The conversation around living ethically and sustainably can seem extremely daunting, especially when you feel behind on the movement.
I remember first learning about ethical and sustainable living and thinking it was just for wealthier people and hippies. I was overwhelmed by the idea of transforming some of my daily habits and underwhelmed by the effects of these lifestyle changes. I thought, “There is no way I could completely change the way that I shop!”
I am a recovering fashion addict. Well, I still probably am a fashion addict, but in a totally different way. I used to go shopping almost every weekend, I used to work a clothing store in a mall and I loved having new outfits and accessories all the time. I still love fashion, but I appreciate style for totally new reasons, and it has grown my love for this art. Knowing that I could support garment workers and reduce my environmental impact with fashion combined my love of justice and fashion into one!
Changing my shopping habits and transitioning to slow fashion has been difficult for me, and I still sometimes get the feeling that I am not doing enough, or that I am still buying too much.
Living a sustainable and ethical life is a journey. It takes financial, physical and emotional commitment, and very few people have the ability to change so many aspects of their life over night, or even in a few months.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed or behind, or like you can’t do this thing, I promise you can. It is OK to take it slow and start with small steps. It’s okay to mess up and forget to bring a to-go mug or not purchase from that company or neglect to look at a company’s transparency. Nobody is perfect, especially not at the beginning, or even middle, of a journey.
If you are just getting started on this journey, or even if you haven’t thought about it much, here are a few reasons why you should considering taking the leap and investing in a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle.
1. You are supporting women and men around the world
When you buy from ethical companies, those that trace their supply chain and have a working relationship with those that produce or source their goods, you are ensuring that the men and women who create your clothes, home decor, makeup and other goods are paid fairly, treated well and work in a healthy environment.
2. You can help reduce poverty around the globe
In a world where nearly a billion people live on less than one dollar a day, you can help ensure that companies are not perpetuating this poverty. When you buy from companies that have a direct relationship with their workers, you can feel confident that those employees are being paid a living wage. You can even help alleviate poverty right here in the United States. Thousands of garment workers in Los Angeles are not paid a living wage because of the unclear supply chains of big companies like Forever 21. By choosing ethical companies, you can help workers earn a respectable pay and get out of poverty.
3. You can significantly reduce your waste
By using less plastic, composting, shopping less, donating, shopping at thrift stores, giving experiences rather than physical gifts and many other eco-friendly activities, you can greatly reduce your impact on the environment. The average American throws 81 pounds of clothing away each year, most of which ends up in landfills or on the littered streets of less developed countries. By shopping less and buying clothing made by sustainable practices such as recycling, you reduce your environmental impact greatly. By skipping out on the plastic cup and instead bring a reusable one of your own, you can save an average of 71 throw-away cups per year. And let’s be honest, in our American culture it’s probably more than that for each of us. The planet needs you!
4. You save your body from absorbing harmful toxins
Many harmful chemicals enter your body through these seemingly harmless daily products: un-clean nail polish, makeup, clothing, candles, food and skincare products. These products, if not made with natural ingredients, have a slew of health problems attached to them.
The “toxic trio” commonly found in nail polish can cause damage to your body over time and even affect your unborn child. Lighting candles can cause damage to your lungs and nervous system as well as heighten the likelihood of cancer, allergies and asthma. Common chemicals found in everyday products such as shampoo, soap and skincare can cause scary health problems and birth defects.
5. Your small actions can help enact policies and change the way companies source goods
The saying “you vote with your dollar” is especially true in ethical and sustainable policies. When consumers demand products that are toxin-free, eco-friendly and ethically sourced, companies and policies are bound to change. If we stop buying products that are bad for our bodies, the environment and laborers, then there will be no demand for those products. When we as consumers demand fair and sustainable products, companies will mold to fit our wants. We control the system, not them. We have the power to change the way things are made! And that’s empowering!
This upcoming year, I will be posting 5 simple steps you can take to create a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle each month. Stay tuned for some practical ways that you can accept the challenge of sustainability!