Take a deep breath, feel your clothes on your skin, consider this an invitation back to your own two feet.
What we choose to wear and how we choose to wear it is one of our powers as individuals in communicating who we are and what we are willing to fight for. When we let other people decide the choices we make, we are inevitably siding with destruction. But when we align our beliefs with our actions and dare to wear our hearts on our sleeves, we are wearing a new kind of freedom – one that frees our planet too.
In a recent Channel Void poll, 99 percent of you said that you do really care about your contribution to the planet’s destruction. In the same poll, 98 percent of you said that you are kinder to the planet when you have more energy. Very clearly this says that the Earth is depending on us to start carrying ourselves and our own decisions with more reverence. The best part of it is, 98 per cent of you admitted that you feel more confident when you are doing exactly this. Sustainability has never felt sexier or been more crucial.
Using fashion as a way of connecting with sustainability seems counter-intuitive at first given the amount of destruction the fashion industry is responsible for. Considering fast fashion has us wearing items less than five times before they get old, there are many reasons to understand what our personal style essence is and shopping thoughtfully for classic pieces. If there’s one trend to embrace it is vintage shopping / op-shopping because it reconnects us with the thoughtfulness of expression that slows down demand for mass production.
Here’s the rub: every time we spend money, we are casting a vote and placing our energy into the world to say, “I care about this and am trading my time to see it exist into the future”. If you didn’t realise that you were doing this, welcome back to reality. This is the start of us actively choosing better ways to give our funds to people and the Earth. It’s the realest way to redirect the consumerist system – using it to undo itself. Almost everything is available in an irreversibly destructive version and then a more sustainable one. We need to look for the latter when we are purchasing anything. Whether it be homewares, coffee in the morning or even a new pair of shoes, brands are realising the importance of sexing things up with sustainability.
The environmental waste created by big brands is something we have to take accountability for as consumers. From the chemicals used to treat fibres, the use of synthetics and plastics, greenhouse gases, soil degradation and water consumption, consumerism and fashion are a toxic couple. Companies that treat the environment like shit to make money also likely treat their human resources poorly too. Supply ceases to exist when demand slows, so taking your vote away from those that aren’t actively improving their systems is imperative to heralding change. The Big Dogs are picking up on this too and making small changes to hero products for big impact, like adidas repurposing their Stan Smiths to use upcycled materials and vegan material alternatives. This kind of reactivity is something we need to see more of.
Sometimes, frustratingly, built-in sustainability costs more thanks to green-washing. As discussed in Sustainable Jungle’s article, ‘greenwashing’ has been a growing phenomenon over the past decade as brands falsely market their products as being ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’. It’s as though they are using visible elements of their product (i.e. recyclable packaging) as distractions from far more sinister things happening behind factory doors (i.e. child labour). The fact of the matter is, most young people aren’t interested in buying shit unless it has some sustainable element. Why pay for caged eggs if there are free-ranged ones right next to them, right? The problem is, sometimes the free-ranged option is sold out and the effort of going to another store for eggs feels unsurpassable.
Researching products deeply enough to weigh up their true cost is also something so many people can’t bring themselves to do. You can say it’s because you’re exhausted or unable to find the right information, but there’s no denying that it feels easier living in ignorance, at first. Until, that is, the following week when your half carton of caged eggs taste like a mix of sad chickens and guilt, and you’re left feeling like a shitty egg yourself.
No one is asking anyone to be perfect, but it’s time to get real with our flaws and wear them with a bit more pride for how far we have come. There are sites like Good on You and Ethical.Org that do the legwork for us and show how clothing brands are treating people, the planet and animals. It’s not so much about cancelling brands that aren’t rated ‘good’ or ‘great’, but rather, shopping elsewhere. Earth-love shouldn’t come at the cost of tearing down other people. True peace doesn’t have to yell.
Honestly, knowledge is overwhelming at times, particularly when it comes at the cost of our immediate comfort. Especially because of the multiplicity of realities we are exposed to with social media. Sometimes it can be hard to fathom that there is more than one ‘right’ thing to believe, way to act or idea to celebrate. It brings a lot of unrest into conversations about sustainability when people are competing for space to feel valid. For example, some believe 5G is going to kill us whilst others will tell you that anyone who thinks that is a lunatic. When talking about the fate of our planet and hearing older generations argue that climate change isn’t real, many younger humans are left with eco-anxiety – a state of being that is set to become the default for generations up and coming. This sometimes manifests itself as hopelessness, crippling our efforts to better the world. You might even wonder, “What’s the point of extending myself into discomfort if I know others aren’t going to do the same?”. You are not crazy for feeling a little small next to such big questions and ideas.
Feeling embodied in our beliefs requires spending a little bit of love on ourselves. There’s a zen saying that how we do one thing is how we do everything. If we want to become more aligned with ourselves, we have to be willing to target the once in a while behaviours that weaken our progress towards being who we want to be. We can waste time and energy by trying to prove that we are doing the most to everyone around us, but chances are we’re just overcompensating for the bits we’re yet to conquer.
Grounding ourselves back into our bodies is one way to regain our personal power. Next time you hit overwhelm, try putting your shoes on (preferably something hot and sustainable) and go for a walk. Reconnect with your senses in your environment. Listen through the noise to find the sounds of the wind, birds and chatter of other humans. See if you can walk your way to somewhere silent. What does the air taste like? What smells meet your nose along the way? Whose attention do you catch? Do you smile back? Feel yourself responding to the environment as you move. Where do you feel most at peace? Bookmark this feeling so you can come back to it whenever you get eaten alive by your surroundings.
There’s something truly sexy about moving with a sense of love in a world that feels hostile. How we connect to ourselves and the Earth voting for our beliefs with our energy and our dollars, is the only real way to rebel against a system that makes us all feel small.
Photography by Noah Gallagher