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Eco Friendly Fashion accessories – a guide to ethical shopping

While most people are making the switch in the sphere of clothes from the ones produced in sweatshops as a result of child labour to the ones made out of sustainable material conforming to fair labour practices, a confusion often ensues regarding what is ethical or eco friendly  fashion accessories. In case of accessories, ethics are the same as it is with clothes- made from ethically sourced, sustainable material and by fairly paid labour. However, it isn’t very easy to trace back exactly from where and how the material was sourced. Most waste from this industry includes plastic which has been choking the earth at an alarming level. So, this article will discuss the common materials used in making accessories from a sustainability  point of view and a few alternatives to the not so eco friendly material. This allows you to make a more informed decision in choosing eco friendly fashion accessories in your daily life.


Leather is a symbol of luxury and class in most fashion accessories like bags and belts. However products made of leather surely do not qualify as sustainable fashion accessories. Some may argue it is ethically corrupt to continue using it. Leather is responsible for abuse and slaughter of many animals for their skin and hides. It usually comes from countries where welfare laws continue to be unregulated. Another problem with leather is that you won’t even know if the leather you’re purchasing is made out of cow hide or dog hide due to mislabelling. Leather, in most cases, exclusively comes from animals that were raised specifically for their body parts. Alternatives to leather A few more sustainable and eco-friendly fashion materials to leather are: Cork: Made from the shell of the oak tree, it is one of the most durable materials. Its benefits are that is extremely tensile, has water-proof qualities and is durable. Apple fibre leather: Apple fibre leather is obtained by transforming the waste of the apple industry and can find uses in shoes, clothing and accessories. It is sustainable, strong and water-proof and minimises wastage.


The film “Blood Diamond” brought forth many harsh realities of the diamond mining world. However, the environmental effects of diamond mining are way worse than we perceive. Traditional diamond mining strips the topmost layer of the Earth and is responsible for irreversible ecological damage. The biggest problem with diamond mining and trade is that the source of the diamond is virtually impossible to track. Alternatives to traditional diamond Synthetic diamonds are a great alternative to traditional diamonds. They are usually created in the lab or they’re synthetic which means they don’t need to be mined. Other than reducing the negative environmental effects, the synthetic diamond retains the characteristics of a traditional one and is considerably cheaper. Recycled diamonds are another sustainable option. In this process, the jeweller takes an existing stone and sets it on another band or mould, thus, reducing the overall wastage.


While the prices of this precious, yellow material are always skyrocketing, the environmental effects that gold mining bring about is something that we often tend to overlook. Erosion is a major negative side-effect of gold mining as the extraction of small amounts of gold requires moving of large amounts of earth. Another issue that deems gold as unethical is the use of cyanide in extraction from the ore and is highly toxic to human beings, thus, giving rise to a major issue of unfair labour practices. Gold mining has also given rise to issues like mercury poisoning of fishes, loss of biodiversity and indigenous tribes. Alternatives to gold Eco-friendly gold: Eco-gold, eco-friendly gold or green gold is mined devoid of cyanide, mercury or any other poisonous substances in order to minimise the damage on the environment. Although mining continues to have an impact on the environment, green gold tries to minimise it as much as possible. Recycled gold: Instead of mining for new gold, companies usually reuse the already existing gold to craft into new jewellery. This recycling of gold minimises waste.


Silver is another popular metal which is commonly used in making jewellery and other accessories. However, like all other metals, silver has its environmental impact too and in most cases, far more than other metals. A lot of substances beyond jewellery contain silver nanoparticles which aren’t totally degradable or cannot be washed away with water, thus, giving rise to problems like toxic discharge which affects the aquatic ecosystem. In some cases, the use of the metal can cause corneal injury if liquid silver comes in contact with the eyes and prolonged use of the metal with the skin can cause allergic dermatitis. Alternatives to silver Ethical silver is a term given to the metal when it is sourced in an ethical manner- the mining of the metal is done in an environmental friendly way and doesn’t leave behind an ecological impact. The mining and reformation of this metal is done in tandem with fair labour practices. In a lot of cases, silver might be labelled as “fairtrade” or “fairmined” which are international standards of determining if the metal in your jewellery is ethical. While the accessories space might be comparatively difficult to conform to ethical standards as compared to textiles, it isn’t impossible to try and educate yourself further in order to create a small but powerful impact on the environment.


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