on consumption (part 2)

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I met a boy once who wore the kind of jeans you could tell were ripped by hand, by accident, by adventure, not by a machine not in a factory. He had dark brown eyes and grass stains on his knees. We introduced ourselves, exchanged names and majors, and then moved on to something bigger.

I have this charming (read: unsettling) habit of flying through small talk at a thousand miles a second until, ten minutes in, we’re discussing religious extremism, global warming or, in this case, consumption.

“I’m trying to live a zero waste lifestyle,” he said, then went on to describe how he brought mason jars to the grocery store to buy things in bulk.

The most remarkable thing about this boy, though, was that he didn’t make me feel bad. Me, standing in front of him in my H&M jeans and my Forever 21 sweatshirt. Me, who was so used to feeling guilty that anything else felt strange.

He wasn’t showing off or trying to make me feel small. Sometimes people are looking for more than that.

I didn’t know this would turn into a conversation about consumption. In hindsight, it seems obvious. How can we talk about the things we buy without talking about why we buy them, where they come from, and what we owe in return?

After 30 days without buying any material items – that doesn’t seem like a lot when I write it down until I stop and think about all the times in those 30 days that I considered buying something extra and said no and I realize how easy it is to buy stuff unless you have a good reason not to – I want to make what I do purchase worthwhile.

Nancy Ray’s original Contentment Challenge has a lot to do with God. With pushing yourself to be more spiritual, more devoted. I think my challenge has more to do with people.

I’ve talked to friends, neighbours and loose acquaintances who are probably alarmed by my enthusiasm to chat about sweat shops. I am hearing stories and tips from people who build capsule wardrobes and sew their own clothes.

I didn’t know this would turn into a conversation at all, but it has.

In order to continue the conversation, here are six beautiful brands that are changing the game. They produce quality goods in ethical ways and make you look great in the process:

1/ Purpose Jewelry employs survivors of modern-day slavery to make handcrafted necklaces, earrings and rings. The proceeds support International Sanctuary, a non-profit that cares for women rescued from sex trafficking.

2/ Loly in the Sky is just the cutest thing. Their quirky flats and ultra-girly aesthetic are all handmade with love in Mexico.

3/ The Peace Collective is close to my heart and to my country. Their line of t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats are both stylish and a shout out to Canada. Plus, a portion of every sale goes to buy school lunches for low income Canadian kids.

4/  Madewell is another brand that’s, um, made well. They have everything from jeans to dresses to purses, all with a focus on quality and responsible sourcing.

5/ Everlane‘s #knowyourfactories option lets you take a look inside the places where their products are made, keeping things as transparent as possible.

6/ Oliberté is a sustainable shoe company that manufactures its products in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and supports African workers’ rights. In 2013, they became the first ever fair trade shoe company.

Check out The Good Trade for more ethical fashion choices and please sent me your recommendations. Cheers to 30 days – and many more – of trying our best.

Author: erika

Hi! I'm Erika, a 21-year-old university student on the west coast of Canada. I love red lipstick, banana pancakes, and heart-to-hearts in bustling coffee shops. Talk to me about international relations or cute cat videos whenever you want.

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