The Sustainable Edit
From adopting metal straws (including a larger one for boba tea - I got you, my boba tribe ) to refusing plastic bags (what are hands for otherwise, am I right?), I’ve taken a tiny stab at becoming what my siblings like to call an “eco-warrier”. All in good fun, of course! It’s nothing like the effort Lauren Singer - of Trash is for Tossers fame - puts into living as waste-free as possible, but hey, baby steps are still steps, right?
And not just these small steps! People who care for the environment and climate change attempt to live and consume sustainably - whether it’s buying slow fashion or purchasing eco-friendly things like beeswax wrap. “Sustainability has become this catch-all [and trendy] term that almost everybody is using,” Debby Wong of Indiigo Culture shared at our NYFW fireside chat hosted at Adore Flora back in September.
SO WHAT IS LIVING CONSCIOUSLY?
The term “conscious living” has long been conflated with conscious consumption. This could be due to the emergence of a mainstream movement revolving around consuming mindfully, with the proliferation of eco-friendly products or branding. Ranging from H&M’s ‘Conscious’ line to online stores peddling products like reusable metal straws, metal water bottles (keep your drinks hot and cold!), or even cloth cup sleeves so you don’t generate waste and save your hand from burns (win-win, eh?). This proliferation can lead to “mission drift, [over]simplification, and dilution around the concept and aim of conscious living,” Alice Zhang writes, on The Good Trade.
Furthermore, as Debby so aptly puts it, “if you’re consuming [no matter if it’s sustainably-made products or not], you’re consuming.” This indicates that consumption, even conscious or mindful consumption, could potentially lead to a production of waste materials. While being mindful of consumption habits is a good first step in the conscious living direction, it should not be the only step that people take.
At the core of it, conscious living is about “tweaking mindsets” as FABSCRAP’s Camille Tagle shares. “There is no strict steps when it comes to living consciously, only a series of small, consistent habits.”
WE’RE SHIFTING GEARS!
Moving out of conscious consumption and towards true conscious living requires changing our own mindsets. It’s important to do some introspective work and look at what we’re currently doing - it could be habits that we’ve formed over the years, like accepting plastic bags while grocery shopping, or picking out fast fashion items blindly. Only then, can we start making little changes in our current habits.
Debby suggests starting out with small changes like refusing plastic bags while buying groceries and bringing your own Trader Joe’s tote bags (they’re cheap and fabulous - what’s not to want?). Or something simpler like opting for items that have less packaging. This could be picking a whole orange instead of those pre-peeled ones that Whole Foods offer, or buying pasta or rice in bulk at your local supermarket.
Leigh Ray of Pink Vintage Heart’s advice is even simpler! Her personal motto is: shop less, spend less, and reduce waste. This motto applies over a range of products, like fashion pieces, food, and household items. “Sometimes, you can find that there’s too much information about sustainability or living consciously on the internet, which can lead to an information overload. My method is to start small, and make small changes to my daily routine.” She shares, pointing out that small switches could be something as simple as using white vinegar to clean instead of Clorox.
Tiny steps towards living consciously and sustainably do add up. Melody Serafino from No. 29 argues that it’s the consistency of the habits that truly count. “It’s about knowing yourself and making one change that you can stick to.”
GOOGLE’S FAST AND FREE, YA KNOW?
Outside of tweaking our mindsets, Melody believes in doing research and “getting to know the brand”. It is worth five minutes online to research a particular brand or to make use of resources like Green Map (click on that, it’s fun. Also educational. But fun!) to help make decisions over whether to buy from a brand or not.
This is important because words like “eco-friendly”, or “sustainable”, or even “fair trade” have become murky in meaning and can always be easily tacked on as buzzwords to make a product more attractive than it really is to sustainably-minded consumers. This is called greenwashing, a common misdirectional tactic used by companies to make them (or their products) appear to be more environmentally friendly that they really are, even if the effects are “more cosmetic than real”, Paul Teng reveals, writing for Today.
WHOA, EVERYTHING IS INTERCONNECTED
Lastly, Alice argues that conversation ought to be shifted away from conscious consumerism and towards more wholehearted approaches that is change and people-based, instead of brand and product-focused. Camille shares a similar opinion, “If you are a single mother taking care of five children, financial constraints would force you to choose a $5 basic shirt for your children, instead of a $200 sustinably-made shirt.”
The issue of climate change and living sustainably affects people globally, from the world’s poorest to the world’s richest. The constant focus on consumption-based activism will potentially preclude various groups of people who cannot afford to purchase eco-friendly items, as these products are mostly always priced higher. People who are unable to afford these items are immediately excluded from the conscious consumption movement, no matter if they would like to be part of it or not.
Hence, it’s important to shift the discussion of living sustainably towards accessibility, as Camille suggests, so diverse groups with diverse opinions can be included within the conversation and discussion. An intersectional framework should be engaged within the approach towards conscious living, deep diving into hard issues like race and climate change, or sustainable living below the poverty line, to include diverse voices within this movement.
Two heads - or in this case, multiple heads - is better than one, right?
WE’VE ONLY GOT THIS ONE EARTH
Conscious living is not just about mindful shopping - it’s way beyond that!
This is not just another listicle (coughs) trying to get you to pick better fast fashion brands, or shop better, or uphold the myth that conscious consumption is the only step to achieve conscious living.
This is a call to action - an introspection of all the things that we’ve been doing, and the small steps and changes that we can make to join in the fight against climate change.
TLDR? Rude, but okay - we’re all busy bees. Here are the resources that the people I’ve quoted in this post mentioned to start you off on your own sustainable journey. (Other than these, Google will always be your best friend! It’s also fast and free!)
- Green Supply Chain Map
- Magnifeco : Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty (Kate Black)
- The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good (Elizabeth Cline)
- Sustainable blogger: Tania Gabriela (Sustainably Stylish)