We all want to be good corporate citizens. As consumers, we look to the ethical responsibilities of companies. This is how we select the brands we invest in, the ones we dedicate our repeat visits and recommend to our friends.

For some, especially students, leading a fully sustainable/Fairtrade lifestyle is hard to do all the time. But, if you buy Fairtrade products once a month or even buy locally, it can make an impact.

When purchasing clothing, do your research beforehand. Look at brands and their corporate reputation. Some apparel retailers have recently been in the spotlight for ill-treatment of their factory workers. Take a quick afternoon to see what brands are worth your investment and how to start purchasing ethical fashion.

What is ethical fashion?

Ethical fashion is not just a fashion style, but also considered a lifestyle. It is the combination of sustainable and Fairtrade fashion. Ethical fashion represents the sustainable approach to the design, sourcing, and manufacture of clothing which improves the working conditions of labourers and minimizes the environmental impact of the clothing production process.

Why does it matter?

Did you know a single t-shirt takes 2,700 liters of water to produce - that’s two times what the average person drinks in a year. It is important for companies to adopt sustainable practices and start using less water. As a result, companies will have to find alternative ways to produce textiles while also shorting its water consumption.

Fast fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world and the environmental toll it takes on the earth is too much for us to keep up with. The process of manufacturing and shipping clothes uses massive amounts of chemicals and runoff waste. Fast fashion also creates a life cycle problem: the average Canadian purchases 70 new articles of clothing a year and that contributes to the 12 million tons of annual textile waste dumped into North America's landfills.

The second major issue with fast fashion is worker conditions which include, low wages and less than safe working conditions.

Consumers want to feel confident about their clothing purchases like knowing transparent facts about how they were made. The Fairtrade Fashion movement is gaining momentum to bring fair wages and ethical policies to workers and create a healthier, happier and safer workplace.  

What criteria should I look for when I purchase clothes?

Companies are encouraged to disclose the manufacturing process, so when purchasing products, you want to consider:

  1. Look for the use of eco-friendly fabrics and components

  2. An indication of fair wages paid, safe working conditions and workers’ rights are instilled

  3. The supporting to sustainable livelihoods

  4. Minimal water use

  5. Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste

  6. Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion

  7. Training and/ or awareness raising initiatives for workers

  8. In support of animal rights

  9. Minimized toxic pesticide and chemical use


How do I support ethical fashion (on a college budget)?

1. Thrift shopping

2. Donate old clothes to thrift shops instead of throwing them away

3. Buy natural fibres (100% organic cotton is one of the affordable and common items to purchase)

4. Do a closet swap with friends

5. Invest in quality products when you can, even buying one fair trade fashion item a year can make an impact

6. Buy local where and when you can

7. Do your research on other brands that aren’t mainstream, otherwise know which brands to avoid


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