After thinking I'd be able to get by without buying any new opaque tights before the end of my shopping ban, I gave in and bought one pair of footless tights (which I consider to be an essential - no rule breaking here!)
A few of my existing pairs have - mysteriously - developed a large thin patch above the left knee. I have no idea what's causing the sheer patch in the same place, but it looks pretty bad, so I decided it was time to visit the hosiery department.
I bought the same brand as several of my existing pairs - Berlei Dig-Free opaques - because I love the wide dig-free waistband. It's the best design I've found for banishing the muffin top you get when a tight, narrow waistband cuts into your flesh. I don't like how this looks when I wear a slim-fitting outfit. The tights are also good quality and made to last - I'm still wearing pairs I bought in 2015.
BUT. I feel as if I've fallen at the first hurdle of the never-ending race that is conscious consumption because I didn't stop to think about whether there were more ethical options available. Duh! It's only since the purchase that I've looked into it and it's taught me an important lesson: making more ethical purchasing decisions isn't always going to be easy. And this was just a pair of tights, not a big-ticket item! There are a lot of variables to weigh up and sometimes there will be no 'perfect' choice. 'Better' might just be as good as it gets.
Berlei gets a 3/5 rating ("It's a start") on the Good on You app for its labour and animal welfare policies, although it needs to improve on paying its overseas employees a living wage (which is a pretty major issue!), but there's no information available on its environmental credentials.
Regardless, the tights are synthetic (nylon and elastane, made from petrochemicals) and they're made in China so as environmental friendliness goes, they aren't the best option. Organic cotton and bamboo are better options, but it turns out bamboo isn't all its cracked up to be as far as its environmental impact (or lack thereof) goes; and tights made from organic cotton and bamboo usually have a small amount of nylon and/or elastane added to them anyway (to stop them falling down, kind of an important feature).
More environmentally friendly versions of nylon and elastane are becoming available, but trying to find black opaque footless tights made with these materials is probably going to be virtually impossible, at least for now.
So organic cotton with a little nylon/elastane looks like the best option...but I've trawled all the companies with 4 and 5 star ratings in the Good On You app and looked at all the sites mentioned in this Guide to Good Tights, but I can't find anything similar to what I want, particularly as I'm looking for footless tights. (Black opaque footed tights and leggings made from organic cotton are much easier to find.)
Even if I could find a similar product, most of the sites are not Australian, some don't even ship here and even if they do, is it worth buying tights made from more sustainable fabrics if I'm going to have them shipped to me from another country? I want to buy locally, or least Australian, made.
So...perhaps I would have ended up buying the Berlei tights anyway.
Choosing which tights to buy isn't the only quandary here. What do I do with the old, worn out ones? Previously I would have dumped them in the bin without a second thought because they're no use to anyone else, but now that I know about the massive volumes of textile waste going to landfill each year (much of it non-biodegradable), I can't do that now.
Nylon can be recycled but it's not easy to do and you can't just chuck them in your council recycling bin. I've never been much of an "upcycler", but perhaps it's time I gave it a go. There's certainly plenty of ideas online, both practical and ornamental, for ways to reuse old tights. I'm thinking maybe some DIY jewellery (which would allow me to sneakily acquire something I'm not allowed to buy right now!).