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With the New Year upon us, now is a great time to check in with yourself, reevaluate your habits, and create new goals for the future. If one of your resolutions is to lower your carbon footprint, then learning how to shop fashion and beauty like a sustainability expert is a must for 2023.

That’s why we spoke to Rana Hajirasouli, a climate-tech innovator and founder of The Surpluss, an eco-conscious platform that’s helping businesses reform their relationship with resources and materials toward circularity. After identifying greenwashing as one of the main problems for conscious consumers, we asked Hajirasouli to share her tips for weighing up the sustainability credentials of beauty and fashion items listed as “green” or “sustainably sourced.” Here’s what she had to say.

Rana Hajirasouli: “There are certainly a few tricks of assessing any brands’ sustainability credentials. I’d always recommend asking the ‘foundational five’ questions:

1. Where does it come from?

This can help answer questions as to where it is made, and if the garment workers are working under fair labour practices. Many manufacturers have historically offshored their factories into developing countries where they can take advantage of cheap labour and a lack of safety practices. The Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 garment workers gave rise to the sobering consequences of the conditions and the depth of involvement of large retailers, including Walmart & Primark.

2. How often?

This is an interesting one that many conscious consumers can’t unsee. If a brand is updating their inventory on a daily, or weekly basis, no matter how sustainable they claim to be, they are operating under a fast-fashion business model which places profit before people and planet.

3. What is it made from?

if the jargon is too complex for consumers to understand, it is simply not sustainable. The rule of thumb for many is to opt for mono material garments, or those without complex interweaving of multiple types of materials. For instance, pure organic cotton comes with its own concerns of production, such as intensive water use, but there are some major advantages over other mixed materials which simply cannot be traced upstream or recycled further downstream.

4. Who made it?

There are currently very few brands that are shining a light on the visibility of their upstream supply chains. But if they are actively participating in their suppliers’ welfare, and have faces behind the brand, this is certainly a progressive step that deserves an accolade. On the other hand, if all the information that is available is ‘Made in country X’ on the tag, then it may be the case that they are not taking responsibility in the conditions that they are made.

5. What do I do once I’m done with it?

Unfortunately, most of our items have a life, and rarely do they suit our needs forever. Is the brand making a conscious effort to do take-back programs, instructions on what to do, or collaborate with local initiatives to reduce textile waste? Or are they completely neglecting the responsibility of their production?”