We've been talking with Francesca Willow of Ethical Unicorn about how she made the commitment to ethical consuming. Here's her advice on changing your habits to change our world:
My name is Francesca, I’m a London-based dancer, artist and writer, and this year I embarked upon a pretty major life overhaul: I made the ethical switch.
I never used to think much about the clothes I wore or the things I bought beyond ‘do I like this?’ When I wanted something I would buy it, never really thinking about where it came from or who made it. At the same time however, I was pretty involved in social justice, trying to raise awareness and aid for people in less fortunate circumstances. I never thought about how I, through my consumer choices, may have been part of the problem.
The difference was that one of those things was easy to ignore, and one wasn’t. Unethical working practises are easy to hide — out of sight out of mind right? When these things are tucked away from view, we can buy something without thinking further than the item right in front of us. We don’t have to wonder where or who it came from, we just know it looks good. Deciding not to live like this doesn’t always look how we would think; it doesn’t always mean only dressing a certain way and making everything yourself, it doesn’t mean never doing or buying anything. There are a hundred different ways to make ethical living work for you, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. The bottom line of living ethically is acknowledging that some of the things you love aren’t great for the world, and deciding not to ignore that.
In the modern world we live in, the rise of the internet has meant that communication and the spread of information is instant. We have much more access to what’s going on globally, so things like this can’t go unnoticed anymore. Alongside the spreading of awareness came a rise in alternatives; suddenly everywhere I looked I saw eco-friendly, cruelty free or ethically made products. Fairtrade wasn’t just a label for coffee anymore, and I realised it was time to get on board. I began replacing my items as they ran out for more ethical alternatives, I began to phase out fast fashion high street stores, and I began learning about the other options out there.
Now every day I see people waking up to the reality of the impacts of human actions, and not feeling cool about it, and every other day I discover a new business working to tackle the problem. Sometimes it can feel like we’re stuck in one big corporation cycle, but the rise in awareness has led to an exciting rise in creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Any problem I’ve encountered, I’ve found someone doing things differently. It’s not all hippie clothes and making your own shampoo at home (although if that’s your jam, you do you!), there’s always an option out there for you, it’s just about finding the right fit.
And you know what else I’ve learned? This stuff is just better quality. The things I buy now last for so much longer. Whilst they might be a little pricier than my old fast fashion haunts, they last ten times as long, so I make my money back pretty quickly. Instead of just mindlessly buying because I think something will make me feel good, I really consider what I want to purchase now. I’ll buy something I see as a wardrobe staple, something I absolutely love, and then I’ll wear it in a ton of different ways. I feel happier and more confident in my clothes and myself, and I have the added bonus of knowing my choices haven’t hurt others. Over time, I’m building a wardrobe of timelessness and quality that really reflects who I am, instead of being dictated by the fast fashion trends. Shopping with heart has enabled me to do that.
We often live the way we do, make the choices we do, because it’s what we’re born into. From the minute we open our eyes advertising is thrown at us from all over the place; no wonder we think that it’s the only option. The reality is there are so many amazing companies out there with products that are better quality, longer lasting, and kinder to the world. It can be hard to know how to get started, but don’t be discouraged! There are a ton of blogs out there highlighting places you can shop and things you can do, you can find an alternative for just about anything.
In order to shop with heart just take it day by day. When you’re finished with something, replace it with an ethical option. It may feel like small choices, but every little decision you make adds up to major impact. Positive change happens incrementally, and step by step we are getting better. So give yourself time, seek inspiration from the influencers out there who are here to help you, and don’t beat yourself up along the way. Soon you’ll find yourself shopping with heart too, and I promise you, and the world, will be happier for it.