Your Simplified Checklist for Ethical and Sustainable Companies

2 Simple Questions to Ask When Purchasing Clothing (or anything)

This blog will focus on two simple questions you can ask yourself to ensure that you are supporting ethical and sustainable companies. It will also go over the differences between “ethical” and “sustainable” fashion — yes, my friends, there are differences.

Follow more advice on IG  @MinimalMills

Follow more advice on IG @MinimalMills

Every piece of fabric has a story woven into it, whether you are aware of it or not. Many of those unsung stories are hidden from us, covered with thousands of dollars spent on marketing, massive discounts, and/or endless sales. If the sweater or the shirt you are wearing right now could talk and tell you how it was made, would you listen? And would you continue to wear the item if the story were not as you imagined?

Two important questions I like to ask myself when purchasing items, clothes specifically, are:

  1. who made the item?

  2. how was it made?

Asking these simple questions can provide a memorable checklist when trying to figure out if the companies you are purchasing from are, in fact, ethical AND sustainable. 


What Does It Mean?

These terms are often used interchangeably on social media, but do we know what they really mean? Here are some helpful definitions:

Ethical (and Fairtrade) Fashion: I like to think of Ethical and Fairtrade as the “humanity” side of fashion. “Ethical fashion” means the people a part of the production process are treated (working conditions) and paid fairly. “Fairtrade” means that the brand or the product has officially been certified because the company meets the standards of International Labor Organization (ILO).   

“Fairtrade describes a brand or an individual product that has been certified and labelled by an independent organization because it meets certain standards. The general goals of these standards are to support producers from underdeveloped countries through trading, protection of workers’ rights, preservation of the environment, and the promotion of sustainability.” (Good on You, May 2017)

 Sustainable Fashion: The designer has thoroughly thought about the product at all stages: life cycle, design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. Here is one of the best definitions I have found on the term “sustainable fashion”: 

“More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimize any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximizing repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion.” (Green Strategy, June 2014)

 

Some other terms:

Organic: An easy way to remember this: sans (without) chemical. Organic means it has been naturally produced, without any intervention from chemicals.

 Fast fashion: A helpful way to remember this is in the name – “fast.” These are garments that are produced quickly (to match the expectation of seasonal trends) and produced cheaply (with the help of machines and cheaper fabric, usually fabric with plastic in it).

Slow fashion: A little history — before the industrial revolution introduced mass production, there was “slow” fashion. Garment materials were self-sourced, made by hand, and the goal was durability, so the garment could last for a long time. Today, “slow” fashion mirrors this pre-industrial thought process and combats fast fashion.

 “Slow Fashion is an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.” (Good on You, November 2018)

 Secondhand Fashion: This is another prong of sustainable fashion; this is how are we utilizing the garments that are no longer in demand, such as clothing in thrift stores or clothing in the back of a friend’s closet. Secondhand fashion is ensuring that we can make use those garments before they are dumped in a wasteland to sit for however long. 

Now, that those terms are a little clearer, let’s dive back into those checklist questions!


Who Made the Clothes (or Items)? 

Asking this question will help uncover the “ethical” side of the equation and may lead to a string of questions like:

  • Was the person who made this piece of clothing treated and paid fairly?

  • Can I verify this by looking on the website or writing an email to the company?

If the answer is no to any one of these questions, then you can choose to make a better-informed decision and no longer purchase from the company.  

If you are unsure who made your clothing, now is a good time to research.

Helpful tip: Try to look for the Fairtrade Certified image on their website. Most companies cannot put this image on their website unless they meet the ILO Standards.

Official Fair Trade Certified Icon

Official Fair Trade Certified Icon

If the image is not on their website, they are probably not certified. You can verify here at  https://www.fairtradecertified.org or you can simply shop from this website. It has listings of Fairtrade companies.

Click to see products!

Click to see products!


How Was the Clothing Made?

This question covers the “sustainable” side of the equation. This simple question can be expanded to:

  • Will the garment have a negative impact on the planet through production (excessive water use, chemical use, large carbon footprint)?

  • AND after production (e.g. washing, after use, will they overproduce and then send it to the dumps)?

 If you ask yourself these questions and you are not certain how the clothing was made, head to the internet to find out. Or check out the tag inside the fabric and get familiar with fabric you would like to see, such as cotton, organic cotton, hemp, and more sustainable materials.

