I have been reading the book The Responsible Fashion Company: Integrating Ethics and Aesthetics in the Value Chain by Francesca Romana Rinaldi and Salvo Testa (published 2015) this year, and one consumer description caught my attention that I felt the need to share: the LOHAS, or Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability! I haven’t heard this acronym before and think it does a great job of capturing a range of the middle ground on the spectrum of sustainability activism to apathy in regards to consumerism. I love the inclusion of health, which is something that is definitely on these consumers’ minds, however, may not be on the front of the minds of the sustainability team working on the products (who are likely more focused on GHG, water, waste, and energy).
As described in the book, “When we speak of LOHAS we refer to a type of consumer that pursues, through daily choices, a lifestyle based on ecological sustainability and on attention to their own health and that of the planet. Consequently, when shopping, this consumer always chooses carefully… [and their characteristics] can be summarized by an attention to the environment, awareness, and respect for health and society. At the same time, these consumers do not want to boycott fashion and technology [as some more ‘eco-activists’ might].” (p13-14)
You may be thinking, “the LOHAS is a small minority of the market”, which to some would seem logical, however, Rinaldi and Testa share that according to a study in 2007, 40 million Americans could be classified as LOHAS. About a third of Germans are LOHAS, the highest concentration in Europe, and the highest concentration globally is, believe it or not, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan! We can only assume that these numbers have grown globally since 2007 as concerns about sustainability and climate change have become more mainstream. LOHAS are a major segment of the market.
So here’s my question: Why aren’t the majority of consumer product and apparel creators on board with developing more healthy and more sustainable products? Why aren’t they diving in deeper to learn about the health and climate implications of their products? How can we, as LOHAS or other consumers, help them?
The wild success of the few sustainability focused product and apparel companies is paving the way for innovation and pulling the industry inch by inch down the sustainability path with them. As LOHAS continue to vote with their dollar from the bottom up,and as local and national governments start to develop policies requiring healthier and more sustainable products, the industry-wide movement towards sustainability and health will become more and more mainstream. There is a time and place for seeking out the niche, but in regards to our health and the environment around the globe, sustainability practices becoming mainstream and baseline (and innovation expanding from here) is exactly what I want to see.
P.S. It being the holiday time of year, I can’t end this post without a plug for remembering these values of health and sustainability while deciding on the perfect gift for your loved ones. See my Sustainable Holiday Quiz post if you’re looking for some ideas!