FAQ: burning questions on ethical / sustainable / conscious consumerism

8 August 2019

You asked, I answered. Okay, actually — I asked (on Instagram Stories), you answered (with a question of your own), and now I'm here to do my best to answer some of the most common issues I hear about switching to a more ethical, sustainable and/or "conscious" lifestyle. Particularly when it comes to clothes. But you'll see from my answers that you can apply a lot of my attitude outside of your interaction with fashion too.

I literally can't find ethical fashion that I can afford and is plus size. Comments?

My first comment is it would be pretty awkward if I did not acknowledge that I am privileged in my body type. I am not restricted by having to search for a niche (plus size) within a niche (sustainable clothing brands). To anyone concerned with cost, I always recommend searching for second hand clothes first. Online my first port-of-call is always either eBay or Depop. In person, charity shops, thrift stores or arranging a clothes swap with friends.

That being said, I know those are still not a hard and fast answers if you are searching for ethical plus size clothing. I've seen friends disappointed on shopping excursions to vintage stores because of limited options for their body type. Marion privilege numero dos (this list is long, btw): I live in a major city so I am spoiled for choice. You may live somewhere that doesn't have secondhand clothing stores, or friends and acquaintances with a similar build to you to ask for tradezies. And online shopping can be a bit of a gamble too, with not everyone on eBay or Depop accepting returns.

Sooooo... is there any good news? Try these two pieces advice I always remember a friend of mine using for Depop:

  1. When you find an item in your size and style, follow that person's profile. They are likely a similar size to you and then you can know when they have new items available that you might be into. 
  2. Message people and ask if they will do specific measurements on a shirt or dress you are interested in, but are afraid might not fit. (You can do this on eBay and Etsy too.) When you get the numbers, compare them to an item of clothing that you already own and love the fit of, and you can feel more confident with buying.

My number one rule? (For everything really...) Do the best you can, but also give yourself a break. Just by asking this question I see you are conscious and motivated about making more planet-friendly choices. That's half the battle won. Don't let it consume you if you can't find what you are looking for. Focus more on buying less, buying well when you can, and not beating yourself up when you buy something from fast fashion because you were in a pinch.

Plus sized sustainable fashion! Where to find it??

I've been compiling a running list for years now of ethical, fair trade and sustainable clothing brands. (Welcome to my weird 2am insomnia hobbies.) I have not combed through them to see which brands are plus-size inclusive though. Thankfully, other awesome people have done this research. Check out Sarah Laughed's post on plus size ethical fashion companies. There is even a freaking regularly updated spreadsheet; that's a girl after my own heart. A quick Duck Duck Go search also brought up Sophie's post "Size Inclusive Sustainable Fashion Brands."

Being conscious when travelling especially where you might have limited choices

Living a more "conscious," eco-friendly, sustainable, low waste life – whatever you want to call it, however you want to frame it – boils down to about 90% preparation. Which is a massive mindset shift for a lot of people; it definitely was for me. There's the super basic things like getting comfortable with always taking the following supplies with you: refillable water bottle or coffee cup, reusable utensils, canvas tote, smaller cloth bag, etc. At first it's annoying carrying all this around. Then you feel naked without it.

After that, we kind of run into privilege again – there is the privilege of time at play here. Do you have the time to look up where you are travelling to to see if there are any markets, grocery stores or bakeries where you can buy unwrapped goods to use and eat? Do you have the time to hit up those places early in your travels to sustain you for a couple days or more? If those options aren't available where you are going, consider using it as an opportunity to speak to independent store owners about what you were wishing you could find, and why. "Hey, it'd be awesome if you sold bar shampoo; I'm trying to use less plastic." or "Everything here looks so good! Do you get many customers asking for vegan pastries?"

How do you start? 😅

This question haunts me for so many reasons. How do you move towards becoming the person you want to be, when it seems so impossibly daunting and, well, impossible? I'm afraid it is the most annoying answer ever... You just start. And it probably won't feel like you have started when you do start, because it'll be such a tiny baby step. For me it was getting really mad at the ethics of Amazon and refusing to buy from them anymore. Then it kind of just snowballed from there.

Find the tiniest baby step you can take and celebrate it. You save a little money here and there so when you run out of your favourite mascara, you can treat yourself to a cruelty free or organic one with better ingredients. You find a place to recycle your holey socks and replace them with a pair of soft bamboo ones. You set a goal of eating vegan one day a week. You venture out to a school climate strike or immigrant rights protest. Just remember: BABY STEPS. Don't ask too much of yourself, especially not all at once and in the early days. You're going to go through the 5 stages of grief, but for capitalism. It sounds weird, but trust me, it will happen. Oh, and golden rule: Do the best you can, but also give yourself a break.

There's couple more questions I have yet to address including what to do when you slip up, money-saving, guilt and men (*sings* these are a few of my favourite things) so check back here for part two.

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