Rhiannon Spencer-Jones: Where you spend your money is the most important vote you cast

Writer Rhiannon Spencer-Jones says we have a responsibility to consider the consequences of how we spend our money

EARLIER this month, every single person who went to their polling station took an active step in deciding our country's future. 

However, the voting doesn't stop there. It is critical to remember that every pound - every penny - we spend in our everyday lives is also a vote for one thing, and against another.

We need to be particularly conscious of this when it comes to the clothing industry. Eighty billion pieces of clothing are now bought globally every year, which is a 400 per cent increase on the last decade alone. Clothes are now one of the ultimate disposable items. 

Eighty billion pieces of clothing are now bought globally every year, which is a 400 per cent increase on the last decade alone. Clothes are now one of the ultimate disposable items. 

At the moment, the majority of us are casting votes every weekend in our high street stores, and we’re voting for more products, faster, cheaper and with greater variety every time we shop.

But we are also voting for a continuation of a dangerous and damaging trend. The fashion industry is now the second most polluting industry after the oil industry. 

From the very start of production it is inflicting damage: the demand for cotton has led to farming practises that at best damage the environment and at worse include pesticides which are harmful - even deadly - to local communities. 

From there we encounter workers who are surviving on wages far below a Living Wage, and in the most dire of conditions. Three of the four worst ever industrial disasters in the clothing industry have happened in the past few years, with the Rana Plaza factory collapse resulting in the deaths of over 1,100 people.

We mustn't forget that we the consumers are not the winners in this scenario, either - we no longer have garments that last us years. Our clothes get holes, seams come undone on dresses and the first wash is often the death knell for many a t-shirt or top.

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This is what we vote for when we buy from the high street. We vote for companies to give us more cheap fashion - in fact, we vote for it in such numbers that the brands all compete for who can give us the most, at the lowest cost. 

That race to the bottom is creating hidden misery in other parts of the globe, as well as bumper profits in the pockets of those who benefit.

We must see our hard earned cash for what it is - it is the ultimate vote. It screams "give me more" on the annual reports of clothing companies. We must ask them to change in a way that will be heard.

So I ask you to vote smarter. There are many companies now - not the big high street brands, but startups and local designers - who are making a difference. Companies like People Tree and Rapanui who are making items from environmentally friendly materials, who pay good wages, and who support a non-disposable (and still chic-as-hell) fashion agenda. 

With a little research online you can clothe yourself from head to foot, in the knowledge that your desire to look smart didn’t cost someone else their happiness. 

So I ask you to vote smarter. There are many companies now - not the big high street brands, but startups and local designers - who are making a difference.

The best thing of all? Every penny you spend with companies which are working to effect change is a message to the high street stores that they have to do something different.

Remember that every penny you spend ends up in the bank account of one company or another.

Which one would you vote for?

Picture courtesy of Jirka Matousek

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