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A Beginner's Guide to
Ethical Shopping

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When you do a deep-dive into the negative effects of the fast fashion industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. After all, there are so many facts to take in, and many of them are shocking and downright scary. Most of us can only read so much about how we’re poisoning our rivers and exploiting human beings just so we can all buy cheap jeans, before starting to feel a tad, well...existentially depressed.  


Ethical shopping can also seem impossible, especially at first. But if you have the right resources and information, buying fair fashion is a no-brainer—it just requires a little effort and mindfulness.


Here are some tried-and-true beginner tips for your journey into ethical shopping.

jeans folded in a storefront display - wearing clothes you already own is a good ethical shopping tactic.

Wear, and take care of, what you own. So, you’re excited to go full-on eco-chic—fantastic! But that doesn’t mean you should binge-watch Tidying Up with Marie Condo, ditch the entire contents of your closet, and go out and buy all-new, sustainably sourced clothing. For one thing, you probably don’t need that many new clothes. For another, dumping half your body weight in clothing into a landfill isn’t exactly an earth-friendly move. Shop your closet, instead: Wear what you own, and take excellent care of all your clothing items. This means mending and altering clothing—patching holes, treating stains, and sewing buttons back on—instead of throwing it out.  

ethical brands - Fortress of Inca

Support ethical brands. Each of us has the power to lessen our impact on the environment and make a positive change with every dollar we spend. Buying your fashion from sustainable brands is one of the most important tools you have in your consumer toolkit! Start the vetting process by using the DoneGood app, which provides a comprehensive list of truly ethical, sustainable products. Also, do your research on brands by checking that they have the proper ethical certifications and memberships to back up their sustainability claims. Google the brands you want to buy from alongside terms like ‘sweatshops’, ‘environment’, ‘sustainable’, and ‘ethical’, so you can see what other people are saying; and, don’t be afraid to ask companies for more info regarding their ethical, fair-trade practices. Finally, read labels. Look for pieces that are made from high-quality, eco-friendly materials—for instance, organic, recycled cotton (ideally that’s dyed within Global Organic Textile Standards) and ethically made leather are great; synthetic fibers, not so much.

peruvian man handmakes shoes in a factory - sustainable fashion pays human beings fair wages - color photo.

Alter your expectations. When it comes to buying ethical fashion, you can expect to pay a higher price than you would at Walmart or most stores in the mall. It’s all about changing your expectations on what constitutes good clothing. Sustainable fashion is expensive because it involves using low-impact, organic crops and paying human beings fair wages—in other words, you’re paying to save the planet. And in our opinion, that’s the definition of money well spent.