Hello! Kapdaa founder, Nish, here! Sustainability is becoming a leading force behind the modern consumer’s buying choices. However, when first making the conscious decision to shop sustainably, people often do not know where to start. How do you know that the brand you are buying from is eco-friendly? How do you shop sustainably on a budget? How can you educate yourself more on the issues regarding fast-fashion and hyper-consumerism? 

 How do you check to make sure a brand is sustainable?

Quick Answer: “You can look at current and previous collections and research how they were made. This does not mean just the final product, but how it came to be.”

You need to look at the first steps of a product’s journey at conception, all the way until it is in your hands post-purchase—ask yourself what a brand can do to be more sustainable and then make your purchasing decision based off your findings. Let’s look at a standard T-shirt as an example.

You have decided that you need a new t-shirt, but you also want to make sure it is coming from a sustainable brand/retailer. First, you can ask yourself, what is the shirt made of? There are a few things that you can look for to make sure that the textiles used are eco-friendly. Check to see if it is fair-trade certified and made from either 100% organic or recycled materials. Some products are even dual-certified as fair-trade and organic, this guarantees you are receiving the highest standard of sustainability. 

Next, we ask ourselves, who is making this shirt? Are the people weaving, cutting, and sewing the shirt being paid fair wages, working in a safe environment, and being treated well? Unsustainable brands often outsource their manufacturing to under-developed countries where the workers work in dangerous and unsanitary environments and are underpaid. These kinds of places are often referred to as “sweatshops,” and are a huge problem within the fast-fashion industry. I want to highlight that sustainability is not just about the planet, but also the people.

Lastly, now that the shirt has been made, you should question: How is the shirt getting to me? Of course, the most sustainable option would be to purchase the shirt from an actual store in person, but we are living in the 21 century where e-commerce has surely taken over traditional brick and mortar shops. Companies that offer express or two-day shipping are forgetting the environmental impact of carbon emissions that comes with air and motor transport services. Think of it like this—Buying 10 things from 10 different online stores is unsustainable. It is a better option to buy 10 things from 10 different high street stores that you can physically walk into.

I want to shop sustainably, but I am on a budget, what should I do?

Quick Answer: “Shop less, buy from vintage/charity/2nd-hand shops, or make/upcycle something yourself! But, there are affordable brands out there. Sustainable goods should be well priced. Prices need to be competitive with what consumers currently pay.”

Buying vintage or thrifting is a great way to keep your fashion footprint small. Just like KAPDAA does with offcuts, second-hand clothing gives new life to materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Along with second-hand clothing, you can style and up-cycle them yourself to adjust the fit, make it more modern, or to add a personal flair. Not only does it help the planet, but it can be a creative outlet to create unique pieces just for yourself!

I also wants people to realize that there are sustainable options out there if you are wanting a new eco-friendly piece but are on a budget. For sustainability to become the norm, it has to be accessible. It will not catch on if all sustainable brands are charging extreme prices for their products. If people are used to buying a £10 shirt, they won’t change to paying £50 for the same shirt, but they will be willing to pay £20 in the same of sustainability.

It may be more money upfront, but the piece will likely last longer than a cheaply produced one. We also live in a hyper-consumerist society where we are always wanting to buy more and more. This mindset itself is dangerous to have. Instead, we should buy less as a whole, but when we do make any purchases, we should do so with an earth-conscious mind. Buy less and buy smarter.

What other changes can I make in my life to be more eco-friendly and sustainable?

Quick Answer: “Buy less of what you don’t need, use reusable bags, walk more…It’s the little things that can add up to make a big difference.”

When wanting to get involved in the sustainable movement, people often think they need to join groups who protest out in the streets or give away all they own to live in a small shack out in the middle of nowhere. This is not the case. You can greatly reduce your carbon footprint by simply making small changes in your everyday life. Bring a personal lunch to work, carry a reusable water bottle with you, and choose to ride your bike to that small coffee shop down the road that you love instead of driving there. 

These changes don’t have to make your life more difficult, they can be fun! I suggest looking into local clothing swap events or joining a food sharing group. Yes, these things reduce waste, but they also build communities where you make lifelong personal connections with people of shared values. As previously mentioned, up-cycling your clothes can be a fun, creative outlet that you can use to express yourself. Choose to walk versus driving on occasion, you may notice things about the world around you that you have never noticed before.

To wrap it all up…

An eco-conscious lifestyle may look daunting at the surface, but when you get down to it, everything can be summed up in a few words. Think before you buy. Sustainability is simply about being aware of how and what you consume on a daily basis. I want to leave you readers with a few last words, Sustainability is a journey. This is a reminder that we as humans are not perfect, but should strive to do our very best every day.