As we go through this series, some of you might be thinking, “why bother buying local?” or “why does it matter where I shop?”. Those are questions that we asked before we started buying local as well. We used to just find the cheapest thing we could that looked stylish and that’s what we picked. Stores like H&M, Zara, Old Navy, and the likes were frequented by us. But as we started to go local we quickly saw why local clothing was so expensive and why the clothes we were buying were so cheap.
Going Local Pays Workers A Fair Wage
By buying local, we are giving our dollars to support local workers who we know are making a fair wage. As we mentioned in Our Going Local Journey post, we live in a country with labour laws and minimum wages so we can be sure that the workers are being treated well both financially and with the conditions surrounding their work. We are also supporting the business which in turn supports the local economy by providing jobs, tax money, etc.
If we were to buy from the places we mentioned above, we would be supporting fast fashion and the businesses that pay workers very little, provide horrible working conditions, make the workers work long hours, and provide a very poor quality of life. The way they get around this is by contracting the work out to factories and the factories in turn pay the workers. This way the big brands can say that they are paying the factories a fair amount and the factories are the ones that are providing the poor working conditions, low wages, long hours, etc. But the big brands are cutting the factories bottom line so much that the factory has no choice but to do what they do to/for the workers. If the big brands provided proper funding to the factories, then they could in turn pass on the benefits to the workers. If you want a great movie to watch that is both informative, entertaining, and infuriating, watch The True Cost. It was the best movie we’ve watched on this topic and it really solidified for us, why we are on the journey that we are on. Did you know that because of the volume some of the big brands are buying in, it would only cost 20 cents more per shirt from these big brands to pay an Indian worker a living wage?
Going Local Keep The Environment Clean
There are 3 areas to be concerned about when picking an ethical company to buy from: the wages they pay their workers, the way they source their materials, and the impact the products have on the environment Most of the local companies have either kept their work as local as possible and when not possible have gone to certified ethical factories in foreign countries. Most local companies have this information right on their website and if they don’t, a quick email to them should get you the information you’re looking for.
In terms of environmental cleanliness, local clothing companies have decided to produce their clothing with either bamboo or organic cotton. While neither of these materials are perfect, they are the best two options out there in terms of their environmental footprint being as small as possible. Other environmental concerns when buying clothing includes the types of dyes that are used, what (if any) chemicals are used to manufacture the materials, how much water is used in their processes and how much of it can be reused, and how much waste there is at the end of the manufacturing process. When companies that use leather in their products you need to be concerned with the tanning process, water waste, and the dyes used.
Bamboo and organic cotton are both fairly low in their impact on the environment which is great, but again neither is perfect. To get the bamboo as soft as it is some chemicals are used and depending on the specific process, sometimes the chemicals are wasted as much as 50%, some process can recoup over 90% to be reused it just depends on which process the company is using. While organic cotton, reduces soil damage, used less water and uses overall less energy than conventional cotton, it does however have a lower yield which means that in order to produce as much material as conventional cotton it has to use more energy, water, etc to produce the same amount as conventional cotton.
Bamboo, organic cotton, and leather are our go to materials we look at when buying due to their low impact on the environment. However, we do encourage you to get in contact with your favourite local companies and ask them about their processes and what initiatives they are taking to reduce their impact on the environment.
Going Local Makes You Feel Better
By buying from more local companies who are ethical and sustainable, we feel good about it. Whenever I shop at H&M and the likes, I know why their prices are so low; it’s because someone else on the other side of the world is literally slaving away for pennies to make it for me. It doesn’t feel good when you actually think about where your clothing is coming from and who is making it and what conditions they’re making it under.
By lowering the impact on the environment, and making sure workers are being paid a fair wage it feels good to be buying local.
Lastly, we have boys who don’t like to stay clean for very long which means we wash their clothes often. Even with all the washing and drying (always hang dry local clothes), these clothes look as good as they did day one. Local clothing is simply made better and thus lasts longer. So while you might be spending more, you won’t have to spend that much for a long time.
Next week we will feature our first company, any idea who it might be?
What is the most important reason to you that justifies buying more local clothing?