Today I stumbled upon this news that the EU is considering to enforce rules for clothes, furniture and smartphones sold in Europe to be longer-lasting and easier to repair. I used it as motivation to renew my research on the topic. For a while now I have been trying to find alternatives to the brands I usually shop at. I'm already shopping way less than at least most Americans; they buy an average of 64 items of clothing per year [source]! But when I do buy something, could I do it from a truly sustainable source?
This video by Climate Town has a good summary on the problems of fast fashion. It suggests United by Zero as a source to find "sustainable alternatives." I also found out about Fairify. The latter explains in details why certain brands are worse than others according to their definition of fairness. I like it. And I started browsing it earlier today to discover alternatives near me.
My sneakers are 3 years old and I've been looking for new ones. As I browse Fairify, I find out about Veja. They are a French company producing everything from Brazil with fair production processes and materials. The result is a more expensive product but also one more durable, that pays everyone in the value chain fairly, and that has less impact on the environment.
But not everyone seems to get that. I'm currently in Paris and I see they have a shop here. And as I start to see their store reviews, I notice a lot of people complaining. They are mostly complaining about the price and the (lack of) comfort of the sneakers. The store tries to explain. The higher price is due to their choices of sustainable production. As for the comfort, I liked this detailed explanation they gave to one such grievance:
Please note that we use low chrome for the tanning of our kicks. This process makes the leather tougher but it’s less polluting. The low chrome tanning process throws out less polluting substances in the phreatic tables. Leather is a natural material, it will evolve through time, soften and adapt to your feet after some time. To fasten the process, we recommend that you soften our sneakers with a special product. And for the tongue, you can also wear thick socks to start with.
Imagine that? You are buying an expensive product that is not as comfortable as cheaper alternatives. Who would have thought that changing our lifestyle to adapt to the needs of the climate would require us to give away some comfort? The video by Climate Town linked above makes recommendations in the same direction: It suggests us to buy pre-owned clothes or to repair them. Both recommendations are not exactly as convenient as throwing away old clothes and buying new ones.
But if people in Paris, one of the richest and most highly educated in the world, are not ready to make such tiny accommodations to their lifestyles, who will? The answer is, the government will. I'm not aware of any evidence suggesting that dollar voting can make any significant change to how a society operates. Instead, policy change can. And while buying less, and from companies such as Veja is encouraged, true change will come through actual voting and demanding our elected officials to enact policies that fight the climate crisis. Just like the EU is doing more and more now.