 If the company you are researching is not transparent about their process or their factories, it is safe to assume they are not currently exercising responsible practices until you verify yourself.

Helpful tip: If you head to the bottom of most company websites, they should have a tab related to their production process. For most sustainable and ethical companies, it can be easily spotted.


At the bottom of LuluLemon’s page, they have tabs labeled Sustainability, Social Impact, UK Modern Slavery Act, California Transparent Act, Construction, Fabric + Technology, Our Philosophy, Product Care to demonstrate their push towards a more sustainable and ethical product line.  

lululemon

Companies like Everlane used their transparency as unique selling point so it can be visible on every page and all marketing material.

everlane.com

Keep those questions in the back of your mind, they may come in handy one day when the-urge-to-purchase-clothing lingers at your fingertips. Hopefully it can transfer those fingers to research more about the product line and company!

 By purchasing from ethical and sustainable-focused companies, you are supporting better livelihoods, safer working conditions, and the protection of the planet’s natural resources. That is something we all deserve to wear proudly (and for a long time); you are what you wear, they say.

Disclaimer: Blog was written while watching my toddler run around. There may be some typos, just “know” what I mean lol

16 Why's to Convert to a Smaller Closet

Friends and Fam!

It is finally here, my 25th birthday! But that’s not the part you care about, you care about my capsule wardrobe! You’re here to read about why I am downsizing to 25 pieces! Fair enough, I have made you wait long enough! I do have to let you know a couple of things before we begin.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

If you have no idea what a capsule wardrobe is, no worries, it’s simple. A capsule wardrobe has two main components: (1) a small collection of versatile clothes you love and (2) you can mix and match with pieces within the collection to make many outfits.

It’s not a super new thing. In fact, term was coined by Susie Faux in the 1970s.  She was the owner of a London boutique called Wardrobe. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe contains a few essential and timeless items, such as skirts and pants, that can be supplemented with seasonal pieces. The concept peaked in 1985 when designer Donna Karan introduced a capsule collection of interchangeable workwear attire called “Seven Easy Pieces,” and has floated around ever since.

You’re probably thinking: “Arren, so you’re telling me this Susie women influenced you to wear less.”

No, I am not saying that Susie was the main reason, but I thank that woman for her innovating idea because it does fit easily into my cause behind wearing less. Here are the 16 why’s on why I’m converting to a small closet!

 

1.  I’m helping the Earth live a little bit longer

So I tried to look up the “sustainable fashion” and I got this:

As a starting point, Green Strategy has developed the following definition of “more sustainable fashion”:

More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimize any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximizing repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion. (Green Strategy, June 2014)

L.O.L. Did you read all of that? Well, you get the gist of it! Having a sustainable closet helps preserve the Earth live on and I am always game for that.

 

2. I get to save a child’s or a another person’s life.

This hits home and is one of the biggest reasons for me. So, a lot of people close to me know that I went to the Philippines to fight for anti-trafficking rights. It’s a constant fight, but part of the reason why human trafficking/forced labor still infiltrates third-world countries is that we (consumable creatures) do just that, consume. We are unknowingly supporting big brand name companies who do not pass the ethical code (meaning they may employ underage workers or underpay legal age workers).

To view a full list of unethical brands you may be using every day from Live Fair, click here and here. To include a few that might surprise you, brands like Forever 21, Target, Gap, Old Navy.

To view a list of ethical brands, check out this link.

3. I can finally get rid of all these @#$%^& hangers

Self-explanatory. If you have 50+ hangers (which I did) they just become 50+ problems.

4. I get more time

In the morning, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get ready. Talk about wasted time. I once read an article about how successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs became successful and somewhere in it mentioned they wore the same clothes every day. My first thought: ew. Then, the article explained that when we subtract the time we spend on frivolous tasks, we can maximize our time doing things that impact other’s lives. For me, that would be being the best parent, wife, and friend I can be.

 

5. I can be organized (physically, mentally)

A cluttered closet can reflect how we're doing in our lives, mentally and physically. Have you ever thought about a really stressful time in your life? How did your room look? Your bathroom? And most importantly, how did you closet look? If you’re like me, if you’re short for time, you neglect picking up after yourself and your hamper gets crazy full, clothes are everywhere, clean clothes go unfolded and your mental slate feels like your room – ugh thinking about it is making me stress. *breathes*

 A smaller closet should help prevent that and relieve you of the mental weight.

