Is shopping ethically like working out?
At first it seems hard, and you fall off the bandwagon from time to time. You’re used to the instant gratification of buying whatever you like, and exercising your willpower to make better choices is difficult. But, you recognise that’s it’s good for you – it’s good for the world – and so you persevere. Soon it’s become a habit, second nature. You become strong. You enjoy it. And suddenly you look back on how far you’ve come and realise the workout routine you adopted back at the start of your journey doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not a challenge anymore. You have to ramp it up.
I’ve been on this plateau for some time when it comes to shopping ethically. When I first started writing One Fair Day, there wasn’t a vast range of stylish and ethical options out there, especially for apparel and footwear. A large part of my posts, and in particular Fairtrade Friday posts, were driven by and focussed on my (sometimes very challenging) hunt for fairly-made alternatives to things that I needed to buy. In the last three years, this has changed dramatically. There is now a plethora of sustainable fashion options. It’s heartwarming, in fact. When I see ethical fashion news – like my childhood idol from One Tree Hill, Sophia Bush, has designed a shoe for Sseko – I feel a rush of pride to be part of this movement. Fashion is changing. I can feel it, and I can see it.
And, in that time, I’ve learned a lot, like that this year, the world will generate 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage (thanks, Holly) or that polyester fabrics can take between 20 and 200 years to break down. My focus has changed and I’ve now started to think about the full cycle of my purchases – not just the questions of, ‘where did it come from and who made it?’ but also, ‘where will it go when I no longer need or want it?’
Inspired by this post from Ecocult, I decided to challenge myself with 10 sustainable resolutions.
1. Start composting
A large percentage of my kitchen waste is compostable. Rather than throwing my organic waste in the regular rubbish, I’m resolving to discover apartment-friendly composting options in my city, and start doing it.
2. Cook & shop smarter
A friend recently recommended Sarah Wilson’s latest book, Simplicious, to me and I was pleasantly surprised. A core theme of her book is around using foods we usually waste: parts of vegetables we usually throw out; bones; fruits that are past their best-by date, the leftover sauces from casseroles. She also talks about how to shop for and store food in a way that prolongs its life; and minimises our organic waste. I’m inspired and I want to do better on this front.
I’m also resolving to amp up my co-op and farmers’ markets shopping routines. In particular, there are fabulous places in Canberra (like Naked Foods and the Canberra Food Co-Op) where I can buy in bulk and cut out the unnecessary plastic storage for my pantry staples, like oats and grains.
3. Switch to biodegradable: toothbrushes, bin liners.
For those non-organic items that I use everyday, I resolve to switch to biodegradable options so, once I dispose of them, that they eventually go back to the earth.
4. Create a portable no-plastics kit: reusable coffee cup, shopping bags and jars, water bottles.
Like this zero waste starter kit from Whistlethorn …So I’m never caught unprepared if I want to make an unplanned trip to the coffee shop or visit the grocery store.
5. Embark on a shopping fast for 2 months
Uh. I was so hesitatant to include this one, ’cause now I’m accountable, right? But, for some time now, I have known this is something I should do. I need to pause and take stock of what I have and what I actually need.
Real talk – I’ve been on a thrift-shopping binge as of late. In part, it’s because I miss the process of being able to browse and buy cheap clothing in-store. Most of my ethical shopping happens online and – let’s face it – is not as cheap as the $4 fast fashion bargains I no longer support. I consider thrift stores a ‘free pass’ to buy off the rack (these items already exist, am I right?!) and recently I’ve had quite a few shopping hauls… It’s meant my sense of personal style is getting diluted, my wardrobe is overflowing with things I don’t need, and I’m getting back into a mindset of ‘consume, consume, consume!’ rather than consciously choosing things that have an important role to play in my wardrobe and bring me joy.
6. Decrease meat consumption
I don’t eat meat very often, and when I do, I choose local and sustainable cuts. I want to do even better by choosing vegetarian options when I’m eating out, and making sure that if I’m going to eat an animal, I use all of the animal to encourage sustainable practices (no more buying chicken breast, cuts with the bone only).
Consume natural & local
7. Choose natural textiles when I’m buying apparel
Choosing natural textiles used to sit so far down my list of priorities when I was shopping for clothes. But as I’ve learned more about the effects of synthetic materials like polyester, it’s becoming as important to me as ensuring that the people who made the clothes were paid a fair wage. I’m resolving to step away from the plastics and choose natural textiles.
8. Try a farm-to-table restaurant
…Dining out with a sustainable twist.
9. Recreate a edible garden
I live in an apartment, but it’s still possible to grow lettuce, herbs and tomatoes.
10. Use natural cleaning products & remedies for ailments
I know that lemon, baking soda and vinegar go a long way when it comes to cleaning – and a lot of the ailments we experience can be treated naturally, too. I’m resolving to arm myself with knowledge and get creative around the household, to reduce my reliance on chemicals.
Could you get on board with any of these sustainable resolutions?
Photo 1: A Boy Named Sue Shop