Blogger : look at all the stuff I bought ! You know how much I like striped tops. #secondhand #vintage #haul #ethicalFashion #climateChange #saveThePlanet #voteWithDollars #minimalism #sustainableFashion
Earth : Phew ! What did you consume AGAIN this month in the name of sustainability ? Stop taking from me if you want to be friendly. #ecoFriendly #letMeRenew #stopConsuming
There are words that we, as an internet culture, render meaningless.
‘Research’ is one word that is often mis-used on blogs. If you go on the internet and search for some information, it doesn’t become your research. It’s just search. If at all you do an exhaustive reading and analysis of everything published out there on a certain topic, it’s called a literature survey. ( Still not research. ) When you are trying to add to the existing body of knowledge using hypothesis/experimentation/method studies, it’s called research.
‘Curate’ is one such word. Everyone on the internet can call themselves a curator and a reviewer while knowing nothing of the craft. Most bloggers who review shoes cant identify the types of leather. Most bloggers who review clothes cant identify one stitch from other. Most reviews are feelings and reactions to a garment.
Another such word is ‘minimalist’. You can have a shopping blog, show what you buy every week/month and call your self a minimalist fashion blogger.
‘Mindful consumption’ : a word to use when ever a garment is purchased from a non-fast fashion store. How much can one mindfully consume ? Is your 12th sweater a mindful purchase ? As opposed to grabbing stuff and mindlessly racing to the checkout ? What does this term mean ?
‘Sustainability’ is a word that is slowing going down this path. On one hand, the experts in the field have tightened the ropes on what is considered sustainable. The bar is set high. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. In 2018, it fell on August 1. We are using 1.7 earths per year. Considering that information, the way the ‘S’ word is used on the internet is troubling.
“One of the toughest things to do is to figure out the important questions to ask before solving a problem. Once you figure out the question, the answer is relatively easy.”
– Elon Musk
What is sustainable fashion ?
“Sustainability requires a long-term outlook that encourages responsible consumption. Fashion, it seems, is fundamentally at odds with this goal. Perhaps apparel can be made sustainably, but fashion? Fashion is more than a product. Fashion is a mode of thought. It affects everything from design to purchasing to obsolescence, and is usually distinguished by a fast-paced and ever-replenishing chain of supply and demand. The inevitable consequence of quick and constant change is ravenous resources consumption and a vast accumulation of waste. Better production methods can slow resource use and recycling can reduce waste, but buying ( and therefore making ) fewer products will address both problems.
– Deborah J C Brosdahl, Professor of Ecology.
“The term sustainable is not one we use often, because it’s meaning seems to have been lost. From our perspective, ‘sustainability’ refers to long term objectives that are both environmentally and economical. The definition of sustainable development, as originally drafted by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, refers to “meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” As such, development policies and environmental protection are not at odds, as both aim to increase people’s overall welfare.
– Susab and Yves Gagnon, SYKA Textiles Trading Corp
What is the root cause ?
Growing population whose needs are dependent on our non renewable and limited resources.
The way goods are produced. [ Buying from sustainable brands is not a solution in it’s entirety. ]
The way goods are consumed. [ Did you wear the garment for the 200th time yet ? How much did you buy this year ? ]
The way goods are disposed. [ Did you let it go because you haven’t been able to mend it ? Are you hoarding unused garments as they biodegrade inside your closet ? Are you wearing your garments twice per year as they slowly biodegrade inside your closet ? What happens to them at the end of their life ? ]
There is no one solution. From what I read :
Systemic Changes. Innovation. Regulation. Colonizing other planets for raw materials and real estate. ….. All the ones not happening right now. What we can do meanwhile to buy us time and lessen the damage :
Scale back on needs. Want less. Buy less.
The stuff you do end up buying should be sustainably made to lessen the damage done during production. Even the most sustainably made garment consumes resources and not consuming it is most sustainable option. A second hand garment that I don’t purchase gives a better chance for someone who actually needs it to find it. A garment that I don’t hoard gives it a fresh lease of life in the second hand market.
