Ah, 2018. 2018! Where does the time go? I know this makes me sound more and more like my mother every time I say it (which isn’t a bad thing by the way) but WHERE DOES IT GO?! When a new year arrives we always re-evaluate our lives, what things do we want to leave in the previous year, how can we be more productive, do better at work, make the most of our time off and create a work life balance? How can we be healthier, smarter, kinder to ourselves and those around us? And, here’s one you might not have thought of, how can we be more sustainable?
Now bear with me, this post will be a little intense, but if we are to go forward together, I must set the scene.
Sustainability is no longer a code word used by treehuggers and nature nerds to describe a lifestyle that is better for people and the planet.
It still has the same definition but there are now many more people aware of its meaning. Seriously, put your hand up if you’ve heard the word before? Yes, full house, lovely. We are, quite frankly, at the spaghetti junction of bad decisions for the planet. Our emissions are higher than ever, our planet is warmer than ever, and we are eating, wearing, riding and driving our way to a thoroughly abused planet and something has to change. I’m not here to scare you, or threaten you with boring facts and statistics, I’m here to give you a little insight into some ways in which YOU can make a difference. And we’re starting with fashion.
You heard me. Fashion. As one of the most unethical and polluting industries fashion has escalated into a business where high street retailers turn over collections approximately every 4 weeks and designer labels release their seasonal collections at the opposite time of year to when we should be wearing them. We’ve all gone upside down chasing next season’s styles and amongst the madness hovers the question “Why?”.
Most of us know by now which styles and colours we like to wear, what shoes we feel most comfortable in and we definitely have a favourite bag or two. So why do so many of us chase the rainbow of new styles when quite often they’re something we’ve either a) already got from many a season ago, or b) are totally not our style. The answer: because we’re told to. By brands, by the media, by our particularly style-conscious friend. We’re all under the influence.
I digress to a little history, as like me you probably can’t remember how this all started. *Whispers* It was Zara. I know. Our beloved Zara! When Zara arrived in the UK they kicked off a trend that had competing retailers sneering on day one, and re-structuring their business models on day 15. It is Zara who brought us fast fashion, producing only a limited number of garments per style which if not bought would be gone within two weeks leaving shoppers no time to consider their purchase. It encouraged a hunger in consumers to buy on the spot for fear of missing out. Little did we know then that it would lead to such an unsustainable lifestyle for shoppers going foward.
So down to the nitty gritty, why should you change your tune and start integrating sustainability into your closet?
Firstly, for people: Millions of people worldwide are part of the fashion industry supply chain. Although there has been a greater pressure on creating an ethical workplace for fashion workers since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 and the subsequent launch of Fashion Revolution, there are many retailers still functioning irresponsibly. People working in garment factories are typically women, working long hours for very little money, they have only short breaks or none at all and often the workplace does not comply with building health and safety specs. How many of us would agree to working in conditions like this?
Next up, for the planet: The fashion industry contributes significantly to global emissions from factory operations and transportation, water is polluted from dyeing processes and there is an enormous volume of waste sent to landfill every year from scraps, unsold garments and people binning last season’s clothing in exchange for the latest trends.
Finally, for you: You know how they say that if you feel good, then you look good? Well, when you wear something that’s good, it makes you feel good too so obviously you look even better! Transitioning to a more sustainable wardrobe can do a lot for you personally: save you money on replacing low quality fast fashion clothing, give you peace of mind that what you wear isn’t hurting people or the environment, help you develop your personal style and enable you to minimise your wardrobe to quality pieces that you love saving the stress of deciding what to wear.
But how can you do it? Time to dip your toe into the water…
We’ll be taking a deeper dive into some fashionable options over the next few posts but here’s a few considerations to get you started:
- Deliberate your purchases. NEED is a great word to use here, ask yourself, do you NEED this? How much does this item look like something you already have? If you want something for a particular occasion, can you accessorise something you’ve already got? Do you have a friend you can borrow something from?
- Shop wisely. Are you thinking about a new coat, but it’s March? Will it be worn a couple of times and be tidied away until autumn? You don’t need it right now, I promise. Make do and mend with the one you have till warmer climes appear.
- Ask more of retailers. Don’t be afraid to ask staff about how garments were made, where they came from, how they have been designed. I have often done this, and taken staff up on having someone from head office contact me with some answers. Even if you never hear back, someone will pass on a message that you have asked and that, my friends, is consumer power.
- Share your interest on social media. Using hashtags on Twitter or Instagram like #sustainablefashion or #ethicalfashion will help others in the know direct you to more sustainable companies or sustainable fashion movements so you can educate yourself and discover fab new sustainable brands!
Ok, so chances are you might be feeling a tad guilty now but do not worry you’re not the only one – welcome to the journey!