I first became aware of sustainable fashion a few years ago through my studies in Fashion Communication at the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design. But it wasn’t until this year during an ethical class module in my education that I started to open up my eyes to what our materialistic needs and buying habits are doing to our planet.

Attending the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in May 2018, which is the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion, made me even more aware of the scale in which our environment is suffering because of the fashion industry. I also learned that there are technological advancements and new innovative concepts currently being developed to offer large brands and consumers alternative solutions that can make the industry more sustainable. 

Read more: Key Takeaways from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018

However, what I have found is that it can be extremely difficult as a consumer to navigate making conscious purchases in such a saturated market, which is most likely why the fashion industry remains the second most polluting industry in the world. With Black Friday sales, point cards and new trends emerging every season, this all encourage us to constantly buy more and it is difficult to know where and how to make smart choices. But because environmental issues are so extremely important to us – the Millennials and Generation Z – we do need to start making changes to our lifestyle and buying habits. 

These are my tips on how you can gain a more sustainable mindset and make positive fashion choices when shopping online.

Research is key to get insights into a brand’s sourcing and CSR strategies

Online shopping often makes it easy for us to know more about a brand before going through with your order. Firstly, find out if the brand has a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) page on their website. This should allow you to figure out where the clothes are made, who is making them and if the manufacturers are fairly paid. It should also tell you more the materials and how these are produced. If a brand doesn’t have a CSR page, this is a warning sign that the brand doesn’t want to be truly transparent with their consumers.

A tool that can help you easily navigate brands’ sustainable efforts is the Good on You app, which allows you to search brands to view their ethical ratings, based on certifications schemes, standards systems and independent ratings or assessment method that are available for use by brands. The app rates how a brand is treating their workers throughout the supply chain and their policies on the planet and animals. 

Find and support brands that you truly stand by

There are a lot of sustainable brands online, and once you find a brand that resonates with you, support it and encourage your friends and family to check it out.

I recently discovered the sustainable knitwear brand, Dinadi, which puts their social and environmental initiatives first in everything they do. Based in Nepal, the social enterprise believes that creating job opportunities is the best way to combat poverty and exploitation. Dinadi hires and trains women affected by gender discrimination and poverty to hand knit woollen accessories. As oppose to other fashion labels, the knitters do not work in factories, but in their own homes, which provides a flexible work environment. Each product is signed by the knitter and on the #KnowYourKnitter page on their website, you can read more about each of the women, who put hours into creating the knitwear sold. 

Brands like these are truly inspiring for their positive impact on, not only the fashion industry but also women’s rights, which encourages consumers and other brands to focus more on making a difference.

Swap or donate clothes that you no longer use

Another way to make positive fashion choices is to sell or donate clothes in your wardrobe that you no longer use. Apps, such as Depop, makes it super easy to snap photos of your clothes and sell them.

Swapping clothes with your friends is also a great way to refresh your wardrobe without buying brand new items.

Don’t be afraid of raising questions to brands and talking about important issues

There are plenty of brands, who are not being transparent about their material sourcing, labour and factories, but these brands are not going to change unless consumers start calling them out. Social media is a great method to get in touch with brands to question their policies and supply chain.

In many instances, brands do take control of the issue if it is being  highlighted by a group of consumers, whether that be the use of animal fur, which many brands are starting to boycott, or the conditions for factory workers. 

Sustainability is a continuous journey that both brands and consumers are still trying to navigate, but I believe that as long as we keep trying we are making a difference, especially in an industry that is so controlled by our buying habits and word of mouth on social media.