"What is more important to you sustainability wise, food or clothing?"
A few days ago, I've had the pleasure to do a Skype call with Elise, who is doing her last year in business economics at the University of Gent. With her thesis, she is trying to figure out the different motivations of purchasing sustainable goods (food and fashion). Great topic and great questions! I can't wait for her thesis to be finished, and maybe get a glimpse at the end result.
So, what is more important to me, in terms of sustainability? Is it what I eat or is it what I wear?
The food that I eat has a direct effect on my body and my health. So, choosing healthy, organic food can almost be called a little more ... selfish. Why? Because we don't see an immediate negative/positive effect on ourselves when we wear polyester, cashmere, GMO-cotton, or any other fiber. The chemicals don't enter our bodies. We don't see how a pair of jeans could have caused any kind of harm. New purchases make us feel good and renewed. Reinvented even. Why bother and go into details that don't seem to concern us directly?
Shopping for organic, non-GMO food is easier today than let's say 10 years ago. We have special organic grocery stores, labels to indicate whether something is free of nasty things we'd heard are bad for our health. So shopping for organic food has become a little more convenient. And convenience is one of the biggest factors of choosing what to purchase. Not for everyone, of course. It's something that happens unconsciously. Like parking right in front of the door, instead of a little further and walk more. Like stopping at a store which is on your way home, instead of taking a detour to that local farmer's shop.
Could you say that convenience has become our handicap? Hold that thought for a second.
Just like shopping for food has been made convenient by the supermarkets, fashion has been made convenient by the giants like H&M, Zara, Primark, ... . Convenient how? Price, location, endless product range, designer-for-less items, return policies, and other. They are huge, they are everywhere, and they make fashion extremely accessible. And, like I said previously, we don't experience any direct negative effects on ourselves. But, it doesn't mean that there aren't any. We just don't see them.
So, why are both equally important?
Because the clothing industry is polluting our ecosystem. That same ecosystem that is providing us with food. And if our ecosystem is dirty, intoxicated, and on its way to failing, then in a few years we will definitely experience that effect on ourselves. Water pollution leads to the marine life to suffer. In selfish terms: the fish we eat is being f*cked up. Cattle is being raised in small cages, mistreated, barely ever feeling warmth and seeing daylight. In selfish terms: the air we breath is being f*cked up. Cotton is being reengineered (GMO) into a plant that fits the needs of the fashion industry. In selfish terms: the soil, the ground that grows our food, is being f*cked up.
Whether we like it or not, it's in all of our personal interest to make the right choices when it comes to pants, jackets, shoes, handbags, off-the-shoulder tops, cropped jeans, hoodies, hats, etc. It's not about perfection, it's about making an effort. If you really want to make a change, you will ask yourself this question on a regular basis: "might there be a better alternative to what it is that I currently consume, purchase or want to purchase?" Let's take my beanie as an example.
I needed one, I wanted one, I had to have one asap! But my ass is kind of full of morals and principals ... Why do I make my life so complicated for myself, sweet baby Bieber!? Can you believe it, out of convenience I went looking on ASOS.com because I couldn't find one that I actually had in mind (certified etc). Bad move. Definitely making it to Santa's naughty list this year. But then I had this moment. The moment where I got all focused and super ninja on my keyboard. "I will find you, you little ... certified, non-toxic piece of what-I-desperately-need-in-my-life-right-now !" And with that thought, I stumbled upon Verena's video, where she had mentioned a few sustainability focused fashion brands. One of them: Wunderwerk.
Khaaaatching. Jackpot. Shake-that-booty happy dance. HALLELUJA! I found myself the coolest beanie ever. 50% certified organic cotton, 50% certified cruelty-free wool. It's soft, and silky, and warm. Can you tell that I'm really happy with my investment? And, it's a classic.
Contributing to a sustainable future is not easy. Making the right choices, clothing wise, can be confusing and overwhelming. But it can be done. And it can be just as fun, and stylish, and sexy, and elegant, and whatever it is you want it to be. Keep your head cool (or warm with a beanie like mine) and shop smart.