Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Behind the brand

I wanted to take a slight break from posting about Europe, to say a few words about something that I have been thinking more and more about. Over the past year or so, I have become more aware of brands advertising themselves as being eco-friendly, using bio-degradable materials, zero-waste and fair trade. It got me thinking about my own choice and use of products. For a long time, I would buy things that I liked based on its cheap price. But most of the time, those products don't last me very long because I often change my mind about the quality or it just falls apart quickly because of its cheap material. I would buy products that aren't tested on animals here and there and try my best to recycle but I never really thought about it too much.

Issues such as fair trade, unfair 'next-to-nothing' wages, unsafe working conditions, pollution and animal cruelty have all been voiced out and have been ongoing issues in retail. Many brands have been called out already for being 'unethical' but there are so many brands (especially fast-fashion brands) that are still unknown for how they make their products. 

Before I start sounding like an extreme environmental activist, I just wanted to put it out there that I am still learning about all these things and I still make occasional purchases at fast-fashion stores. After all, they’re hard to avoid. It’s going to be tough cutting ties with them and I can’t say that I will ever be 100% environmentally friendly in all my ways. But often, you start small and it’s the little things count. And the little things can accumulate into bigger things (if everyone contributes a little bit).

I thought I could make a start by being more aware of what I am 'consuming' as a shopper. Whenever I go shopping now, it’s always at the back of my mind to know the brand I’m buying from a bit more. Recently, I found this app called ‘Good On You’. It's an app that tells you what's behind their brand -what they stand for in terms of making their products. It rates the brand (typically a fashion brand) on how ethical it is and tells you how the brand does in ‘environmental impact’, ‘labour conditions’, ‘animal welfare’. For example, I love shopping at Zara and I know many other people do. But how ethical is it? In terms of ‘environmental impact’: it’s a start. Zara is a part of several initiatives to reduce their carbon emission, eliminate hazardous chemicals and to be more sustainable overall, but it is still a brand that is built on fast-fashion. It’s ‘labour conditions’ is good (according to the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report) as they have good transparency of their processes and supports ‘worker empowerment’. Their ‘animal welfare’ rating is ‘it’s a start’ since they do use some animal products in their clothing like leather, down and wool.

It has been interesting looking up all the brands that I have or still buy from and seeing how they rate according to the three categories. It’s often disappointing to see a brand that I love fall short of standards and not being ethical or sustainable at all.  

I've also taken more time to think about how much I will use this product before buying it, and whether it's recyclable and made well enough to last me years. I've been guilty of buying things without thinking many times and those products end up sitting in my room un-used and gone to waste. "Think before you buy" is probably a good mantra to have (#notetoself).

I've also been guilty of using the excuse "it's just too expensive" when trying to be more sustainable...because it often is. But if it means biting the bullet and investing in more expensive but sustainable clothing and reducing fast disposable fashion items in my wardrobe, then so be it. (But man, is it going to be hard). In saying that, not all expensive brands and products are eco-friendly and sustainable – it’s still important to check and know what you’re buying yourself into.

I love finding small businesses with good ethics these days. I discovered the Pela Case the other day (after being bombarded with its ads on Instagram). Their story is that they are a company that aims to reduce plastic waste, alleviate our use of non-reusable materials and educate people on more sustainable alternatives. And so they created a phone case that uses recycled and bio-degradable materials, is free from harmful chemicals like BPA, uses low impact manufacturing…but is still very functional and looks nice! You can check it out here.

Another small step is to start using canvas or re-useable plastic bags when grocery shopping. The QLD government is going to roll out a ban of plastic bags in all retail stores from July this year. This is a huge step, and good on us. I know that sometimes it’s just easier when the plastic bags are there for you and it’s inconvenient and cumbersome when you have to lug everything back to your car or pay for a plastic bag. But I hope the inconvenience will encourage people start being more proactive in using more sustainable options.

These are just some of the little things that I’ve started to do and think about. I’m excited to learn more about sustainable alternatives and make more small changes to the way I purchase and use things. All change starts with recognition of the issue and I hope this post has been food for thought.

I realised I've said more than a few words now, so I better sign off! Have a lovely rest of the week!

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