You may well have heard about the damage that fast fashion is doing to the planet. The West’s appetite for new clothes is harmful to people, animals and the planet itself. Indeed, it has been claimed that the fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of our carbon outputs, uses more than its fair share of water, and damages the oceans by releasing micro-plastics when clothes are washed.
Ethical Consumer Magazine are holding their annual Ethical Consumer Week later this month, from October 24th-30th. This is a week of panels and workshops designed to help businesses and individuals make more ethical choices in the future. With this in mind, our October blogs are going to be all about how you can become a more ethical consumer.
So what can you do if you need some new clothes and want to avoid contributing to the climate emergency? Firstly, ask yourself if you really do need something new. Is there a pair of trousers in the back of your wardrobe you forgot about? Can you put a belt round that dress so that it looks like something new? Has your flatmate got a fancy hat you can borrow?
Sometimes, the answer to all those things is no. And that’s OK - you still have ethical options ahead of you.
Buying second hand is a great option. Bristol is chocca with fantastic charity shops, particularly in Clifton. If you tick the ‘used’ option on eBay, you can find great second-hand outfits for any occasion there too.
Mending or repairing clothes you’d given up on is another option. If you’re not a dab hand with a machine yourself, you could contact one of the local sewing geniuses we list on the BCR website such as Victoria Dry Cleaners in central Bristol, Sew Much More in Easton or Daddy Alterations on Gloucester Road.
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash
If you’ve tried all of those options and still can’t find the right dress for that special wedding or shirt for that important interview, you might want to turn to some of the high-quality, eco-options for buying new clothes that are out there. Ethical Consumer have a great page which lists a multitude of ethical shops. Let’s have a look at my top picks from that page.
Lucy and Yak are my favourites from the Ethical Consumer list. Lots of my mates own dungarees made by this company and, frankly, I am longing to try out their comfy yet stylish lounge-ability. The dungarees are unisex, but the rest of the range is for women only. Items include fabulously colourful trousers, pinafore dresses and polka dot socks. While ethical clothes are always going to be more expensive than fast fashion, the prices here are not too eye-watering. If you avoid Primark for a couple of months, you might find you have enough for a £54 pair of dungarees without having to smash too many piggy banks.
Thought Clothing have collections for men and women, as well as sale section so tempting I nearly broke my own pledge of buying no new clothes in 2020. They set out to protect people and the environment with their clothes, which are simple, stylish and made to last.
Finally, Greenfibre Organic sell sustainable items for your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom as well as clothes for men, women and children. Some of the pyjamas on this site look especially delicious.
If you do decide to buy new, look out for clothing that uses organic cotton and is fair trade, and always avoid vicose clothing, which is hugely damaging to the planet.
Good luck out there - let us know how you get on with your forays into slower fashion!
Did you know: it takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a pair of jeans?
Easier Than You Think is about the individual actions we can take to help fight climate change. However, as we all know, individuals can't fix the world by working alone. Trust me, if I had the power to do that, I'd also have a lot more ponies and lot less rain in my life!
Sometimes, the best thing we can do as individuals is to try to effect systemic change. That means getting together with other people to put pressure on policy makers, companies and governments so that we can ask them to stop acting like the bad guys in an action movie and start doing the right thing.
Photo by Fabian Burghardt on Unsplash
There is a perfect opportunity to do just that this week – you can write to your MP about the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill. This is a bill that’s been created by activists, scientists and policy experts. If it passes, the bill will force the UK government to create an enact a serious plan to deal with all of our emissions - those we keep at home and those we palm off overseas.
We can't hope for technology to be invented that will save the day. We're running out of time and need to act now; the crazy extremes of weather we've seen in Bristol in the past few month or so are evidence of that. I believe that the best way to enforce real change is through a citizen's assembly (which the CEE calls for) since some of the decisions that will need to be taken could be political suicide for any party. Although of course other decisions may prove hugely popular – who didn’t enjoy the cleaner air and quieter streets in the first few weeks of lockdown?
The bill is supported by Caroline Lucas, environmental writer Rob Hopkins and environmental academic Bill McKibben. And by Easier Than You Think!
There are several ways you could contact your MP to ask them to support the CEE. You could write a letter, send an email or give them a ring.
If you’re unsure about who your MP is, this handy website will help you out. Another useful resource for researching your MP is this website, which tells you how they have previously voted on various matters including climate change. Just type in your postcode to find your MP, and click on their full voting record to see where they stand.
When writing to your MP, it’s best to pen something yourself rather than copying and pasting an email, as this means it’s more likely that your concerns will be read. However, it can be hard to know what to say. Here’s the email I wrote my lovely MP Kerry McCarthy, to give you a template you can adapt for writing to your MP about this issue - or any other climate change concern.
Start off by telling your MP who you are and, if possible, making it clear that you know a bit about who they are. If they are doing good work to help fight climate change, thank them. If they’re not, don’t be rude or aggro; it won’t help the cause.
Dear MP (insert your MP name here),
I am one of your constituents, and I'm writing to you to ask you to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (the CEE). We've emailed before about several issues, including the frequent flyer tax, so I know you're dedicated to fighting climate change. Thank you for all you are doing for the planet.
Talk a bit about why you care about this issue. Are you worried about your family, friends abroad, animals, the developing world? Tell your MP about this.
I am terrified by climate change. In the past months, we've seen some of the highest temperatures on record in the UK, followed by devastating winds and rain. We can't hide from the truth anymore - climate change is coming. It's going to make our lives difficult, and the lives of our children unthinkable. Of course, it’s already wreaking havoc in the developing world, as a result of the consumption habits of the West, which is so shameful.
Tell them why you’re emailing – and again, make it personal if you can.
I'm going to guess that you already know about the CEE bill - but just in case, I'll tell you about it. The bill is a call for the UK to make and stick to an urgent and serious plan for dealing with our emissions; ALL of our emissions, both those at home and those we palm off overseas.
End your email with a call to action and more thanks; either for their hard work, or just for reading your letter.
Please do all you can to get this bill passed - the planet needs us to act.
Thank you again for all the hard work you do,
If you would prefer to call your MP, that’s great, as it apparently has more impact. Personally, I get a bit flustered on the phone – written words are way more my thing than spoken ones – but the few times I have gathered up my courage and called an MP, they’ve always been polite and open to listening to what I have to say. You can find your MP's phone number on this website.
Good luck, and let us know how you get on in the comment box below!
Did you know: The Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019 had a direct impact on the UK’s announcement that we are in a climate emergency. Protesting can work!