Consuming Less Without Letting it Consume You
Although by no means a groundbreaking idea, the motion of ‘leading a sustainable lifestyle’ has become increasingly more and more present, more marketed and more represented to us. With fast fashion brands among the likes of Zara and Shein (among literally thousands) coming under a surge of scrutiny for their unethical production process and promotion of excessive consumerism, as a direct result, the ‘sustainability community’ has been growing. A community consisting of people who practice mindful and cruelty-free shopping habits has emerged, focusing on buying from ethical and sustainable brands, making conscious versus compulsive purchases and opting for second-hand, among other lifestyle changes beyond the scope of fashion.
Not unlike the surge in popularity of veganism around 2016, which was quickly followed by a plethora of anti-vegan propaganda, the ‘sustainability community’ is followed by a hot pudge of skepticism, criticism and uncertainty. I must have missed the memo where applying beneficial changes to your lifestyle, be that purchase or diet habits, became synonymous to having political ideation. Apparently, or so I’ve heard through the grapevine, you can never be impartial or centred, you’re either alt-left or alt-right. It’s like everyone forgot that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and deciding you must have a perfect score is a great way to encourage yourself to simply give up altogether.
Not too long ago, I witnessed a friend of mine have to ‘come out’ as no longer vegan to her Instagram followers, after initially starting her platform in 2018, with the intention of promoting sustainable and vegan living. Over two years later, she decided that veganism became an all-consuming fixation which was no longer bringing her any joy, hence the decision to choose her mental health and love for food as a priority over a strictly limiting diet. After posting several stories justifying her decision to her followers, she was forced to turn off her story responses in fear of an abundance of backlash. This entire fiasco, for lack of a better word, kind of made me go… huh. This is part of the problem. This is why so many people antagonise the vegan (and hence the sustainability) community.
Because apparently, at some point, someone decided that the matter needs to be black or white; zero or one hundred. Though the thought pains me every single day, unfortunately we are not like Drake, and we can’t just start at the bottom… and now we’re here. Humans are complex beings, and there’s about a million and one things in-between to consider. We can’t judge somebody because their shoelaces weren’t ethically made. Yes, it’s about consuming less, but you can’t let it consume you. Last time I checked, veganism was about promoting animal welfare, not about you getting a perfect score to boast about no your resume. Same thing stands for sustainability- the goal is our planet’s welfare. Humans are far from perfect and there is no way to get a 100% score in life (welcome to my Ted Talk). There are no tribunals, there isn’t even a universally-acknowledged authoritative body in sustainable culture (I can assure you even Greta Thunberg has worn H&M at some point in life). No one is keeping score. You don’t get kicked out of the club if you screw up; you don’t get a gold star or become “sustainability hero of the month” if you succeed. Living a conscious and sustainable lifestyle has nothing to do with what you’re “considered”, and it has everything to do with simply doing your best.
And so we come full circle, to the fact that sustainability isn’t a new idea which your vegan shaman coined in his Shoreditch studio apartment right above the Whole Foods and across from Planet Organic. Non-Western cultures have been leading “sustainable” lifestyles since the dawn of time. Local purchasing with a low-carbon footprint? Check. FashionNova? Never heard of her.
All of which begs the question, who was this radical version of ‘sustainability’ even made for? Here, we queue every single person who’s ever defended their Shein haul by crying about how it is ‘all they can afford’, how people who practice sustainability are speaking from a place of extreme privilege and pretence. And for all of these reasons, the entire concept needs to seize being marketed as something which is 0 or 100%, and the ‘holier than thou’ attitude needs to be dropped faster than tiktok’s obsession with the colour brown (oops, was this too radical of an opinion? I stand by it). Sustainability isn’t making radical changes to every aspect of your being, like throwing away every ZARA purchase you have ever made. We truly believe it is simply trying your best, however that may look for you. Maybe it’s prioritising searching for something second-hand before opting for buying it from a large-scale retailer, or just giving that red racerback bodysuit, which you already have in blue, white, beige and black, a minute’s longer thought before pressing ‘buy’. We’ll never judge you or force you to make any changes you’re not ready for, or willing to make. We’re just along for the ride, trying to make your life easier, starting with your wardrobe.