a new generation of generosity: when buying is more selfless than giving
I can type away about how buying better-made clothing will save you money in the long run all day, but the truth is, shopping ethically requires a mindset shift of your own. Whether you've already committed to changing the way you consume or not, I'd like to take this opportunity to present to you a philosophy towards ethical shopping that has helped me a lot in this journey:
Purchasing with generosity
Generosity is something most of us want to incorporate into our lives, but we often restrict it to the act of giving something away. While giving generously is absolutely a wonderful practice, there's another element to the principle, and that is practicing generosity in the way we shop. I looked up the definition of "generosity" and "generous" to make sure I wasn't totally off in my thinking, and here's what I found:
the quality of being kind and generous.
the quality or fact of being plentiful or large.
(of a person) showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected
showing kindness toward others.
(of a thing) larger or more plentiful than is usual or necessary.
I love the idea that when we opt to spend more money in order to support brands that aren't exploiting people, we are "showing a readiness to give more of something (money) than is expected." We live in a culture that glorifies getting the most for our money. We are expected to choose the best deal for ourselves. Purchasing with generosity breaks that expectation and says that "showing kindness toward others" can apply even in our purchases from across the sea.
Empowering Generosity vs. Harmful generosity
While it's no one's intention to do so, engaging in the wrong form of generosity can actually bring about more harm that good. There's been a lot of attention brought to this idea in social work over the past few years, the book When Helping Hurts is an excellent introduction to this on a global scale. For the purpose of this post, I want to hone in specifically on the clothing industry. Donating our old clothes to developing countries may feel generous to us, but it's actually destroying the artisan textile industry in those countries. (And let's be honest, are we really being generous by sending over clothes that are worn and we didn't want anyway?)
If we truly want to sustainably help developing countries through our clothing, we need to stop giving old clothes to them and start buying garments from them at a fair wage.
Will it cost us more? Yes.
Will it look as generous to other people? Probably not. When you purchase something to wear, don't expect people to applaud you for the good deed.
Practicing generosity in this way is a real gut-check on our true motivations.
Embracing both types of Generosity
I'm not asking you to stop practicing generosity through giving. I would never say that ethical shopping is the only way that someone should be generous. Yikes, that would be awful! What I am asking us to do is evaluate the way we shop and see if we can approach it with the same generosity we apply to other areas of life.
Let's embrace this quality of being kind and generous in every way that we can. Let's buy in a way that empowers others and promotes kindness over a bargain.