Most of us probably aren't considering whether a product is sustainable or ethically made when we're searching for thosedeals. Discovering that something we purchased is organic or cruelty-free can sometimes be an added bonus after we get that item home. But seeking out ethical shopping opportunities from the start can help the environment and boost small businesses.
Shopping ethically means buying things that are made from organic materials, cruelty-free and by fair trade companies. It also means avoiding products that aren't ethical or sustainable -- such as those made by a company has unsafe working conditions. Even if you don't think that buying one shirt makes a difference, thousands of people are also buying shirts from the same place. By shopping ethically, you can choose to support companies that are environmentally friendly, have strong workers' rights and do not test products on animals, according to Ethical Consumer.
"Through supporting ethical fashion, you can ensure that the people that make our clothes work in safe environments [and] are paid wages that they can live off and that your clothes aren't contributing to water pollution, climate change or biodiversity loss," Sienna Somers, policy and research coordinator for Fashion Revolution, said in an email. Fashion Revolution is a charity that works to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed so that they're made in a safe, clean and fair way. Fashion Revolution coined #WhoMadeMyClothes after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 garment workers.
Shopping ethically doesn't have to be an afterthought. If you know what you'd like to buy for someone, you can search for ethical brands first to see if you can find a similar product to what you would have from a big box store or major online retailer. Somers said that while ethical clothing may cost more, it's important to consume less, buy smarter and ask questions about where our clothing comes from.
"There has always been the misconception that ethical fashion is all hemp and unflattering, unfashionable designs. However, that just isn't the case. We are seeing some incredible ethical brands, who are being recognized as extraordinary designers and innovators in their own right," Somers said.
Here are 14 brands to check out to help you make more eco-friendly choices this holiday shopping season. The default shipping for many is in Europe, but if you're purchasing from another country, you can specify that during checkout.
My Bamboo is an eco-clothing brand that makes clothes using bamboo instead of cotton. The shop offers apparel, including leggings, socks, shirts, underwear and athleisure for women, men and children. The site also has bibs, blankets and other items for babies.
On Maykher, you can browse sustainable beauty supplies, candles, seasonal greeting cards, jewelry, fashion accessories, purses, wallets and more. In addition to selling eco-friendly products, 10% of Maykher's annual profits go to educating young women and girls.
If you're in the market for shoes, Po-Zu is a good place to look for sustainable selections. The company creates its products with renewable, responsibly harvested resources that don't contain pesticides, bleach or toxic dyes. It also offers vegan shoes.
You can't forget your furry friends during the gift-giving season. Lamina Animal sells vegan, plastic-free accessories for your pet. All the products are handmade in the UK using ethically sourced, sustainable materials.
It's never too early to introduce your family to ethical shopping. Panda Baby sells ethically produced baby and children's clothes at an affordable price. The company sources fabrics from local suppliers in Australia or other ethical producers around the world.
Home of Juniper (La Juniper)
Home of Juniper, or La Juniper, offers sustainable home goods, furnishings, fashion accessories, seasonal decorations and more. Home of Juniper said it doesn't currently ship to the US but is planning to in the future.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
If you have a bee-lover or gardener in your life, Bumblebee Conservation Trust might have the perfect gift. In addition to valuable information about bees and gardening, the site also offers bee-themed merchandise like shirts, hoodies and other accessories, a percentage of the profits from which go toward bee conservation. The site also sells books, pins, postcards, posters, gift memberships and more.
Crafted Books by Sue Day
For the artist or writer on your gift list, Crafted Books by Sue Day on Etsy has a large selection of handmade Cork Wrap journals, mini notebooks and photo albums. The books are eco-friendly and filled with recycled paper. Day, the shop's owner, says she puts a contemporary twist on traditional bookbinding techniques.
Ethical Market is a mega-hub shop loaded with unique items such as clothes for men, women, kids and babies, gift ideas, shampoos, soaps, home decor, makeup and stationary. When you click on an item to view it closer, Ethical Market will let you know if it's fairly made, sustainable, handmade, vegan and cruelty-free. The items are also reasonably priced.
Buying family members subscriptions during the holidays is a popular gift choice, and everyone needs toothbrushes. Blue Rock uses eco-friendly bamboo in its toothbrushes for adults and kids. You can make a one-time purchase, or subscribe monthly or annually. Another eco-friendly toothbrush subscription site is Brush with Bamboo.
A nice bottle of wine is a great gift for many occasions. Garçon Wines applies eco-friendly elements to packing and the flat design of the bottles -- which are made from pre-existing, recycled materials. Plus, the flat bottles save space since they can be packed or stored like books.
A good cup, tumbler, travel mug or reusable water bottle is an easy go-to gift that you know will get used. Even though purchasing reusable drink containers can cut down on waste, some of them are still made of plastic. WakeCup offers sustainable coffee cups, travel mugs, water bottles, tea infusers, shopping bags, lunch sets, straws and similar items in its shop.
Positive Earth Unique Furniture
We might not think about our furniture when it comes to sustainability, since we're likely to keep those pieces for a long time. But the origins of your tables and chairs matter too. Positive Earth Unique Furniture sells handmade pieces that come from reclaimed timber like pallets and scaffolding boards, and many other materials that would otherwise be thrown away. You can check out what the shop has to offer on its eBay page.
Other information and resources
- Ethical Consumer is a site that uses an ethical rating system to rank its product guides. For example, if you wanted to vet designer clothing brands, Ethical Consumer ranked multiple brands based on animal treatment, environmental impact, how the workers are treated, if the product is sustainable and how the company has participated politically.
- Ethical Fashion offers dozens of articles about why sustainability is important and DIY eco-friendly tips for everyday life. Ethical Fashion also has a brand directory to help you find eco-friendly brands or avoid those aren't. For example, if you click on Bath and Body in the directory, the site will give you a list of ethical brands and links to their websites.
- Ethical Clothing Australia works similarly to Ethical Fashion. The site has resources for Australian businesses to get accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA), a list of businesses, manufacturers and brands accredited with the ECA, and more.