At the beginning of the year I joined the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge, a fun way to monitor and limit consumption by using the clothes rationing coupon system used in the UK during WWII, when supplies and raw materials were limited. I started with 66 point and they were supposed to last me all year.
Well, I’m out. I’m out of points so I’m bowing out of the challenge.
I did learn a few things from it though.
First, if it really was wartime, and my brothers and husband were off fighting Nazis and fascists, I probably wouldn’t feel like shopping.
Second, I didn’t really change my shopping habits or use my points carefully. Every month or so I’d remember the challenge and tally up what I’d bought and how many points it was going to cost me. I knew that for every coupon overspend, I’d need to donate to charity. I already do that and I’d have to buy a lot more to catch up with the amount I’ve already given.
Third, our economy relies of the exchange of goods and services. If everyone stopped shopping, it wouldn’t be a good thing. That said, living within ones means is really important–being in debt is dangerous.
I like shopping second-hand–it’s a great way to make my shopping dollar stretch further–but charities aren’t always perfect. Sometimes their workers are exploited while their CEOs make millions. Sometimes the things Americans don’t buy get shipped to Africa, essentially ruining their domestic textile markets.
What I look for, in order of importance, are:
- Animal-free clothing (as a vegan I don’t buy fur, leather, wool, silk, etc.)
- Quality items that won’t fall apart and end up in a landfill
- Fair labor conditions where workers get a living wage
- Green business practices that have a small carbon footprint
An example of something I bought that meets these criteria is the pair of Novacas boots I bought. They’re 100%vegan, from a European worker-friendly factory, and are PVC-free. I got them from a local vegan business, The Chocolate Shoebox, that I was happy to support.
I also recently ordered two pair of jeans from Sonas Denim, a San Francisco company that uses denim scraps to make great new patchwork-style jeans. The company is vegan-owned and donates 10% of its profits to animal welfare groups. When my new jeans arrive, you can bet I’ll be blogging about them!
The Base Project hires African artisans to create one-of-a-kind bracelets from discarded PVC pipe. Brilliant! You can see The Base Project bracelet in this photo, along with another vegan bracelet, handmade ring, and one-of-a-kind dress. I bought them all from Roberta Oaks, a shop owner an up-and-coming designer in Honolulu.
Next month, when I visit NYC, I’ll be buying a wool-free winter coat from Vaute Couture, another vegan company I’m happy to support.
It’s not my job to single-handedly keep the economy going, and shopping ethically is not a simple thing–there are lots of factors to consider. However, I’m happy to spend when I can afford to and support businesses I believe in.