Being Sustainable? What Does It Actually Mean?

Being sustainable doesn’t mean throwing out your old clothes to make room for some new ‘vintage’ finds from ‘hip’ charity shops, no, it means being more aware of the clothes you are consuming and the reasons behind it.

‘I need this’ is a phrase I would use a lot before I became sustainably aware. I question myself right now, what did that mean? I needed it why? because companies told me I did? or because I felt like I did when flicking through Instagram? what selfish reasons did I have to ‘need’ a piece of clothing so bad I was willing to put a huge chunk of our environment at risk? … none. There is no legitimate, noble, reasonable reason for me to have wanted an item/s so bad that I was willing to spend money on it and 3 days later put it in a bag to give to charity. At the end of the day, shopping is just a habit and you can break habits. I know its fun, I know its something that is embedded in our systems, and I know that we just enjoy doing it. But if we look at the facts, it’s a fact that this high turnover of clothes is ruining fields and fields of land, where farmers are l i t e r a l l y forced to put chemicals to enhance the growth of cotton. Fact, we are spending huge amounts of water on making jeans and t-shirts when people in California literally are advised to only flush the toilet when ‘they really need to’ because of the shortage of water. Fact, people are forced to work under intense pressure and shitty conditions to create such a high turnover of clothes! So, when I go back and analyse my ‘I need this’ phrase, knowing these facts, it feels selfish, stupid, ridiculous and unsustainable. By all means, I don’t mean never, ever, ever, ever shop again, because its so unsustainable, and you should be ashamed of yourself, no. I mean just be more mindful. I remember when we had 4 seasons in a year. Now its turned 42 seasons and then some. People are spending undless amounts of money on clothes, influencers are consistently purchasing new things to show, people, ‘needing’ a new outfit for every occasion. In my opinion, it is all a bit much. We need to strip it back, we need to take a moment and ask ourselves… why? and what?, why do I feel I need this new piece so much and what is going to be the impact of my purchasing behaviours.

In my postgrad, I did a lot about corporate social responsibility, which partly looks at a company’s responsibility towards ethical and philanthropic activities within our society. For example, companies promoting fast fashion, who trade in certain ways, need to ensure they are giving back to society in terms of fair wages, good working conditions etc… Additionally, they should have responsible activities in place, such as donating to charities, recycling schemes, using sustainable materials etc…  So where is our responsibility? How come we feel it is okay to buy with greed and leave the consequences to our subconscious mind. Many people, influencers and even fast fashion consumers talk about being sustainable, but it is all for the show? is it okay for influencers to constantly be promoting fast fashion and not have to conform to some sort of social responsibility? We, as people, should be making each other aware of the issues that surround the fast fashion industry, we should be doing something responsible, rather than promoting companies without thinking of the consequences our environment is suffering.

So, what does it actually mean to be sustainably aware? it means shopping less, period. It means being aware of the facts, what is real. It means having to buy one GOOD, quality item that will last for an endless amount of time instead of buying 3 items which will last you a week. It means behaving in a way which you are actively trying to make a difference. It means sometimes saying no to companies who want to send you brand. new. shiny. things. It means finding your clothes in charity shops/vintage stores. It means borrowing clothes from a friend. It means going to swap shops. It means generally thinking outside the box, coming up with ways which you can minimise/break your purchasing habits. That’s what being sustainable means to me.

What does being sustainable mean to you? Let me know below, I love finding out other peoples opinions.

Also, don’t forget to check out my guide to Belfast’s best charity shops —> click here

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