21 Apr 2021

What is conscious consumption

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With the launch of their new online store, Ethical Made Easy answers the age-old question: is it really possible to be an ethical consumer? The answer is a lot more positive than you may think, so let's dig in and find out for ourselves.

It's safe to say that pretty much all of us have a positive relationship with clothes, whether it’s because they offer a vehicle for expression, or simply because they keep us warm, protected and comfortable (oh and not naked—kind of important).

For us at EME (and probably many of you), the feeling that comes with buying ourselves a beautiful garment that we’ve eyed off for months is second to none. Even as advocates for buying less, we still adore the simple pleasure of a piece of clothing that lights us up and makes us feel our best.

But somewhere along the way, the fashion industry became a little less about expression and more about trends. Clothing companies cottoned on (excuse the pun) to the fact that we crave new-ness and all of a sudden they began offering us bulk—and we mean bulk—fashion and accessories at a much lower price. Sound familiar? It's Fast Fashion, and it allows us to buy our favourite trend—sometimes a direct replica from yesterday's high end runway—for next to nothing. It sounds great in theory, but the catch is, it's delivered at the expense of the environment and the people who make it.

You may have heard about the detrimental effects of fast fashion before. Like the fact that three out of five fast fashion items end up in a landfill according to the Clean Clothing Campaign. Or just 4% of the money Australians spend on their clothing actually goes towards the wages of garment factory workers according to Oxfam.

These facts (amongst countless others) are the very reason that the term conscious consumption was born. The New York Times explains it succinctly; conscious consumption is an umbrella term that simply means engaging in the economy with more awareness of how your consumption impacts society at large. And an ethical consumer? This is a person who believes that the way they spend (or don’t spend) their money has an impact on society.

*If this is all new to you, check out our article Every question you’ve ever had about ethical fashion, answered.)

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But the question is: Is it possible to be an ethical consumer? And can it really make a difference?
We know people want to be ethical consumers; 87% of Australian shoppers are more likely to purchase products that are ethically and sustainably produced. In addition, 85% of people surveyed said they’d like to see retailers and brands be more transparent, and communicate more effectively about the origins and sustainability of their products and whether they are engaging in ethical practices. On the hand, there are still incidents occurring far too often within the fashion industry, like the discovery that brands aren’t paying their workers during the pandemic, leaving many of them vulnerable and in some cases starving, or last year’s devastating fire at Nandan Denim Factory in Ahmedabad, India that claimed the lives of seven factory workers.

Despite the fact that we want to be better consumers and there are huge issues associated with fast fashion that are known to the public, it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In fact, in Australia alone, the fast fashion sector grew by 19.5 percent over five years to $AUS1.8 billion in 2017-2018 according to IBISWorld.

So where is the disconnect happening?
Here at Ethical Made Easy, we believe this comes down to a few things.
If we can’t see it happening in front of our eyes, it’s hard for us to understand the full ramifications of our purchasing actions, and ultimately what it is we’re voting for with the money we spend.

Couple that with the sheer amount of greenwashing that exists and it’s then hard to know who to actually trust, without spending hours, if not days finding out exactly which brands are ethical so you can make a confident purchase.

This is echoed in the McKinsey State of Fashion Report 2020 that says, "there remains a pervasive lack of consumer trust." McKinsey's research found that consumers believe that brands are using greenwashing and sustainability as a marketing strategy without making a significant positive impact on the environment, aka they care more about their efforts to look like their doing something, then actually just doing something. It’s no wonder we’re all confused and opting for a convenient fast fashion find that looks like something off the runway and can be sent to us in less than a day.

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This is where Ethical Made Easy steps in
Four years ago, founder of Ethical Made Easy, Jasmine Mayhead found herself in the same predicament. After deciding to pop on a documentary on Netflix called The True Cost, she realised that all the clothes she owned were from fast fashion labels, and as a result just how much of an impact her purchasing power was having and in all the wrong places. Back then, it wasn’t as common to expect brands to talk about their ethics, and as a result, finding ethical brands that actually dived deeper into their practices, that were stylish and aligned with her personal style, while actively working to create a better tomorrow was like finding a needle in a haystack. To keep herself accountable and to become what we now know as an ethical consumer, Jasmine decided to create a brand directory that interviewed the brands to discover what they were doing well and also to publicly declare what they were working on. Ethical Made Easy was created to remove the guesswork and make it easier (get it?) to find the brands that are setting the standard for tomorrow.

And now it’s even easier to be an ethical consumer
Today, four years on, we're excited to announce that we're here to make it even easier to become an ethical consumer with the launch of our brand new online retail platform, The Ethical Made Easy Store. You can now shop for Australian and New Zealand-based brands that align with your personal values in one place. We've done all the research for you so there's no questioning whether or not the brand you're buying from is truly ethical.

Though, ethical and sustainable does not mean the same thing (a topic for another day). So we wanted to acknowledge that while we’ve created a place to help you shop more consciously, that supports brands who are actively creating a better tomorrow through business, we also acknowledge that the most sustainable thing you have is the one you already own. Look after the clothes (and things) you already own, learn how to care for them and repair them, and then when it comes time to purchase something new, we happen to feel that EME may just be the perfect place to start—but only if you promise to wear it (or use it) more than 30 times.


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