We Are Our Choices

Recently, I went shopping. I don’t often but I needed underwear and the ordeal proved to be a dilemma. Do I shop online or offline? Should I buy local or not? What about sustainability? Should I keep that in mind when thinking about price, size, and fabric? This sounds arduous and you’re probably thinking – why should I bother reading this. But my underwear purchase relates to you.
Every day, we are all faced with a number of decisions that impact the way we think about purchasing and our relationship to goods and services, and therein lies our power as consumers. Where we shop and how has enormous knock on effects. The problem is: we are bad decision makers, we are time poor, and the market place is crowded. The interesting question then is how our decisions reflect our values. After all, as Jean Paul Sartre famously said, we are our choices. Through these, we truly do have the ability to shape our world.
I decided, when underwear shopping, that I would shop online despite the carbon footprint I might leave after the goods were shipped from the factory to me. That would mean that I could browse items from home as opposed to getting in the car or taking public transport to the mall. The bras and knickers would have to be delivered to the store somehow, I reasoned. So, I picked, after doing some research, an underwear label that seeks to, “support women rather than objectifying them.” 
Seems like a strange line for an underwear label but I liked it. The company also employs predominantly women and single mothers and, despite locating their production in a developing country (not locally), pays for the workers’ healthcare on top of their living wage. Additionally, they support the children of these working mothers by paying for their school meals, books, and their uniforms. They also donate 2 percent of their revenue to charities supporting women’s education. 
In terms of the garments themselves, the company prints digitally to minimize water waste and it includes fabrics in its line made from plastic bottles. Why should this matter? Well, according to Green Peace, “it takes about 10,000 liters of water to grow enough cotton for one pair of jeans” and the American EPA estimates that textile waste takes up about 5 percent of all landfill space. Those statistics don’t take into account the number and amount of chemicals used when creating a piece of clothing – chemicals that affect the environment. 
The True Cost, a documentary about the impact of fast fashion, or fashion that is mass produced quickly, details this and is worth watching if you’re interested. The film asks who is really profiting from these cheaply priced, mass produced garments; the workers, the consumers, or the producers. It’s a good point and, one which highlights that goods and services are connected to a chain of people and entities. It follows then that our purchasing power impacts the flow of resources. Despite paying a little more for my underwear, I can wear it knowing that it’s not just underwear. It represents something far greater and that my buying decisions, like yours, have an impact.