It's Okay If Sometimes You Don't Shop Sustainable, I Promise
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Can one shop 100% sustainably? Science says no. Or at least I do. There is a growing amount of pressure placed on the consumer to pick up the slack when it comes to stopping climate change. As if it's not just 100 companies or so gleefully creating 70% of emissions... ANYWAYS... These same companies, and the powers that be who support them, instead shift the blame to you. Why don't YOU shop right? Why don't YOU live entirely waste free? As if we always have the choice.
Obviously we here at BADLANDS Inc. like to think about how we consumers can participate in fashion in a more sustainable way. But when it comes down to it, we can't riddle ourselves with guilt when thinking about sustainable shopping, because that can make things beyond challenging and discouraging. As the adage goes, we see more impact from many people imperfectly shopping sustainably, than very few people perfectly shopping sustainably. Essentially, what I'm saying is, don't let the thought of sometimes having to make unsustainable purchases stop you from making the changes that you can. After all, we don't always get the option to make the right choice.
"As the adage goes, we see more impact from many people imperfectly shopping sustainably, than very few people perfectly shopping sustainably."
A challenge that's often called out when it comes to sustainability is the issue of access. When we're talking access, we basically look to answer the question, can pretty much anybody get their hands on this? And in terms of sustainable fashion, the answer a good portion of the time is no. The majority of sustainable brands are priced more highly than what we've gotten used to thanks to massive fast fashion empires, and the majority of consumers have begun to think of it as frivolous to spend huge chunks of change on clothes. However, many of these same consumers are coming to realize exactly why sustainable clothes aren't exactly "affordable", at least in terms of the way we currently view shopping for clothes. After all, clothes require labour to be manufactured, and when labour is properly compensated things start to become reasonably expensive.
While plenty of sustainable brands can seem unattainable for most shoppers, there's a few ways around this problem that bring responsible shopping within reach. Vintage shopping, for example, is a far more accessible way to prevent old garments from ending up in the landfill, and newer garments from being unsustainably produced to begin with. Yes, vintage and second hand shopping surprisingly isn't always cheap, and sometimes you're looking for a specific item that you just can't find at your local Value Village, so it isn't always an option, but it is a good one. A second way to justify pricey sustainable shopping is to re-evaluate how much you need to consume in the first place.
"A second way to justify pricey sustainable shopping is to re-evaluate how much you need to consume in the first place."
It can be daunting to look at a sustainably made t-shirt priced at $90. It feels like you don't have the agency to make an impact with how you shop because you don't have the funds to shop this way to begin with. We at Badlands should know, neither of us, who ride in on our high horses preaching the virtues of responsible shopping, come from particular wealth. Both of us are recent graduates with entry level jobs and massive loan debt. And it's for that reason that we don't expect anyone to shop 100% sustainably 100% of the time (except trust fund kids obvi). But when it comes to highly priced goods, it's key to remember how much it cost to produce them, the fact that the maker was properly compensated, and the textiles properly sourced. Not only that, but just think that by purchasing this product, you're likely supporting a small-scale business, as opposed to enriching billionaires.
Ultimately, it's also vital to think about how much you actually spend on clothing yearly vs how much you buy. Maybe a $90 t-shirt is a lot, but do you buy 5 $20 t-shirts yearly anyways? A cornerstone to sustainable consumption is buying less, and especially buying responsibly, so would this $90 t-shirt end up being equally costly, and far less impactful to your usual shopping habits? At the end of the day, if you can only afford to swap out some fast fashion pieces for sustainable ones, that's excellent! Small changes are still change, and even if you only have the resources (much like us) to buy responsibly made garments sometimes, you should still be proud. Guilt in terms of shopping is an obstacle to achieving a more responsible fashion industry, so don't let guilt get in your way.