Interview with the Ethical Shopper

So you’ve all been reading my blog for awhile and you might be thinking to yourself, “Brittany, these companies are great, but who actually shops likes this?” Well my friends lets me introduce you to Christen DiGerlando. Christen is a wife and the mother of two adorable children and she happens to be one of my good friends. Not only is she all the things, but she is just an ordinary person. She has bills to pay and kids to feed, but she finds the time and effort to shop ethically.

Trust me, I know it’s not always easy to think about others when you have your own life to live, but a couple of weeks ago I sent Christen some questions. I wanted Christen to offer some advice and give some insight into the ethical world of consumerism.

(this post is going to be a little lengthy, but Christen offers some great information!)

What drew you into ethical consumerism?

I grew up with a mother who was always very conscious of where products were made. If it were made in China, she would usually try to find the same product made in the USA instead. I never really thought about it then and I wish I had! I know she told us why she shopped that way, but as a young child my gift of selective hearing was at it’s finest.

It was when my older sister started her company The Root Collective that I really started learning how important it was to know how products were made. As The Root Collective began to flourish, I started hearing some incredible stories about how having consistent work really had a lasting impact on people who were stuck in the cycle of poverty. For example, the women who weave the fabric for our shoes were able to give their family 3 meals a day consistently, which was the first time they had ever been able to do that. As a mother of 2 children, I cannot even imagine how devastating it is to tell your babies there is no food for that day. People buying our shoes and giving these women work was putting food in these babies’ bellies! After hearing how our artisan partner lives began to change, I became really interested in ethical fashion and started learning about the mission of some wonderful brands.

What do you think shopping ethically can teach people?

To think beyond ourselves and be more selfless. I think it’s also a great opportunity for us to remember the Golden Rule. Are people being treated the way I would want to be treated in a working environment? Shopping ethically is also a great reminder for me about how blessed I am!

Do you strictly purchase ethically or only with certain items?

I do my best to purchase ethically, but I’m the first to admit not everything in our home is ethically sourced. I do my best and I always do my research to check all my options before making my final purchasing decision. As for my clothes and jewelry, all of that is ethically sourced.

What are some of your favorite ethical brands and why?

The list IS SO LONG! There are so many great brands out there. But, I will share my top 3.

1) The Root Collective – Besides my sister being the owner, I am totally in love with the shoes. They are comfortable and practical! I also love that they are totally unique!

2) Trades of Hope – This is my favorite jewelry company. This Fair Trade Member company works with artisans all over the world! Everything is classic and versatile. Another reason why this brand is my number one go-to is because it is extremely affordable! All of the jewelry is typically under $50!

3) Elegantees – I am so in love with the mission of this company. They work with women in Nepal who are survivors of sex trafficking. The business has boomed and has hired more than 20 women last year and their goal for 2017 to double their staff. Their clothing is also extremely affordable and they have timeless looks. (Also, shameless plug, if you use my name “christen” at check-out you can get 10% off your order! )

What is some advice you have for people who are too put off by the price of some of these good to ever shop ethically?

I was one of those people who only shopped the clearance racks and was totally proud of myself when I found a shirt for $4. We have been conditioned as Americans to shop cheap, fast-fashion clothing, jewelry and shoes. But, I don’t think the important question is why is ethical fashion so expensive? The important question is why are the clothes in regular stores so cheap?

We have to stop and think about all of the steps involved in making a piece of clothing. The material needs to be picked, then turned into fabric, then cut into the design, then sewn (by human hands) and finally shipped. We know what we would like to make per hour for our work, shouldn’t everyone have that opportunity?

Do you think there is a way to possibly make ethical brands, such as clothing brands more affordable to the general American public?

I honestly can’t think of an answer to this question. I believe that there are so many great ethical options already out there with a great price point! What needs to change is not necessarily their “affordability”, but our perspective on what is considered affordable and what is not. For example, we cannot expect a $5 t-shirt to be considered affordable. Elegantees sells shirts for $50,and for an ethically made piece, that is an excellent price! Another company called Tonle Design makes their clothing out of scrap materials, which drastically drops cost for them!

If people are seriously concerned about prices when shopping ethically, second-hand shopping is a great and sustainable way to get pieces that you need! You get clothing at a GREAT price and you save our planet! I mean, is there any better way to shop?!

What do you think scares people off the most about ethical shopping (i.e the price)?

Price I think is definitely a big factor for the majority of people to not shop ethically. But again, if we change our mindset that less is more and what is truly affordable, it will be a huge step. If people are not ready to commit to paying the higher prices of ethically made clothing, buying used is a great way to begin! It’s sustainable and definitely cheaper. I think another thing that scares people is they have no idea where to begin. They are just overwhelmed with the idea of completely changing their shopping habits that it scares them. But, just take one little step! There are also some great resources available. The Root Collective has an ebook available that breaks down ethical shopping into easy and practical steps. Molly Stillman of Still Being Molly blog has a great ethical shopping list that is listed alphabetically. It is very exhaustive and easy to use!

The other thing I think that discourages people from buying ethically is the fact that most ethical shopping is done online. It is a little unnerving not being able to try something on as you can in a store. However, most companies (like Elegantees and The Root Collective) have free returns and exchanges! They make it so simple, it really makes it worry-free!



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