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Megafash’s co-founder Ngeong Jiawen (above) says people are excited when they find out the stories behind the products, made of eco-friendly or recycled materials. Image: Chew Seng Kim

Giving back to society and contributing to a greener environment does not have to be a huge commitment or a tedious process. It can be as simple as going shopping.

Conscious consumerism is not a new concept. Big brands such as H&M, which is committed to animal welfare, and Body Shop, which practises ethical trade, actively seek to better the lives of others while conducting their businesses.

It has not always been convenient to find ethically sourced products in Singapore, but a growing trend of online and brick-and-mortar shops dedicated to giving back is now making that a little easier.

At Megafash, a retail store that offers items from local and Asian brands, shoppers can get their hands on eco-friendly watches, bags made from discarded furniture and speakers carved out of natural bamboo.

About half of the store’s products – it carries about 180 brands – are socially responsible.

Megafash, which started out as an online store last year, opened two stores in Orchard last month. It also has an outlet in 112 Katong mall that started as a pop-up store in April but is now a permanant store.

Megafash’s 27-year-old co-founder Ngeong Jiawen says: “I think people are becoming more socially conscious now. When they find out about the stories behind the products, they get excited about it.

“If the story is ‘wear this, be fashionable’, then that is a different thing, but if you’re saying ‘wear this, help somebody’, then that means a lot more and I think people generally want to help others.”

One such story belongs to Filipino brand Lagu, a bestseller at Megafash. Touted as the world’s first beach-friendly beach blanket, Lagu beach mats are made from an allergen-free linen blend that repels sand.

This means that not only do users prevent sand from getting into their cars or washing machines, but they also leave it all on the beach, helping to conserve and protect the shoreline.

Another socially responsible business is Saught, a three-year-old local contemporary jewellery brand seeking to create sustainable employment opportunities in Cambodia. It also uses environmentally friendly materials.

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Pursuing Peace Gold Bangle by Saught is made of metal from war remnants recovered in Cambodia. Image: Saught

Co-founder Pamela Yeo, 27, says Saught is an old English word which means a covenant for peace. The brand has an online store and is currently stocked at four locations, including Tangs Orchard.

Saught’s first collection contains brass and copper from artillery shells recovered in previously war-torn Cambodia.

An upcoming collection will use Fairmined gold – gold responsibly mined by artisanal and small-scale mining communities.

The process ensures that remote, poverty-stricken communities receive fair prices for their gold, with additional premiums to ensure that there is no link to conflict situations or child labour.

Ms Yeo says Saught was started as a response to the world’s poor and the lack of well-designed products that tell stories of social impact.

Former freelance travel and wellness writer Joan Koh also believes that individuals can make an impact.

Ms Koh, who is in her 40s, owns 100 Good Things, a five-month-old shop in Balestier Road which carries sustainably and ethically produced products from the region.

“You are what you eat, buy and do,” she says. “When you choose to buy a responsibly made organic cotton shawl, you are aware your conscious purchase provides a substantial lifeline to the weaver and her family and you know sustainable agriculture practices translate to a greener planet.”

Counsellor Amanda Ang, 27, who bought a ring from Saught, says that while she does not intentionally seek out socially responsible products, knowing that an item she likes is ethically sourced or made may incentivise her to buy it.

“I like how someone has thought about using unwanted materials to create something beautiful, how brands such as Saught are able to reflect the good and beauty amid the unfortunate circumstances that exist in other parts of the world.”

This story was first published in The Straits Times on September 18, 2015. For similar stories, go to www.sph.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.

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