I’m Making A Change: Steps Towards Sustainability

Dress from: Reformation [one of my favorite sustainable brands]

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now, but when it comes to the topic of sustainability there are so many aspects to cover, so much to understand, and at this time, no perfect to solution or agreement on achieving ‘sustainability’.

A couple of years back I started thinking more and more about my waste. Where exactly does trash go after I throw it away? How is all this waste affecting the planet? With the constant culture of consumption and the images of the horrific garbage islands, I thought, what can I do to help?

After doing some research, I came across Bea Johnson and her book Zero Waste Home. With a family of 4 (and a dog!) Johnson and her family managed to fit all their waste from an entire into one mason jar.

I was blown away by this idea. I went to the library and borrowed her book. I read through her book and it was a lot to take in. It was mind-boggling really.

Johnson spent years trying to figure out how her family could go about their daily routines and not create any waste doing so. She covers her journey and the solutions she found for creating zero waste for day-to-day activities (grocery shopping, cleaning, makeup, etc.).

After reading Johnson’s book, I set a goal to also be zero waste. If she could do it with a family of 4, I could do it!

But it was so much harder than I thought. It was so overwhelming. And it was so frustrating how hard it was not to use plastic and so I eventually stopped trying. While I was more conscious about my consumption, I mostly went back to my normal routine of things.

A year later I decided to pick up the book again (this time I bought it on my kindle so I could refer back to it at any time) and read it again.

There is a lot to absorb in the book and it makes you realize you have to unlearn many habits to reduce your waste (like buying a plastic water bottle instead of carrying a reusable one around). These habits aren’t easy to break and it takes time and preparation.

It won’t happen overnight, it won’t happen over a week, or month. It can take years. And that’s OK.

I’ve been working on reducing my use of single-use plastics, trying to buy less packaged food when I grocery shop, buying second hand and consuming less. And I’ve been trying to share some of this tips on my Instagram and stories to bring awareness. But I guess I’ve always been a little hesitant about discussing and sharing it more because I’m nowhere near perfect.

I’m a terrible cook so it’s hard for me to buy completely package-free food items because I don’t know how the heck to make something (I’m working on getting better at cooking). I like eating out occasionally and the food will come in plastic to-go boxes (I need to get reusable ones to bring with me). I shop at the Farmer’s Market whenever possible, but sometimes I go to Costco because I can get twice the organic fruit at half the cost. I’ve cut down on my meat & dairy consumption and almost never eat red meat. But you better believe I’m going to an in-n-out burger every now and then.

I can go on. But you probably get the idea. I’m just a normal individual trying to go about my life while trying to make changes for the better. Adulting is hard enough as it is!

As I’ve focused more on ways to reduce my use of waste/single-use plastics and sustainability over the last year, I just can’t ignore that the fashion industry is one of the world’s leading pollutants.

But again, the topic of sustainable fashion is something I’ve struggled with in how I approach it.

As a ‘style influencer’, how would I even approach the subject of sustainable fashion? Does it mean never buying anything ever again? Some argue that is the most sustainable thing to do. And some argue that it’s NOT sustainable to stop buying because we simply cannot get rid of the entire fashion industry and we need to support those businesses who are making clothes sustainably and/or ethically.

If I decide to only buy/promote sustainable clothes, what does that mean? What are sustainable clothes? Well, there’s no easy answer to that either.

Synthetic fabrics (read: non-biodegradable, will sit in the landfill for hundreds of years) dominate the fashion industry. So clothes made from cotton should be good for the environment right? Well, not exactly. If it’s not organic cotton then it takes TONS of water and chemicals to make the cotton.

Ok so I’ll switch to other natural fabrics (i.e linen, silk, wool, etc.). But then you learn that many of these fabrics are so mass produced, that they are not always produced sustainably and ethically.

How about recycled plastic-water bottles? Saving plastic water bottles from going to the landfill sounds great! Well, plastic/recycled synthetic material still has this tinyyyy little problem called microfibers that are in our synthetically made clothes and with each wash, these little plastic fibers are making their way from the washing machine into our rivers and oceans and eventually into our bodies and this is causing a HUGE problem.

Okayyy, so I will only buy second-hand. And while this is one of the most agreed upon solutions, you still find that microfibers are still in these second-hand clothing items and many argue you cannot get rid of the entire fashion industry and we must support the businesses who are focusing on sustainable & ethically made clothes. 

OKAY THEN I’M GOING TO LIVE NAKED AND LIVE IN A CAVE AND EAT NOTHING BUT PLANTS!!!

While that honestly seems like the best solution here, I’m kidding. And clearly that would never happen, and I wouldn’t expect the rest of the world to follow in those footsteps. We have a capitalist structure, and we do need businesses to keep our economy running (and to be able to live and eat). That won’t change. 

It is easy to go down a black hole in trying to research sustainability and you can come out with nothing but frustration. Frustration about how hard it is to be more sustainable, to make sustainable choices, and how much damage we’ve already caused to this planet. 

But in a way, the most seemingly sustainable path can’t be sustainable if it’s something we can’t maintain (the very definition of sustainability). 

But we all must start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small step, it’s still a small step in the right direction. And I want others to be aware and educated so they also have the knowledge to make more informed decisions.

My next steps:

After reading this post from Jess Ann Kirby (whom I recently started following on Instagram and also started focusing on sustainable fashion), I was inspired to make my own personal pledge/challenge:

  • I’m saying no to polyester. I will not purchase any new items that contain polyester. Polyester is the most commonly used material in clothes and is made from chemicals. I would eventually like to phase out all synthetic materials in Jess’ challenge (acrylic, nylon, viscose & rayon). Update: I found it nearly impossible to cut out all synthetic fabrics and now focus instead on buying capsule wardrobe pieces.
  • I will buy less and buy higher-quality items that last longer.
  • When purchasing new, I will focus on buying from sustainable & ethical brands.
  • Focus on buying items made from materials such as: linen, organic cotton, recycled & upcycled materials and tencel.
  • Buy more second-hand.
  • Continue focusing on reducing single-use plastics.
  • Share more posts on sustainability.

That was probably a lot and hopefully you made it this far! Like I mentioned previously, there is a lot to cover when it comes to sustainability and I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. But I thought it was important to first share where I was coming from because when you approach the topic of sustainability, you can’t help but go down this same black hole of eco-anxiety.

Looking at what’s to come, I’ll be sharing more about synthetic fabrics and why they are bad (I know what you’re thinking..sounds like a thrilling topic!), my favorite sustainable brands, my favorite sustainable products, my second-hand finds, a sustainable summer capsule wardrobe, and my transition to clean, cruelty-free makeup.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you!