When I realized the damage that fast fashion was doing to both the environment and its workers, I knew I needed to change my own shopping behaviors. Was it easy to walk away from the very accessible and desirable options presented to me by H&M and Zara? Absolutely not. I can't tell you how many times I drooled over a new pair of shoes that was only $29.99, or an amazingly perfect dress that was less than $50. But once I knew what it took to make those garments, and considered that continuing to purchase fast fashion would only increase the demand and make it worse, I knew I had to say "no". And part of that meant that it would be a little more work to purchase the things that I "had to have".
So, no, it wasn't easy. But since I've become more deliberate in my shopping, it has become so rewarding. I no longer have the urge to impulse buy. Sure, I see things that I want, but I no longer have an internal debate about whether it's worth spending the money, because I'm more aware of the long-term effects. Instead, I think about how I can get it sustainably.
When my husband and I started planning our trip to Europe, I had this vision of packing only in a backpack. Not a "backpacking across Europe" backpack, but a fashion backpack (That's not happening, by the way. That was impossible. But I am packing in just a carry on! Progress.). I began my hunt for a backpack that would fit my vision, and soon discovered the brand MAT(T)ERIALS & NATURE, Matt & Nat for short. They are dedicated to sustainablity and create vegan products out of recycled materials whenever possible. And their handbags are gorgeous.
I had found the one. I saved my money, and I bought it. I love it. I use it every day, and I get complimented on it frequently. I will be bringing it to Europe (as my purse).
Why does this matter? If I had bought the first backpack that caught my eye, I probably would have gushed over it for a few days, or weeks, and then gotten sick of it. I know that, because that's how I used to buy things. There are very few items in my closet purchased before the last 12 months to which I have a genuine connection (with some exceptions: my wedding dress and wedding shoes) because I didn't put a ton of thought behind taking them home with me. But this backpack took research. And money saving. I didn't buy other things so I could get that backpack.
It probably sounds stupidly simple, and that's because it kind of is. Why should it be a big deal to love the thing you buy, actually value it, use it as much as you can, and be proud of it? We've been programmed to want the next new thing RIGHT NOW, and once I stopped thinking that way, things became a lot better. I talk about my purchases before I make them. I give myself time to ponder, to imagine my life with and without the item. More often than not, I'm fine without it, so my money and energy can go elsewhere.
There are so many amazing resources for consumers to better understand how to shop and live sustainably. Here are a few of my favorites - I encourage you to read and share!
- "Go Green Without Dying For It" by Alden Wicker, founder of Ecocult and co-founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition
- 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe by Summer Edwards of Tortoise and Lady Grey
- "What Is Ethical? 7 Terms You Need to Know" by Leah Wise of Style Wise
- "6 Myths About Buying Ethical Clothing" also by Leah Wise of Style Wise
- "Slowing Down Fashion" by Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy and creator of the term "ecofashion"
- "In Defense of Slow Fashion" by Leandra Medine, a.k.a. The Man Repeller