This summer, I’ve committed myself to a couple of different environmental and ethical fashion initiatives (which I am participating in imperfectly, but participating in nonetheless).
I wanted to take some time to update you all about them here, and to open a dialogue because I have a lot of mixed feelings about them lately.
- Plastic Free July, in which participants refuse plastic (as much as reasonably possible) for the month of July, and;
- CollAction’s Slow Fashion Summer, in which participants don’t consume any new clothing from June 21st through September 21st, unless it is swapped, thrifted or borrowed.
Plastic Free July has been really tough already, because plastic is so prevalent in our lives. As much as I refuse straws or plastic utensils or plastic cups, there is still plastic packaging, the plastic salad bar containers at my office (there are no plates! It’s my current battle to get them), and the plastic when I forget my reusable cup and get an iced coffee anyway. I’m only human.
Slow Fashion Summer has been okay, except for a few new clothing failures in which I pre-ordered the new Free Label Marion tank and an ARE Studio disc bag. I’ve really, really been wanting a bag that can be worn as a belt bag, and I feel it’s really more of a summer piece. So I just went ahead as it has been a purchase I’ve been thinking about since April and have really considered carefully.
So like I was saying, I’ve been having mixed feelings about if I feel guilty or not about my above failures. I like to stay committed to things I promise to do. But on the other hand, I am one person, and the actions of one person aren’t going to solve the world’s consumption issues. I know what you’re thinking – if everyone thought like that, we would be in big trouble. And I agree – nobody can think like that all the time. But I’m largely a responsible consumer, so I’m trying to be easier on myself when I don’t meet all the goals I set.
The reason why I feel this way is articulated really well in this recent article from Treehugger.com, which I encourage everyone to read.
Essentially, while personal responsibility is important, we can’t allow governments and corporations to get away with pushing environmental stewardship onto us. When all responsibility is passed along to the consumer, and we believe the planet’s problems are our fault, governments and businesses get to shirk their responsibilities.
And that’s a problem, because they are the ones who are really causing our environmental issues – not a consumer who bought one too many t-shirts or didn’t recycle a few plastic bottles. Corporations are using too much plastic and refusing to make positive changes because of their bottom line. Governments don’t do enough when it comes to meaningful environmental legislation. Fashion companies continue to pay garment workers pennies despite our outrage.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pass on plastic, or shouldn’t reduce our consumption of clothing. But we also need to take action where it can have a large-scale impact, as well.
Here are some other things I’ve been doing this summer to make a difference:
- Donating to environmental and workers’ rights organizations. One of the things I’ve done recently is become a monthly donor to the Natural Resources Defense Council. There are many worthwhile organizations that need monthly donors in order to be able to budget for and plan their initiatives. Even just $5 a month can help.
- Staying engaged with politics. As you guys know, I recently moved, so my voting district changed. When I updated my address, I also changed my political party affiliation. I had been a registered Republican since I was 18, because I registered under the same party that everyone else in my household was registered under. However, it was time to become involved with a party that actively advocates for the causes I believe in. I also regularly check the website of my district’s congressman to make sure the issues I care about are at the forefront.
- Staying informed. While we should all be mindful of our consumption, we need to stay informed on the big-picture issues. We cannot lose sight of what really matters – pushing for change from those most responsible for our planet’s environmental and ethical issues.
What do you think? Do you agree that responsible consumerism can sometimes serve as a distraction from more important issues?
Love this!! But I do believe it’s all connected; corporations will start making changes only when they see a decrease in their bottom line, i.e., when consumers refuse to buy from them due to unethical practices. Government regulation would of course be a much faster way to achieve change, but unfortunately I don’t really see that happening with the current government…but I do love your point about letting go of the guilt and doing other things to make a difference!
Totally agree! As consumers, we can push for change – but I also don’t think we should let business and governments get away with putting all the blame on us. You’re right – in this political climate, however, we have to make change wherever we can, including in our own actions.