a good way to find durable pieces made from animal materials—like a classic leather jacket—without directly harming animals. Whether you browse your local op shops, host a clothes swap with your friends, scour some markets, or shop secondhand on one of the many online platforms available, you are making one of the most sustainable shopping decisions you can by tapping into the pre-loved marketplace.

3. Invest in high quality clothes that will last

When it comes to sustainable fashion less is more. Though cheap, poorly-made clothes may seem like a bargain at the time, often they fall apart after a few wears, lying forgotten in the back of your wardrobe. When buying new clothes, it’s well worth considering the cost-per-wear of the garment. For example, if you wear a pair of $95 sneakers three times a week over the course of a year, the cost-per-wear comes to around 60 cents per wear. A pair of sparkly stilettos that you bought for $30 and wore once are expensive in comparison! 

Invest in a small number of high-quality pieces that you know you’ll wear again and again, preferably made from eco-friendly materials, like recycled polyester or organic linen. Avoid accumulating a mountain of poorly-made, cheap clothes you rarely wear—it’s not only better for the environment, garment workers, and animals—in the long run, it’s great for your wallet, too! Try to steer clear of fleeting trends. Instead choose pieces that never go out of style, like flattering denim jeans, a basic white tee, and a versatile trench coat. 

4. Choose brands that do good

When you do need to buy new, it can be tricky to find brands that are truly worth supporting. You might want to find a vegan brand that guarantees payment of a living wage in its supply chain. Sometimes this information is clearly accessible on a brand’s website, but usually it’s not. That’s where we come in. This final step is made easy with the help of Afterpay’s collaboration with Good On You!

All the brands in Afterpay’s newly curated Ethical Fashion collection have been thoroughly researched and rated ‘Good’ (4/5) or ‘Great’ (5/5) by Good On You. Good On You’s ratings consider over 100 key sustainability issues, indicators, and standards systems to assess a brand’s impact on people, the planet, and animals. You can dress easy knowing your hard-earned money is going towards businesses who truly care about their impact. And since sustainable options are sometimes a bit more pricey, Afterpay can help make those higher quality clothes easier to get your hands on without breaking your weekly budget.

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