What is sustainably made ?
Meets market’s requirements.
Has positive social effects for individuals and communities
Is safe for human and ecological health
Is sourced from renewable or repeated recycled materials
Is sourced from renewable energy
Is designed for safe, productive return to nature or industry.
Is recovered and recycled at the highest quality after use.
– Cradle to Cradle design.
No brand meets them all. ( The solution isn’t about consuming fast fashion claiming that no brand is perfect. That is like saying “I can’t save 100% of my pay cheque. So, I wont save at all for the future.” ) The brands who are change makers in today’s market seem to meet at-least 4 of these requirements. ( Stella McCartney has my admiration for making strides in every aspect of this check list.)
Does individual impact make a difference ?
Only if it has strength in numbers. But I am not sure. Some movements start this way and eventually change the world. One can only hope, at this point.
If it’s a law or a regulation, our compliance matters. But I doubt we as a society will regulate our consumption in this free market capitalist economy. We cant even agree on a carbon tax to provide an incentive to consume less.
Sustainability has been left to individual citizens as a choice / a hobby / a conspiracy theory / a belief / a buzzword. There is no immediate reward for individuals who lower their carbon footprint or for buying eco friendly products or for spending the extra money on sustainably made goods. Why would anyone do it ? I don’t know the answer to that question either.
If you are a person like Elon Musk who is working on the big impact solutions, by all means, go ahead. Do not divert your energy towards these lifestyle changes. Eat your steak and work the long hours. If you are a non-Elon Musk-ish citizen of the planet, do your bid. This maybe the only contribution you will make to this cause.
So you think you are better than me huh ?
I hear this line a lot. I call it the small town syndrome.
No, I am not in competition with who ever you are. But I shall point to some bloggers who are truly better than me towards the end of this post.
That being said … there is a bigger picture. As of today, there are 2,349,496+ hashtags on Instagram. Each image shows a tiny action taken / an intention set. It is great that more people are interested. Maybe this is a movement that can only exist in small steps. Maybe aspiring towards a no-impact zero-waste living is not a viable solution. Maybe it’s a mindset that is cultivated while being a part of this wonderful civilization and it’s advances. Maybe it’s us trying to buy time till the future problem solvers find the solutions with big impact. In what ever scope, I am happy when I see folks talk about sustainability. I get angry when someone criticizes the movement. While I don’t enjoy the criticism, I do appreciate a good critique. Any movement, how ever important, can be critiqued. I am not in a position to judge anybody’s lifestyle, let alone a sustainability lifestyle blogger. I also don’t know about the right solutions vs the wrong solutions. The antagonist here is not the blogger, but consumerism masquerading as sustainability. We are not supposed to do what is convenient to us and then try to convince the world that it is sustainable to live that way. We as bloggers, are not supposed to fit the problem to our solution. Let me talk about the sort of content I find inspiring. I ask these 5 questions when I see a blogger preaching sustainability :
FIVE QUESTIONS ( in the order of priority) :
1. HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED ?
Coz, can you preach sustainability while owning excess ? Can you really say “I really need this sustainably made high quality sweater” when you already have a dozen hiding in your closet ? Needing excess is the root cause of this problem and its sort of oxymoronic to show it as a solution, don’t you think ?
2. HOW MUCH DO YOU BUY PER YEAR ?
Coz buying excess from a second hand store is a band-aide fix to a behavior that was once exhibited at a fast fashion store. Can the planet can’t support providing 20 garments per year multiplied by 7 billion people? Or do you justify your consumption because you write a blog ? Do you get a free pass to consume more because you supposedly care about sustainability ?
3. ARE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING TO BUY SOMETHING ?
Coz it’s all in the mind. Actions follow intentions.
