Falling off the ethical consumer wagon

In the last week I’ve made some of my first high street purchases since January. After months of scouring charity shops and eBay, learning how to up-cycle old items and wondering whether my student budget can afford to invest in some of the incredible ethical brands out there, I’ve finally found something that’s beaten me: Sandals. That is, sandals that don’t look like they might give me verrucas, survived the war or require me to sell a kidney. So, I caved. I bought not one but two pairs from Primark in the same sort of spirit as ‘well, I’ve already eaten a muffin today so I may as well get that Big Mac for dinner’. They were even on sale, which simultaneously makes me want to fist pump and cry. I left the shop feeling very emotionally confused. But hey, at least they don’t use plastic bags, right? RIGHT?

Up until now my ethical consumer journey has been relatively pain free. Apart from a few bits of underwear here and there (seriously, if you know an ethical and pretty underwear brand that doesn’t cost the absolute earth, let a girl know), transitioning to ‘slow fasion’ has been pretty easy. Frankly, I’ve been riding my high horse all over town and wondering why I ever felt the need to shop on the high street.

Then summer rolled around and forced me to realise that I’m not as out of my old habits as I thought. I may want to be ethical, but years of conditioning and seeing the 52 ‘micro-seasons’ of fast fashion changing before me has clearly influenced the way that I think. With a holiday coming up, I’ve never felt so much pressure to buy.

I’m an over packer. Even if I was going on a 3 day trip to the Arctic I would still pack 8 bikinis. Just in case, ya know? So, my first instinct with my trip to Greece getting closer and closer was to splurge on sunglasses, shorts and and whatever else is #OnTrend this season. No matter how many times I went through my wardrobe and proved that I did, I still didn’t feel like I had enough. Even though I knew that that’s what fast fashion want us to think in order to survive – that we need what they’re selling – I couldn’t shake it. I even tried spending money on things like getting my nails done to distract myself. But I still slipped up in a big way.

Not only did I buy sandals and swimming costumes – which I was genuinely struggling to find ethically without a huge price tag – but I fell into the trend trap. I somehow managed to convince myself that I needed an off-the-shoulder red gingham top and a floral maxi skirt with a slit, because obviously those two items are total wardrobe essentials…

So, there’s that. I think it’s important for me to show that I am in no way the perfect consumer, even though it’s what I’m aiming for.

Honestly, I feel guilty. I hate that I’m supporting fast fashion’s disregard for human life and the environment even in this small capacity. But I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself. I guess this sort of thing is only to be expected when a constant state of consuming has been your ‘norm’ for almost 20 years. I need to remind myself of all of the good I’ve done. This year I’ve made so many ethical choices. As I’ve said before, I think becoming a more conscious person shouldn’t rely on comparing yourself to the zero-waste goddesses that you see online. If you’ve made a positive change, big or small, then that’s worth celebrating.

Slip ups happen, but they aren’t a full stop in your ethical journey.



  1. La Coco Noire
    July 28, 2017 / 8:54 pm

    but it's so good that you're aware of these things and you're making other people aware too. don't beat yourself up about it, no ones perfect and you're trying ya god damn best, woman! big or small, as you say, is worth celebrating. PUT ON YOUR PARTY PANTS AND CELEBRATE YOU. katie xx lacoconoire.com

    • BethanyAustin
      September 10, 2017 / 3:40 pm

      You always say the most perfect things, Katie! THANK YOU. I'm going to do just that from now on xx

  2. Hannah
    July 31, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    I totally am on board with what you're getting at here Bethany because I've had a really similar dilemma today myself! Pretty much everything I buy these days is second hand but there's a skirt I'm absolutely craving for my upcoming birthday, and I bought a new bag today because mine is genuinely falling apart. And y'know, I'm not beating myself up about it because it's a far cry from where I used to be at when it came to supporting fast fashion aka. how much can I get for how little! Every decision is a conscious decision and sometimes you have to say "fuck it, I want this, I'm getting it, and I accept that it might not be the most conscientious thing I buy this month." It's the same way that you can try and buy your veg local all year but sometimes you just need to buy something from ASDA, air miles from importing be damned. Be proud of all the times you resisted temptation, as it really shows you are thinking more before committing to buying new!(Also seriously if you find out about an ethical and affordable underwear brand, please post about it because this has been bugging me like mad!!)blog.doodleheart.co.uk

    • BethanyAustin
      September 10, 2017 / 3:41 pm

      Hannah, you put this so perfectly! I'm glad that I'm not alone in this and I definitely think it's important to celebrate our successes as opposed to beating ourselves up for the few 'bad' things we do. Ethical underwear is such a struggle! I'm afraid I can't be much help but I'll let you know when I do! xx

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