Making Ethical & Sustainable Choices
Minimalism is not only about the choice to keep fewer items in our homes, or paring down only to the things that make us happy. Making purchasing choices that are ethically and ecologically sustainable is important, too. There are a few facets of making these kinds of decisions that I want to lay out so that we can all work together to make the planet a better place. Individual action may never feel like it counts for much, but group action absolutely does. So how can we all make a difference together?
First: Consider Buying Secondhand
Secondhand shopping helped me stretch a very tight budget in college. Whether for clothing or for bigger items like furniture, making the choice to buy something secondhand keeps it out of the landfill until it's been truly well-used and lets an item serve its intended purpose for longer. It's also a great budget option for mixing up one's wardrobe--get something new-to-you secondhand, and donate it back when you're done with it. Secondhand clothing and soft furnishings can be washed, and wooden furniture can be sanded and restained or painted. Some of my personal favorite items in my home were purchased secondhand and refinished to match my own style. Sustainability does not have to be expensive.
Second: Look at Supply Chain Transparency Policies
Many retail clothing stores should have a supply chain transparency page on their website somewhere. If they do not have one, they may not have a supply chain that sources materials responsibly or pays living wages to factory workers. By shopping only at stores with humane, ethical, and eco-friendly supply chain policies, we're supporting fair wages, healthier factory environments, and less damage being inflicted on the planet. Supply chain transparency usually entails readily-available statements on safe working environments, living wages paid to factory workers, and surprise audits. Additionally, you may see commitments to garment recycling and using sustainably-sourced raw materials.
Third: Buy for Quality, Not Cheap Convenience
At some point, we've all probably bought something cheap that we've had to keep replacing over and over because it failed to stand up to every day use and abuse. Shoes and clothing are the primary culprits of this rapid replacement policy we seem to endure. It's important to shift to buying items for their quality and longevity over just cheap convenience. Of course, buying for quality usually means paying for it handsomely, too--but over time, a well-constructed pair of shoes, leggings, or a good dress will outlast many cheaper items. When we buy cheap stuff that needs to be replaced constantly, we're wasting the energy of the supply chain and just adding to the mounds of garbage in landfills and pollution in the ocean. Buy for quality and you'll produce less waste over time. As an added bonus, high-quality brands generally have better supply chain transparency than lower-quality "fast fashion" brands.
Fourth: Support Social Justice
As far as I am concerned, it is impossible to remain neutral when it comes to social justice and equitable treatment of all people. My official stance since I was a teenager has been (and please stop reading my blog after this if you disagree) "FUCK THE POLICE" because of police brutality, specifically the tortures and deaths inflicted upon nonwhite individuals. Coming from a place of white privilege and knowing that it's better to solve a problem than to become a part of it, I try to do what I can to buy only from brands that support racial equality, social equity, and social justice. If a brand sees it unfit to fight racial prejudice, they will not get my money, plain and simple. Bigotry, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are unsustainable social practices that damage community morale. Brands and stores that preach and practice love, empathy, and support for marginalized groups are better for us all.
If we all take these four tips to heart, whether we're minimalists or not, the world will eventually be a cleaner, happier, more loving place for us all. It's also important to note that we won't get every purchase right. But we can at least strive to make better choices when the opportunities arise. Go forth and be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.