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Shopping locally is a popular trend that has become a big part of our food consumption habits, especially at this time of year. However, the “buy local” reflex has yet to catch on when it comes to shopping for clothing.
“Made in Canada” clothes are often thought of as expensive, hard to find, or just not an attractive option. As such, they haven’t quite found their way into our closets. But we often forget that not very long ago, the east of Canada was home to a vibrant textile industry.
It’s probably time to go back to our roots as the fashion industry, and the fast fashion trend in particular, are posing many large-scale environmental problems.
This is why we are demystifying how to shop locally and how this trend is connected to ethical fashion.
This article was produced in collaboration with Earth Day Canada.
In this article, you will discover 5 good reasons for buying local:
Shopping locally obviously means geographical proximity and, therefore, a reduction in transportation-related emissions. You only have to take a look at your usual purchases to realize that even the most mundane of products used in your daily life have travelled many kilometres before reaching you.
And the “Made in” label only shows you the last part of the journey your item was on. Resource extraction, transformation, assembly line, packaging… Each is an additional step in the process of products reaching the shelves of our stores. And the supply chain can be long: between 20 000 km and 40 000 km for a t-shirt, and no less than 65 000 km for a pair of jeans.
Ship, plane, or truck: each kilometre travelled means more fuel used and therefore additional greenhouse gases (GHG) released in the atmosphere – enough to make you want to reduce your purchases’ impacts by shopping locally.
In addition to reducing GHG emissions, there are many other environmental issues that can be avoided by buying locally produced items.
Outsourcing production to the other end of the world is usually done to reduce costs, ultimately allowing us to bulk buy many types of things at lower prices. The goal isn’t to be ethical but to be cheap, and this has major impacts on the environment.
We can think of cheap leather from Brazilian cattle herds that have long fuelled deforestation in the Amazon, or maritime transportation, which presents the advantage of being much less expensive than air travel, but has significant impacts on marine biodiversity, or the products used to transform and dye textile fibres in countries where the rules regarding air and water pollution are quite lax. Even at the end of their usable life, clothes are likely to take one last boat journey to go flood another country with piles of worn-out garments.
Relocating the purchase and production processes once again highlights the issues related to our overconsumption, all of which are easy to forget when everything is happening far from home.
It’s not just the planet that’s suffering from the impacts of the fashion industry; people are, too. The less we pay for an item, the less the individuals along its supply chain are compensated for their work. To produce our $5 sweaters, a certain amount of human exploitation is required.
Prices negotiated to their absolute lowest for raw materials, forced labour, child labour, disregard for human rights, hazardous working conditions… The sweatshops on the other side of the world do not prioritize the wellbeing of their workers.
You always have the option to support Fairtrade certified brands to avoid exploitation.
Manufacturing within the country ensures that human rights are respected, at least during the final step of the production stage. Plus, the person selling you products will usually be able to provide valuable information on their origin and manufacturing process.
Shopping locally also allows us to show our pride in locally produced goods. Whether you’re visiting craft fairs, neighbourhood shops, thrift stores, garage sales or local workshops, you’re bound to meet some great people. All that’s left to do is to take the leap.
Shopping locally is good for the economy, too, as the value created remains within the country and benefits us directly. It allows us to be more self-reliant and more resilient (particularly when it comes to food), to create jobs, to preserve first-hand expertise, and to revitalize towns and villages.
Through taxes, it ensures the value created circulates and benefits those who might otherwise have missed out.
It is also a way to make sure the economy supports those who make it thrive: us! By encouraging local brands dedicated to the planet, we are opting for a consumption mode which we have the power to influence.
Yes, your purchasing power as a citizen is a powerful tool, and it can shape a more sustainable and humane economy for the future.
Finally, buying local products is a nice way to give meaning to the things we buy. Through the human connections it creates, the knowledge it allows us to gain, and the social and environmental values it upholds, shopping locally leads to more respect for the things we purchase and the people who make them.
It is an essential step that allows us to review our consumption habits and to question the ultra-fast fashion model and its 52 collections per year. Remember to consider brands that hold various certifications to help the planet, such as B Corp, bluesign®, etc.
Make sure you educate yourself on how your clothes are made, where they come from and who benefits from their sale. Take time to understand this and to question your purchases. Ask yourself: “Why this piece of clothing? And what will I do with it?” – a simple way to determine if you are being led by reason or impulse.
Giving meaning back to things is in direct contrast with the trend of constantly consuming cheap and disposable things. After all, why waste something to which we attach value?