My Year of Sustainable Living.
For me, it started with clothes. Last year at the Yellow Conference, I was awakened to the realities of the fashion industry— that much of our clothes are made in sweatshops, with forced labor or by humans earning very little and with no other choice.
The problem goes hand in hand with its source: the takeover of fast fashion (here's a short article about that).
Fast fashion is an entire industry that is telling us we need more. New clothes enter the stores each week, reminding us that the new dress we bought last week is already out of style. Fast fashion is perpetuated by this culture of More, and we’ve given into it. Buying more clothes, getting rid of clothes.
I thought about how I’m constantly cleaning out my closet. How is it that I always have garbage bags full of clothes to donate? Where are they all coming from?
I watched the documentary, The True Cost, that discusses the societal and environmental impacts of fast fashion.
- We are producing so many clothes that the fashion industry has become the world’s 3rd largest source of pollution.
- We are getting rid of clothes at such an alarming rate that we are running out of places to put the trash they are creating.
- We are demanding so many clothes that companies are cutting all the corners to produce that cheapest product so that we will buy more — at the cost of human dignity.
I couldn’t stop thinking: How could I buy a $15 dollar dress, knowing that it wasn’t produced ethically? That the person who made it isn’t being treated fairly? That the materials it’s made of and the methods used to create it are slowly killing our planet?
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” - Anne Lappe
This awoke me to the whole idea of sustainable living. Trusty Wikipedia defines this as "a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the earth's natural resources and personal resources."
As I thought about the clothing decisions I made, I started noticing the amount of trash I create. I thought about the corporations I support with the dollars I spend. I thought about the people and processes on the other side of the products I purchase. I thought about the environmental impact of what I choose to use and what I chose to throw away.
And it made me want to pay attention. It made me want to live better.
You may call me crazy. You’ll probably tell me: What difference can ONE person make? By reducing the amount of trash you create, can one person change the planet? By not shopping at Forever 21, can ONE person make a difference? By choosing to compost, can ONE person make an impact?
I don’t know. But when you value something, you have no choice but to try.
Several months ago, I posted on Instagram that I was getting rid of one thing every day as a mission toward minimalism. I love this quote from The Minimalists:
“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”
I want to add a few of my own questions to that formula. I want to mesh minimal and ethical and sustainable together.
I want to become minimal for the sake of ethics and sustainability.
I just don’t want to be a typical consumer anymore. I don’t want to consume as a hobby. I don’t want to buy things without intention or thought. I don’t want to crowd my space with more things.
I think it comes down to this. Less. But better.
Buy less. I don’t want to fill a void in my life with buying more stuff. I don’t want my dollars to support business and practices that deny people of their human rights. I’d like to do whatever I can do reduce my footprint on our environment.
Last month I shared my goals for the year, and sustainability was one of them. So I want to take a challenge:
A Year of Sustainable Living.
What this looks like:
I am going to try my best to change the way I make decisions and change the way I buy… by asking these questions:
- Do I need this?
- Who made this?
- How will this affect the environment?
- Will this add value to my life?
What this doesn’t look like:
Changing my lifestyle overnight. There’s no way I could manage a complete and sudden life change. But I do have a few things I’d like to work toward in the coming months. And to be completely honest, I love buying things, so it will be a major challenge and I'll probably fail more than once.
A few goals I'm working toward:
- I’d like to only buy clothes either secondhand or from ethical businesses.
- This year, I want to only buy gifts from artists and makers or from ethical companies (this was on my Bucket List for the next year.)
- I’d like to reduce the amount of waste I create by: buying less, recycling more, and trying to compost (that one is going to take a while to figure out).
There's a so many more things I'd like to try, and I'll share that list later. I'd like to share my journey with you, too. I'll do my best to report back with methods I'm practicing, businesses I'm supporting, things I'm learning.
For now, I'd love to know… Do you have a desire to live minimally, shop ethically, or practice sustainability? What keeps you from doing so? What resources have you found that help with these lifestyles? Let's help each other out!!