We live in a world of instant gratification, where orders purchased online with a simple click can arrive on your doorstep that very same afternoon. There are a wealth of companies offering insanely cheap clothing (Pretty Little Things’ non-sale dresses start at a mind boggling £5 – the same price as your M&S meal deal); combine this with the pressure to change your outfit as fast as the next Instagram post, and you’ve got a dangerous mix. With their 100-mile-an-hour pace and staggering market worth, both the beauty and fashion industries are complicit in actively encouraging us as consumers to make impulse purchases, buy into every new trend (spoiler: there are a lot of them), and spend never-ending amounts of money on perfecting an image that always seems just out of reach.
The environmental impact of this spending is huge. It might surprise you to learn that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world after oil, and the personal care industry alone produces 120 billion units of packaging a year, much of it destined for landfill. Today, I’m imploring you to hit pause, look beyond your immediate environment, and make active choices as a consumer that will have a positive impact on the world in which we live. In 2020, it seems that for every product you want to buy, someone will be making an ethical alternative. Do a little research before you make a purchase, and support the businesses who are environmentally-conscious, treat their employees fairly and pay their taxes (side eye at the devil that is Amazon). Keep reading for my list of resources to help you make sustainable choices when you’re next updating your wardrobe, skincare routine and make-up collection.
- Buy second-hand. In simpler times, we could trawl charity shops and vintage sales. From your own home, you can still browse on Depop or eBay for discount items. Seen a specific item you love from a high-street retailer? Search the internet for a second-hand version and you might be able to get yourself a bargain whilst also helping the planet.
- Learn to sew! Sewing is the best skill to have in your tool-kit for adapting your wardrobe. If you don’t mind your clothes looking a bit rough and ready, it is super easy to make small changes so they fit your size. Unpick or raise hemlines, tighten or loosen waistbands, follow your instincts, learn as you go, and use YouTube for help. One quick fix for trousers that are a touch too loose and aren’t giving you that high-waisted goodness you wanted is to put the button through the belt loop to bring the waist in by an inch or so – it’s like an instant facelift for your jeans.
- Raid your parents’/sisters’/friends’ wardrobe. Ask first! (I’m not so good at this. Public apology to my sister). You might find your next favourite outfit immediately, but look at everything with an open mind, and think about how you could adapt it. I recently turned a dungaree maxi dress into…some dungarees!
- Sometimes, second-hand just won’t cut it – I’m talking the sweaty and intimate realm that is underwear and workout clothes. This is when it’s time to do some research: you’ll find everything from bamboo underwear to recycled plastic swimsuits to yoga leggings made from sustainably sourced merino wool (nope, I don’t know what that is either, but they sound like very soft leggings to be doing your downward dog in). Sometimes it might feel like you are paying through the roof for these products, but remember, the quality ensures they will last for years to come.
- Not sure where to start in finding these ethical brands, or wondering if your go-to highstreet retailer is ethical in its practises? Check out https://goodonyou.eco . Here, you’ll find all the information you could ever want about sustainability in the fashion industry, as well as inspiration on new brands to try, all beautifully curated in a website you just want to spend time on (I accidentally spent ten minutes down a sustainable pyjama rabbit hole when getting the url for this article. Whoops).
Skincare and Makeup:
- Did you know that you can buy skincare and makeup second hand too? Who hasn’t excitedly ordered a new skincare product, only for it to irritate their skin type on the first use? Or spent ages colour matching their skin to a foundation shade online, only for it to be not quite the right fit? So long as you don’t mind using a product someone else has barely scratched the surface of, there is a wealth of second-hand beauty and skincare on Depop and eBay.
- Whilst you could sell your unwanted beauty bits on these sites too, if you can’t be bothered with the hassle and aren’t looking to make a profit, why not pass them on to your friends and family? Hoard them for when you can see your friends again. You can give them a hug and a new moisturizer – a combination I’d be very happy to receive.
- Of course, there are plenty of brands making waves in the sustainable skincare and beauty market as well. Things to look out for include vegan, palm oil free, cruelty free, ethical sourcing of ingredients and a lack of excessive packaging. A general ethical outlook is important as well – major respect to The Ordinary for forgoing Black Friday and taking a stand against the mass consumerism society has become all too accustomed to. And obviously, the number one brand to recommend is Palmier Goods, providing you with handmade, vegan, eco-friendly shampoo bars that come in reusable cotton bags. As an independent, female-run start-up with ethical considerations at the core of the brand, I couldn’t think of a better choice of product to have in your shower than a Palmier Goods shampoo bar.
- For products that don’t come in bar form, think about how you dispose of the packaging when you’ve squeezed every last drop out of the tube. A lot of it you’ll be able to put in your recycling bin; others you can return to the shop you bought it from to be reused or recycled (both The Body Shop and Lush do this), and some stores (L’Occitane, Neals Yard) even take hard-to-recycle packaging from any brand.
- Bit of a side-note, but relevant in that this tip could potentially save you money and unnecessary purchases of endless skincare products in an attempt to fix your skin: cleanse your face MORE THAN YOU THINK. Look up the 60 second rule – if you’re after clearer, glowier skin (who isn’t?) it will change your life.
Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for livening up your wardrobe and bathroom cabinet in a sustainable way. To sum up: clear out anything you don’t want, dispose of it responsibly (most things can be recycled at your local recycling centre) and get creative with revitalising old finds and discovering new environmentally-conscious products. Purchase mindfully and the earth will thank you.
By Kezia Rice