To teach children to be global citizens, we as parents must first have our thoughts and actions transformed. It will motivate us to share those new-found truths with our kids. If you are reading this, you probably realize that the actions of one person or a parent can create ripple effects through generations that change the direction of how our community and country advance.
An understanding of that process is how I came to be passionate about sharing the importance of conscious consumerism with my two girls.
Over the last 10 years, I have become increasingly motivated to learn about where my food and clothes originated. After watching the documentary The True Cost, I realized how detrimental the demand for “fast fashion” is on our planet and our pockets. More importantly, on families in places like Bangladesh and other countries. They are victims of the need for cheap labor.
I decided to dwindle down my wardrobe to a few key items that I truly loved and would actually be willing to wear repeatedly (and not just sit in my closet). But, I didn’t immediately purchase new pieces. Instead, I became more aware of each item I owned and more intentional with any new purchases.
When I absolutely needed something new I searched for a company that held true to the values I held. I wanted to support companies that pay their workers fair wages for the jobs they’re doing. The wages that allow them to support their families. We sought out companies that are committed to maintaining safe working conditions in their facilities. By doing so, the employees stay healthy and have reasonable schedules. And moms and dads can return home to their babies at the end of the day. I also wanted to find brands that did not exploit children. So children could learn, grow, and play, like children are supposed to.
As my passion for ethical clothing for myself grew, I realized that it was important to share this with my children. I begin to make similar decisions about their clothing. I wanted to give them a genuine outlook on the situation. Therefore, my kids could begin to understand the necessary changes.
I decided to implement these 5 simple strategies raising globally conscious consumers:
- Swap toys and clothes. Instead of buying a new item, I invite friends over and offer them an equal trade. My girls recently exchanged a large floor puzzle with their friends down the street.
- Buy Fairtrade & from B-Corp businesses. Fairtrade items have become so much more readily available than they were just a few years ago. Online shops like Fair Trade Winds and Ten Thousand Villages have wonderful gift ideas. They also have holiday cards that allow you to take the step into conscious shopping gradually. You can also find a plethora of fair trade products at your local Whole Foods Market.
- Watch The True Cost. Invite your kid’s friends over for a movie night and popcorn. You can help them learn as a group why it’s important to be aware of how we buy and discard clothes. This documentary shares what so many of us don’t know about our favorite clothing stores. We are able to see up close how the harmful manufacturing practices and extremely low price of garments affect the health and livelihood of families around the globe.
- Build a capsule wardrobe. Choose 5-10 pieces, including tops, bottoms, and outerwear that can be mixed and matched for an entire season, or two. One of my favorite things as a parent is getting the longest life out of my kids’ clothing as possible. Not only is this convenient and more cost-effective for our family, but it also teaches our children to value and respect the clothes they own. We don’t simply buy something new for a special occasion. We’ve learned to spice up an outfit for a birthday party by adding fancy shoes originally purchased for a holiday party. We make an organic cotton summer dress last through winter by layering it with a long-sleeve top and thick tights.
- Visit a local clothing or food manufacturer. By seeing first hand what it takes to make an article of clothing or prepare a food, children are able to better grasp the concept. The concept that each item takes work and doesn’t just magically appear in a store. My daughter recently visited the Theo Chocolate Factory in our neighborhood. She learned all about cocoa and how it’s produced. Now when we’re in the store and she sees a chocolate bar, she explains to us that the candy was once a plant that had seeds inside. She goes on to tell us all about how it ends up in the store. This in-depth understanding places a bit of ownership on her as a not just a consumer but a supporter of that company and its practices.
Being a conscious consumer begins with education. Before you feel pressured to make any drastic wardrobe cuts or spend all night scouring the internet for a fairtrade dress, simply use the knowledge you gain through documentaries like The True Cost and the Fair Trade Federation website to understand what truly makes a company a mindful brand. That way, when you are faced with making a decision about what to buy, even if it isn’t fair trade, you can make the best decision.
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