6. I can make decisions faster

When you make a decision about your clothing, do you often change it? Sometimes I have this habit of getting dress and right when we’re about to leave the house, I decide I no longer want to wear this anymore. Having so many options affects my ability to make decisions and I am hoping I can practice making a decision and sticking with up. Practices this on a mundane level will hopefully lead me to be firm and better at making decisions for bigger, more costly decisions.

7.  I’m going to be cute and comfy

After cleaning my closet, I had three bags. THREE BAGS! It didn’t add up. I felt like I didn’t own that much. Turns out I was only utilizing 1/3 or so of my closet. So I asked myself, the third that I was consistently wearing what attracted me to it. And the common thread (pun intended) was that they were cute (not only on the hanger but also on me) and they were comfy.

The clothes that were in the bag: there were either cute, (I liked them, but did not look good on me) Or cute (and completely not comfy or nursing friendly).

8. I can be a creative

Sounds hipster, yeah I know, but just as I have said before: I am not a fashion expert. I have no idea what I am doing. With a limited amount of clothing though, it forces me to be creative! 

9. I am saving money

When you set a goal to have a certain number of pieces, you don’t really have an excuse to go out and spend for more. You 'make' with what you got! And that’s what is it about: ensuring you don’t go out and make impulsive decisions based on emotions at the moment (e.g. I love this dress. I’m going to buy it. I don’t know what I can use it for, but I will find something).

Now, many people say that sustainable fashion is expensive. Yeah, I get that. $100-$200 per jeans are not really “my thing” either, but if I know it is helping a child or a person in another country (or in our country) gain more livelihood, in addition to, if I know that it will last me for 3+ years -- then I can make it "my thing."

The owner from Sotela puts it better than me. Check that out here.

10. I get a chance to grow in humility and poverty

Less is more. In the Catholic Church, there is something about material poverty that makes the spirit poor. And poor in spirit isn’t a bad thing. Nope.

Remember the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom.

Although many get confused by this, poor in spirit doesn’t mean “lack of faith.” In fact, it is the reverse, it means they understand they need the Faith. So, spiritual poverty always leaves us seeking to be greater, to never be satisfied with an “okay” version of you because you can be an “awesome” version of you. (read that over again, I just want to make sure you got that)

11. I give to people that need it

Enough said. We are so fortunate over here that walk-in closets are no longer a luxury, they are a staple (I know because Michael and I are currently searching to buy our first home).

12. I get to support real families and real people

I once saw a sign outside of a local business that said,

“When you buy from a small mom and pop business, you’re not helping a CEO’s third vacation home. You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy gets a team jersey, a mom put food on the table, a dad pay mortgage or a student pay for college.”

That encourages me to work with local businesses and local communities to help me build my capsule wardrobe.

Please check out these great businesses who I am collobrating with:

13. I get to make new friends and a support team

Capsule wardrobe community is friendly and can always help move you closer to your goal in a capsule wardrobe! I connected with many people who were willing to be my mentor or answer a couple of questions. You can follow them on Instagram here:

14. I get a cleaner closet (organized does not equal clean)

I mean the math is simple, less clothes = less cleaning/ maintenance.

15. It boosts my confidence

When you are in comfortable clothing that looks good, it takes away the worries of a stressful wardrobe malfunction and you can focus on being you!

16.  I make the rules, so long as I am reducing

So, 25 may not be your number. It is actually an arbitrary number and the significance comes merely from my age. I’ve read that 37 is the formulaic number for capsule experts. The point is the number doesn’t matter, so long as you are reducing your closet and donating your extra to a responsible charity, you are making a difference in your life and others from just your closet.

There you are, the 16 reasons why I am converting to a smaller closet. 

Gradually, then suddenly. -E. Hemingway

Can't wait to share more with you! If you have any questions, please email me: arren@minimalmills.com

Other brands in my closet?

  • Thirfted from local thirt stores or Filipino thirft stores

  • Everlane

  • Vetta Capsule

  • Nisolo

  • Jesse Kamm

  • Only Child