|image c/o bbc.co.uk|
In this post I mean Eco as in economical and eco-friendly. In recent years I've become really aware of the ethics of clothing manufacturers. Ethics or lack of them, I should say. I'm talking about companies who have their clothes made in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China etc. Look on the labels and ser where your clothes were made. I've read up on clothes manufacturing plants, watched documentaries about their workers, their wages, their lifestyle and I'm not happy. Adults and children are being treated appallingly.
I'm sure most of us picking up that stretchy cotton vest look with delight at the quality of the fabric, the colour range, and above all the price. Do we ever picture those seams running through a sewing machine in the hands of a Bangladeshi worker, or consider how and why our clothes travel around the world to hang on our rails at rock bottom prices?
Through the grapevine I heard of a buyer for the largest most discount clothing chain in Ireland and the UK who visited some factories in the developing world and now won't describe them to her family and friends. These products are styled by magazines or bloggers (guilty as charged) and all we think of is the item and its price, never its provenance. My wakeup call came after I posted a haul video on my YouTube channel a couple of years ago, showing a load of stuff I bought in Penneys for rock bottom prices. Do you think I am still wearing any of them? I had a vest about 6 years ago with beautiful beading on the neckline. Hand stitched by god knows who in God knows where. Bought for 4 euros. I felt guilty every time I looked at it. How can a garment cost so little? Who's losing out? All of us, as a friend recently pointed out. Not just the exploited workers but we are buying sub-par tat and pretending it's ok.
This doesn't just pertain to the bargain chains on the high street, the pricier ones are made under similar conditions, they just hide it better. Remember the buzz about Nike and the sweatshops in the 80s/90s? That hasn't gone away, the industry has grown, and we're all turning a blind eye.
You know all this of course, but what are we to do? Each retailer is as bad as the other. Very few high street stores actually have good ethics and we can't all make our own clothes. I want to look good, wear good quality clothes and not support the dodgy companies. I have looked at websites of ethical clothing companies and I love what they do but I can't afford to pay their prices.
I want my kids to wear lovely cute clothes from Next, Zara, H&M, Marks and Spencer, but I don't want to feel guilty when I look at them.
So I've found a solution: saving money, still getting the brands I like and as a bonus I'm supporting Irish charities. I buy a lot of our clothes in charity shops. I also accept used (or preloved if you prefer) clothing from friends and family. I have been doing this for a couple of years and this is how I've found it:
Easy: the used clothes are usually brought to my house on play dates so I don't even have to leave my front door.
Fun: I love bargain hunting and enjoy the banter in charity shops
Economical: I pay between 50c - 4e per item for kids clothing. Adult clothing I pay up to 10e. I recently got a white cotton Ted Baker wrap dress for myself for 9.95e. It looks unworn.
Logical: kids grow so fast, if I were to buy them a new summer/winter wardrobe each year I'd be broke. They wouldn't get the value out of their clothing before they'd have grown out of it.
A little time consuming: if we don't need the used clothing passed on to us by friends we donate it to charity, that takes a small effort. As does looking in charity shops. But as I said before I enjoy it. I recently spent 14e in a charity shop and got clothes for my post-baby figure. All look unworn. This included: an oatmeal M&S lambswool sweater, a white sleeveless long sheer shirt from Dunnes, dusky rose chinos from Next, a snakeprint silky tank top from Zara... labels I like for rock-bottom prices. Many of my friends do this already, making a conscious choice not to support the slave labour. It is a zero carbon footprint, these clothes are not travelling far, nor are they going straight to a recycling plant. It's a second lease of life for them, and everybody benefits.
Eco - ideas if you don't live near charity shops:
Organise a clothing swap with friends where you bring your unwanted items and swap with each other. I'd advise picking either ladies clothes and accessories or children's, all at once could get a bit crazy. Make it a coffee morning, cocktail evening, birthday celebration. Maybe all give 5e to charity at the same time, and designate someone to bring the remaining items to a charity shop.
Check out car boot sales and Christmas fairs, they often have used or handmade items for sale. For the last few years we've been going to a local senior citizens Christmas fair and I've found gorgeous new knitted hats and cardigans for the kids, some Christmas presents and handmade decorations.
Ask a friend or family member with a child a year or two older than yours to pass on clothing that has been outgrown. Offer the same for someone else.
There are online tading places for used clothing and accessories/homeware, checkout Adverts.ie and specific Facebook FSOT (For Sale Or Trade) groups. We have bought electronics this way for a fraction of the new cost, saving lots of money at Christmas.
I'm sure you're doing some of this already, we mamas are a savvy bunch. But maybe you got some new ideas here too. If you have any other eco shopping tips please leave them below so we can all benefit from your thriftiness!
Now instead of answering a compliment with "Thanks, Penneys" we might say "Thanks, charity"!