Monday, 17 October 2016

My shopping ban: the beginning of a permanent change?

When I first started my shopping ban on 1 June (four and a half months ago!) I suspected I would stop buying stuff until the end of the year and then go back to my usual spendy ways in the new year. I can shop again! Yay! I will buy all the shoes! 

But fairly early on I realised I did not want to go back to the way things were. My intention now is for this challenge to be the beginning of a permanent change in how I spend my money.

It's possible I will extend the ban - wouldn't it be great to say I went for a whole year without buying shoes and clothes? - but if not, this is how I plan to continue beyond 31 December 2016.

I want to mostly only buy clothes and shoes that I actually need. I won't promise to never again buy the occasional thing just because I love it, but I don't want to go back to the compulsive acquisition of stuff I don't need, while letting most of the clothes and shoes I already own sit unworn in my bulging wardrobe. I do not want to get sucked back into a constant state of yearning for stuff. I don't want to waste hours a week scrolling online fashion websites for things I don't need, when I could be doing something more worthwhile with my time. I don't want to see my credit card balance inching up and up while my savings stagnate - or go backwards. I don't want to miss out on a holiday overseas because I bought too many pairs of shoes, some of which I DON'T EVEN WEAR! (When I think about that, it really sheets home just how idiotic my behaviour was.)

When I do buy something, I want to focus on buying second hand, or purchasing from small businesses, especially local makers (the latter of which is more expensive, so I'll be forced to buy much less). I want to opt out of fast fashion because, although it seems awesome to be able to buy so much for so little, it's actually NOT awesome for many reasons

The quality is often poor, so it doesn't last long and then if you replace it with something of similarly poor quality...well, that's false economy in any language. 

Giving the really crappy stuff to charity shops seems like the responsible way to get rid of it, but in reality it just becomes someone else's problem.  Almost a quarter of all donations (i.e. not just clothing) to charities in Australia end up in landfill (going on 2014 figures) because they are not fit to be resold, recycled or exported. Dumping rubbish at landfill isn't free, so rather than helping the less fortunate, donations of very poor quality clothing actually cost the charity money! (Dumping waste outside a charity store to avoid paying landfill costs yourself  - a major problem for charities these days - also forces charities to pay for disposal. Don't do it!)

According to ABS statistics, Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles/leather each year (second only to the US) and - gobsmackingly - we discard an average of 23 kilograms textile/leather waste each year. That's a total of 500,000 tonnes of leather and textile waste every year. I was astounded when I read this.  

A lot of what we wear these days is made from synthetic fibres - wearable plastic basically - and, just like plastic, synthetic fabric takes decades - probably many, many decades - to degrade in landfill. Even natural fibres like cotton and linen don't degrade readily because processes like bleaching, dying and printing, mean they don't stay natural for long. 

Of course, the ecological impact of clothing starts long before it hits the shops/website. Clothing manufacturing consumes a lot of resources - water, electricity, chemicals, petrol - and it's a dirty business. According to one American fashion insider, clothing manufacturing is the world's biggest source of pollution after oil (or the third largest polluter according to another source. Whichever, it's bad). All this, just to make poor quality goods that end up in landfill!

Because I care about the environment, it's hard impossible for me to justify spending money on fast fashion.

All this is reason enough for me to farewell fast fashion, and I haven't even mentioned the direct human impact: most fast fashion is made by factory workers in developing countries toiling away for a fraction of the retail price of the garments they make, in poor, frequently unsafe, conditions. Remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 (not the only accident in the industry, just the most high profile)? There have been some improvements since then, but we'd be delusional to think everything's hunky-dory there and in other garment factories around the world.

With all this in mind, I want to stay off the fast fashion treadmill. I plan to reduce (buy less), re-use (buy secondhand) and only recycle (sell or give to charity) as a last resort, which is the way the 'recycle' part is meant to work. I want my purchasing decisions to be more sustainable, more ethical and more mindful. I want to be an even more conscious consumer. 

The reduce, re-use, recycle ethos is a great place to start, but wait! There's more! This Greenpeace article sets out another nine Rs for a more conscious consumption. It also contains this excellent graphic created by Sarah Lazarovic, which is a good guide for shopping and spending less. 
In my next post I plan to gather together a bunch of practical advice on how to shop more sustainably. 


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  2. Seems a good idea. It's a trope often used in fiction that the frightfully well off 'old money' people wear clothes handed down from their mother or father (as appropriate!).

    This is for two reasons 1) they are careful with money and 2) buying the very best quality means that a tweed jacket or twinset can be passed on without a care for fashion. The very best quality is always fashionable.