We’ve finished the first quarter of 2018! I’m close to last year’s numbers for spending and debt repayment, so we’re looking good. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra tempted me this month – I bought tickets to two of their summer shows! What is money for, if […]
Some people love to squirrel money away and enjoy watching their accounts grow. I’ve never been one of those people. Money available meant money to spend – at one point even credit available meant money to spend! While I’ve worked hard over the past few […]
Today marks the anniversary of one of the worst industrial disasters in history – the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1,134 and injured another 2,500 on April 24, 2013.
Severe cracks in the Bangladesh garment building’s walls compelled police to require an evacuation. Disregarding this directive, workers were ordered back to their sewing machines and the eight-storey building collapsed on top of them the following day.
The organization Fashion Revolution developed as a result of this tragedy and encourages us to ask questions about our clothing: Who made my clothes? How much are they paid? What are their lives like?
These questions have unsettling answers. Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothing, 80% of them women ages 18-35. The majority of these garment workers live in poverty and deal with exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, unsafe conditions, and unfair pay.
Fashion Revolution Week takes place every year during the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, to educate consumers and demand change from retailers and manufacturers. In honour of this anniversary, I wanted to share some of the ways that learning about this tragedy, and many others, has impacted my habits as a consumer.
My Shopping Guidelines
In my own purchasing decisions, I try to follow these steps:
- Consume less. Do you even need this item?
- Repurpose. Can you use something you already have?
- Borrow. Do you know someone who can lend this to you temporarily?
- Trade. Could you swap something else you own for this item?
- Thrift. Is there anything available second hand?
- Buy consciously. Can you find an ethical and sustainable retailer?
Start at the top, and consider all of the options in sequence. Buying new has been the default in our culture, but with enough practice you can rewire your thought process so that it becomes the last resort.
The Reality of the True Cost of Clothing
Buying from ethical and sustainable retailers isn’t a financially viable option for everyone, and even when it is, we tend to balk at the sticker price. There’s a reason clothing costs have become so low, and it’s because manufacturers and retailers are cutting corners in everything from wages to workplace safety to environmental responsibility. We’re so detached from the true cost of producing a garment that a fair price seems exorbitant to us. That isn’t to say that a higher price means a fair garment – tags of fashion brands from fast fashion to luxury were all found in the Rana Plaza rubble.
That being said, it’s important to let go of perfection and do what you can. Sometimes you won’t be able to find something you need from a responsible company, at a price you can afford. Recognize that doing your best is enough, and that doing something imperfectly is better than pushing yourself to the point that you feel discouraged and give up.
Actions You Can Take Right Now
I’ve put together some of the ways I try to lower my impact on the lives of others and on our planet. They range from awareness to lowering consumption to lobbying for change. These are only a few so please add your own ideas in the comments!
- Watch the documentary The True Cost for a great overview of the many issues in the fashion industry – and share it with others!
- Try Project 333, the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. You’re probably already wearing the same stuff on rotation anyway.
- Commit to a 30 wears campaign by asking yourself if you would wear an item at least 30 times before you buy it. Many of my items are 100+ wears now!
- Or better yet, while you’re testing out a capsule wardrobe for Project 333, why not commit to a year of not buying clothing at all?
- Increase your awareness of marketing practices, particularly the shift from promoting a product’s features to selling an emotion – check out the documentary The Century of the Self. You’ll never look at an ad the same way again.
- Look up your local Buy Nothing group. The Buy Nothing Project is a local gift economy – you post things that you need, or things that you want to give, and build community with your neighbours while you decrease your environmental impact.
- Visit workerdiaries.org to learn more about a yearlong research project focused on garment workers in Cambodia, Bangladesh and India.
- Check out the sustainable and ethical fashion directory from My Green Closet if you do need to buy something new.
- Visit fashionrevolution.org to learn more about the impact of the fast fashion industry, and how you can contribute.
- Contact your favourite retailers and ask about their practices. Use the hashtag #whomademyclothes to connect with others and advocate for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
The bottom line? I believe that nobody should die for what I wear.
Have you ever received one of these letters from a bank? “Congratulations on being a responsible credit user! We’d like to offer you an increase on your credit limit. We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy this extra purchasing power!” Now, to me that […]
Is it awful that one of the best things about February was buying a replacement can opener? I will easily drop money on luxuries yet agonize over mundane household necessities. Not needing assistance opening canned goods was absolutely worth it and I should have done […]
The novelty of trends and designs
The time between unwrapping a perfect object and its first sign of wear, entropy in action
The marking of occasions and milestones
The feel of soft fabrics running through my fingers
The thrill of completing a task that only a list maker could truly appreciate
The expression of personality
The lights and sounds and subtle scents of new beginnings
The distraction from difficult moments
The not-so-casual conversation with strangers paid to make me feel good about myself
The sense of control in a life that felt out of it
Shopping isn’t just a stereotypically frivolous activity that we shame women for enjoying. It’s a complex web of sensations and neurotransmitters. How we feel can be as important as what we buy. When we try to overcome an unhealthy relationship with spending simply by stopping, we remove a source of fulfillment and a coping mechanism from our lives.
Unsustainable at best, destructive at worst.
You deserve to feel all of those things – pleasure, joy, accomplishment, celebration, originality, excitement, distraction, confidence, novelty, control.
Find them wherever you can, in ways that aren’t accompanied by the guilt and anxiety that overspending can be.
Visit a museum or art gallery and lose yourself in the expression
Create something with your hands
Take a walk outside and touch the space around you
Clean and care for the things you already own
Learn a skill that ignites you and puts you off balance
Volunteer and be a force for change
Strengthen relationships with people who lift you up
Speak to a therapist about your closely-held insecurities
Do something you’ve been afraid to
Carve out time and space for yourself, violently if necessary
If you just like to shop – embrace that too.
In a world that questions our every step, walking confidently in your own direction is its own act of self-love.
One of the opinion pieces that fascinates me every year is the minimum amount it costs millennials to live in my city – Vancouver, Canada. Here’s the breakdown: Housing: $1,929.67 Phone and Internet: $105 Transportation: $133 Groceries: $211.97 Entertainment: $321 Fitness: $75 Insurance: $20 Total: $2,795.64/month, or $33,547.68 annually For most of these […]
On Monday last week I decided that I would be going to the gym at 6AM. It wasn’t something I’d extensively planned. It wasn’t a ‘new year, new me’ move. It wasn’t even a habit I intended on creating. I just wanted to go to […]
It’s time to say goodbye to the first month of 2018. I can’t say I’m sad to see it go – January tends to be a tough one. We indulge in December and then struggle to dial it back to our usual routine for the first few weeks.
My minimum payments are around $1,300, so although this month was my lowest month since 2016 I’ve still made more progress than I would have in my previous mindset. I usually pick it up in February and March so I’m not too worried.
Including interest, I’ve paid $1,712.88 to my debt this month!
I’m under $30,000 on my student loan!
No other milestones, but I did take my first vacation in almost three years which was one of the reasons for my lower repayment this month! Spoiler: it was so worth it!
What’s up in February?
February should be business as usual as far as debt repayment goes. It’s a short month so hopefully that will mean lower spending, right? I’m already looking forward to tax refund season in March! I know some are against the ‘interest free loan to the government’ but near the beginning of my journey having a large lump sum was better for me than smaller amounts throughout the year that could be easily spent. This is my last year with a significant refund because I’ll be using up my remaining tuition tax credits, so I need to make the most of it!