Winter is fast approaching here in South Korea. Fall feels transient, but I’m learning to be more like the Danish and embrace winter as it comes in full force. Ever heard of Hygge?
This winter feels particularly cold. Local friends have mentioned this winter may be the coldest yet! (Don’t they say that every year?) All this to say, my beloved “cold weather” coat, even when immensely layered, just wouldn’t cut it in this chilled air.
On this journey of shopping more ethically, I always get excited when I have a real need for a new item, not simply a want. As I have mentioned before, I am slowly (but surely) attempting to switch everyday purchases and seasonal needs into opportunities to shop responsibly. When it came time for a heavier coat, I perused many different ethically made parkas in a variety of price ranges. I found a handful that I desired to invest in, but the truth is, I just can’t afford one this year.
When I come to a situation like this, I’m not embarrassed or disappointed. I merely remind myself I have to be creative and plan better to save for bigger, seasonal purchases.
My choice? I opted to find a quality, secondhand winter coat. My apologies: you won’t be able to find my fluffy, cozy, covers my bum and knees parka. It’s one of a kind. It has two small stains near the bottom of the zipper, both of which are hardly noticeable.
Of course, I would always rather support companies who are using sustainable materials, fair labor practices, and empowering people and communities in the process. However, when your budget is small, here are some simple thoughts on how to shop more ethically:
- Wear what you’ve got. Okay, this is not a novel concept, right? Seems like pathetic advice, perhaps? Wait a minute: do you really wear everything in your closet? Before you start shopping for new items, consider what has been sitting around that could feel new with a little visit to a tailor or a friend who loves sewing. I’ve re-purposed many seemingly old frocks into, now, beloved pieces. Even if your current wardrobe is not filled with sustainable fabrics and fair trade brands, wearing what you have is a great way to start living a little more ethically.
- Thrift stores are still cool. I agree that thrift stores can feed into the endless cycle of more, more, more. With prices similar to fast fashion brands, it’s easy to over-consume, even when shopping secondhand (guilty here, too!) Thrift stores are not a perfect solution to shopping responsibly, but if you’re on a budget, I think they’re a great place to start. If you’re turned off to the idea of secondhand, I urge you to try it. Your closet (and your wallet) will thank you!
- Start simple. Deciding to start shopping ethically doesn’t mean you need to buy an entirely new wardrobe from only ethical brands (though the long term goal is to build a closet filled with thoughtfully made pieces). Perhaps start with buying ethically made jewelry or shoes and see how it goes. Commit to not buying these items from fast fashion brands from here on out. Eventually, when budget allows, you can start adding in wardrobe staples.
- Plan for larger, seasonal purchases. Here is where I struggle to take my own advice: Yikes. We live in a culture of instant gratification, and I admit, this is an area I have yet to master. I’m learning and seeking to make this a more regular practice. My husband and I have established a tight budget that will remain intact for a few more months (more on that topic to come!) Obviously, if I spend my monthly allowance, it’s gone. Set a budget for yourself and save for pieces you’ve been wanting. Investing in an ethical wardrobe, full of quality pieces that will last years, is what you’re after.
I completely admit, my advice is nothing new. I’m sure we’ve all heard it many times before! My heart behind this post is that, occasionally, we need to be reminded of some of these points. In the midst of many choices and many voices, it can be helpful to slow down and start small. When you think you can’t afford to shop more ethically, you have to remember: starting somewhere, no matter how simple, is still movement. Movement, over time, is what produces change.