4. ARE YOU BUYING AND CULLING ON REPEAT ?
Coz you are treating the symptoms while keeping the disease alive. Coz you are decluttering, not de-owning. Coz you haven’t lessened your needs, but want the optics of owning less. Coz you are only downsizing to make space for more. Coz at the end of the day, you are still consuming. Coz at the end of the day, your practices are wasteful. Crash diets don’t work.
5. WHAT DID YOU BUY ?
Coz how the garments are made, matters. Buying what you absolutely need second hand helps. Repairing and wearing what you own, helps. The way you take care of what you own, matters. But understand that even a Stella McCartney sweater made from recycled yarn and in solar powered factories didn’t come out of thin air. It won’t poof into thin air once you wear it out. I put this last coz I don’t think sustainability is about being able to afford Jesse Kamm pants and Eileen Fisher tunics. I see too many blogs fail at points 1-4 and consume excess from sustainable fashion brands. I do not want them defining the narrative of sustainability and influencing me.
Look for answers to these 5 questions. Not in words, but in actions. I don’t want the narrative to shift from ‘Buy less. Buy better’ to ‘continue buying from these brands instead’. I dont want the narrative to shift from ‘Use up what you have. Made do.’ to ‘buy from these brands’. If they are not transparent about how much they own/consume, I am not interested. I am left with 3 blogs that have made the cut off. While most blogs increase awareness of the problem, these 3 increase the understanding of the problem. They are a part of the solution. In the spirit of minimalism, 3 good blogs is enough. ( Raise your hand if you complain about not having time to mend your clothes/be sustainable/be zero waste but have enough scroll time to read blogs ? ) If we are to become the average of our influences, who would you choose ? My picks :
I have always equated minimalism with boring clothes and a gray life. Ariana showed me that you can live in style and embrace your wild side while fitting your entire closet into a carry on. I have never been the one who could admire a woman’s style if I didn’t respect the intellect of the women behind the clothes. I think she is fabulous.
( I don’t agree with her stance on air travel. Not using a plastic straw on the flight is good, but taking the flight is million times more harmful. )
Conscious Creators Consume Consciously
Say that 5 times fast 😜
I’m probably at the more extreme end of this since I have a capsule wardrobe and live fairly minimally, but any creator who is promoting and actually living a more sustainable lifestyle knows the importance of mindful consumption. Having overflowing closets, drawers full of beauty products and piles of household goods, even if they’re eco friendly, still isn’t very sustainable.
There’s a balance to find as a blogger/youtuber though because people are looking for recommendations – if you’re thinking of purchasing something you want to make sure it meets your criteria and is something you’re going to like and use. The main mission of My Green Closet is to help and inspire people to live more sustainably and responsibly. One way of doing this is making it easier to shop in line with your values by sharing brands, products and better options. However I also have to to do this without going against my own values and ideas; how hypocritical would it be if I talk about consuming consciously and then every month share a new beauty line I’m using, have a totally new wardrobe each season, or post “hauls”.
This quote sums up her commitment to the cause.
Blog. Youtube. Instagram.
I don’t read many zero waste blogs because I find photos of glass jars filled with food, tote bags, linens and bamboo appliances boring to view after the 10th image of the same. But Andrea Sanders manages to teach me something new in every post of hers . Her simplicity is inspiring. Her content is calm, compassionate, peaceful and joyful.
And me ?
For a long time, I thought I was living a rather sustainable life because I decluttered and have been buying from the right stores. But if it’s really about the amount you consume, I don’t live a sustainable lifestyle. When I successfully complete the French 5 challenge for a year, I will put ‘a blog about sustainable living‘ in my blog’s tag line. This leaves me with the uncomfortable question : What is my blog about ? I removed my ‘About Me’ page because I don’t know what to write in it. This post is meant to make me introspect a little before the Thanksgiving shopping frenzy takes over the country. It has already started raining coupon codes. Everyone around me is making lists on what to buy. I am being sent shopping lists by my family in India. Advice to self :
How to “mindfully” shop the sales this season ?
YOU HAVE ENOUGH.
SIT THIS ONE OUT.