Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!