Sustainability is nothing but acting with sensitivity – towards the planet, its people and towards yourself. And in exactly the same order. Yes, you put yourself last. Difficult right?
Some other implied meanings are that sustainability means you put your children first. Because you want to leave a planet for them that serves you and them equally.
I still prefer my own rendition – Sustainability is acting with sensitivity.
Some other bloggers define Sustainability as that which comprises three P – Planet, People and Profit.
However, increasingly, businesses are profit oriented (which is fine), but somewhere in the journey, they forget the Planet and the people who work for them at the grassroot level.
In the last two to three years, given the increased awareness about sustainability, brands are communicating their sustainability narrative upfront.
How much justice they do to this narrative is yet to be seen because in their journey, these brands are quite young. They’ve got the positioning and the branding right… and rightly so.
But the essence of this blog is how, you, as an individual can contribute to this revolution, in small conscious steps.
A. Be Conscious
The first two steps are subsumed in the same sentence above. Small and Conscious.
Let’s tackle ‘Conscious’. (not consciousness – coz that would change the essence of this blog entirely)
Given the pandemic and given that we are going out less, do we really need to buy more clothes?
Or shoes? Or bags?
By basing our buys on need, rather than on impulse, we would be doing ourselves a huge favour.
I understand how difficult social media makes it.
Delicious looking product shots makes all kinds of clothes, shoes and home artefacts extremely desirable.
Question is – Do I need it? If you do, go ahead, but then, pause again.
Ask these three questions:
- What is it made of? I need a toothbrush. Can I buy a bamboo one, instead of the plastic ones?
- Is it biodegradable? Now this is the part which may require some research on your part. Possibly ask some questions. For example, you are buying a lipstick. Consider the packaging. Look at the website. What is their claim on the packaging they use?
- Are they using fair labour? Most companies are not transparent in this aspect.
Large multinational brands use offshore production facilities which are in countries like India, Bangladesh, Indonesia. They pay low wages and extract a lot of work from them.
Instead, you might want to shop from homegrown indigenous labels who are doing some great work in design and sustainability.
Their artisan-first approach makes them more trustworthy.
B. Be More Informed
Sustainability is a journey. It is not one-size fits all.
Having said that, even you as a consumer cannot be a 100% sustainable in your choices unless you want to live like a hermit in the Himalayas.
What you can do is therefore, choose your path.
I chose the path of minimalism and slow fashion.
Which is different from organic, ethical fashion, veganism, fair labour, zero-waste and so on.
Read up their similarities and differences. These are not independent silos but overlapping concepts.
Sustainablefashionmatterz.com is a good place to start.
Read up brand websites, their corporate philosophies. Read labels. The front as well as the back.
Read blogs like sixyardsoffinery.com (hehe, I had to promote myself).
A lot of doubts can be clarified by asking questions. Social media has been helpful in this respect. Brands big and small are responsive to consumer questions and are willing to answer them.
If a brand claims they use organic ingredients, feel free to ask them what they mean by this. Where are they sourcing them from? Read up about them.
You will be surprised how many brands claim these tall claims superficially.
But smaller brands are more transparent and willing to answer.
C. Find your Personal Style
I have stressed upon this in my blog here. Finding a personal style is a creative journey. Of being you.
Something that is not dictated by a mall. Or the fast fashion industry.
It is what you choose. Intentionally. Read by blog about how I chose my intentional wardrobe here.
A personal style helps you clothe yourself according to your body type. Going for quality pieces.
It is not for stylish people. Or for those who are fashion and image conscious.
Quality durable pieces ensure they last longer, will always be in fashion and also make you stand out in the crowd. For yourself.
I realized that my personal style involved cottons, muted colours with the minimalist design aesthetic.
Choose yours. And have fun with it. On your terms.
D. Swap and Share
You want to make your wardrobe exciting? Bored of your clothes? Borrow. Share your own. This is something I have engaged in heavily.
It is not news that I love sarees. But I don’t have every weave, every embroidery.
But I know friends who have them. They are most willing to share them with me. Wear it for a while and return it.
There are friends with whom I have swapped my sarees. Given them a piece of my wardrobe in exchange for theirs.
It is super fun. Swapping is much better when you do it with friends.
But if you want to initiate it with strangers, via social media, get to know that person first. Build a rapport. And then engage.
This way, you have not spent any money, and you have gained something useful.
Despite your efforts to care for your loved pieces, they tear, they fray, they fade.
Before you discard them, or donate them, just take a moment to evaluate whether you can do something else with it.
I find upcycling as an out to use my creativity. I have often taken my Mother’s sarees and made dupattas out of it. Figured out which saree would go with which kurta and so on.
In my previous blog I had said that Indians don’t need to be taught upcycling.
We upcycle practically everything. I have upcycled my husband’s old shirts into blouses even.
My old sarees into pillow covers and cushion covers.
I have converted some old fabrics into quilts even.
If you think about it, the possibilities are endless. And you can do so much with existing resources.
I was incredibly pleased to know that food courts at malls get their customers to leave excess food in a container which then is distributed to those in need.
Wastage of resources is a colossal crime.
Upcycling, if done well, lengthens the life of the product and in fact can take a better shape too.
I have seen n number of examples where an old benarasi saree is upcycled into a dupatta or a lehenga.
A very clever idea and a great money saver to my mind.
Years ago, I was studying in the UK for my post-graduation. A very sweet British girl became a good friend. Somewhere during the year, I needed to fix my jeans the chain had broken.
She was a local, and I asked her if she knew any tailor who could get it fixed.
She said to me, and I guess she was trying to educate me about the British culture, we don’t repair things here. We just get a new one.
The concept of use and throw is a way to display wealth of the western nations, I reckon.
A sheer lack of effort in taking care of something.
And it’s been going on for decades.
Repairing has existed in our culture for the longest. It is only now, in the last ten years or so that we, as Indians are losing these habits.
Even now, we see cobblers repairing old shoes, umbrella repair people, suitcase repairmen, tailors who alter clothes etc.
Imagine if these services became more mainstream, we wouldn’t need so many clothes in the first place.
We would increase the longevity of our own clothes and things.
To reiterate, sustainability is a need of the hour. It is also a journey.
Like I said, take small conscious steps. That’s the best way to start.
Tell me about your sustainability journey. Write to me or leave a comment below.