Some of us are fortunate enough to stay in our comfortable homes, with all our things, during this unprecedented time. Since the pandemic began, we’ve had the impulse to stock up on goods that we feel may be needed in a crisis. Personally, I’ll never understand the toilet paper thing, but completely identify with stocking up on wine. Our stockpiling necessitates making room for all the extras, and since we’re stuck at home, why don’t we get organized too! This is where it should dawn on us that we have created another type of prison of our own making.
Our self-incarceration isn’t caused by the virus, it’s caused by all our stuff. Right now we can’t get away from it and maybe it’s driving you crazy. Now that we have the time to think about it, how much time do we spend shopping, buying, organizing, moving, dusting and getting rid of what’s no longer needed? Personally, I’ve spent entire weekends going through boxes in the basement or the garage that are filled with things collected and either never or barely used. Our consumption habits are consuming our time, money, and lives.
Here are some hard facts that point to our how our consumption habits have gotten this way. The average American spends 2 ½ hours a week shopping. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s 20% more time than we spend exercising. It’s not just time spent, but how much space this stuff requires. Compared to 50 years ago, our houses are more than two times as big and we buy twice as much. In addition, we are adding or replacing things at a dizzying rate. According to the short film The Story of Stuff, the percentage of goods we buy that are still in use 6 months after purchase is 1%. Yep, one lousy percent. We also have less leisure time than we did 50 years ago. This might be because we are spending our time working so hard to afford our big houses, and all our things. It also happens that during this same period, our happiness has tanked. We don’t have time to pursue more pleasurable things like interacting with each other, being in nature, enjoying a hobby, or learning something new.
So why are we doing this to ourselves?
Part of it was by design. After World War II, business leaders and the Eisenhower administration wanted to get the economy back on track. They came up with the idea to make consumer goods the backbone of the new economy. The idea of planned obsolescence took hold; where products are designed to breakdown or become obsolete. That’s why your grandparent’s washing machine lasted their whole lives, and ours barely make it through our kid’s elementary school career. Also, industries use perceived obsolescence to make you buy new products and throw out the old ones. Who wants to be caught in wide legged pants when skinny jeans are all the rage?
The other component is our culture. While some could blame advertisers and savvy marketing to get us to think we are not good enough, our teeth aren’t white enough, our stuff isn’t new enough, it’s also a combination of societal pressures that keep this myth going. First, our stuff gives us a feeling of security. If having a few things that make our lives more efficient or safe or protected or healthy, then twice as much is twice as good. That feeling of anxiety and insecurity is precisely why people start to hoard in times of crisis such as now. Also, we think our things will make us happy. If only we had a certain house, car or phone, our lives would somehow be that much more fulfilled, and we would be live better, problem free lives. The truth is, that even if we are lucky enough to be able to get those desired items, they most often only bring temporary happiness if any at all. Finally, we use things to try to define ourselves and our place in the world. A fancy car impresses your coworkers, a name brand purse makes your friends jealous, or a big fat diamond will help you compensate for the envy you feel about your Instagram friend’s travel posts.
All this damage we are doing to ourselves by this way of living is miniscule compared to what it’s doing to the environment. Obviously, the creation of all this stuff takes a large amount of energy and resources and creates a lot of pollution. We are cutting down our forests and digging up our earth just to throw something in the landfill after 6 months of using it.
But don’t despair! More people are realizing this can’t work anymore and are changing the way they buy and use things. Companies are stepping up and creating circular models that self-sustain and create no waste. Some industries are moving towards more sustainable models, and most importantly, you as an individual are starting to demand better practices from brands. So, while we are forced to stay at home, perhaps we can take this time to realize all the good things we’d been missing out on in our pre-COVID lives. Maybe we can break out of our prison of stuff and start a new normal that is more sustainable and makes us a heck of a lot happier.
My second favorite part of the holidays is taking down the Christmas tree. It may seem strange, but once the 25th has past, I can’t wait to take the thing down. Some may see this as part of my diabolical nature, but it’s actually a way to mark another beginning; the start of a new year. It means the end of what feels like an overly-gluttonous, over-consumptive holiday season. There’s no more pressure to constantly eat, drink, and buy, buy buy! Time to get back to more manageable, sustainable living. Here are recommendations for starting out the New Year on a note that will help you be consciously style:
Return your Gifts
Yeah, we know, the last thing you want to do is go to the mall right now. But if your Aunt Freida gave you another hideous sweater that you’ll never wear, it’s better to return it than having it end up in the landfill. It will be one less thing in your closet to sift through and can be sold to someone who will actually wear it. If the store will only give you store credit, consider a gift card. That way you’ll have something to give Aunt Freida next year.
Consider a Cleanse
One too many chocolate croissants over the holiday can make you feel gross. Right now, a body reset will help you start the year in a more thoughtful way. It not only is good for you, it’s good for the environment. As you probably know, eating meat and processed food has environmental consequences beyond your waistline. Even taking a 3 day break can reset your habits and your system. It will help with your style as you’ll probably shed a few pounds, and getting rid of toxins will help keep 2020 skin breakouts under control.
Take a Shopping Holiday
Besides returning gifts, take a break from spending. Indulging is addictive and you need to stop the madness! If someone gave you money as a gift that’s burning a hole in your pocket, wait until after your cleanse at a minimum. You might find that you don’t really want or need what you were so anxious to buy. (You can make an exception if you need to buy a juicer for your cleanse).
Consider Pairing Down Your Closet
Don’t treat this as an annual purge to fill in with new clothes. Consider how many items you really need to express your style while being mindful of the impact clothing production has on the environment. If you haven’t worn a garment in the last year it’s time to move it along. By finding it a new home it will extend the life of the garment and make it less likely for it to end up in the waste stream. Right now the equivalent of one dump truck of textiles per second go into the landfill, so you definitely don’t want to add to that.
It’s dark and it’s cold, but reviving yourself with some nature therapy can do wonders after spending days inside stuffy houses full of food and booze. The color will come back to your cheeks and it will remind you that living more style consciously serves a greater purpose of helping to protect the places in nature that inspire and renew us.
We are on the brink of a precipice and the momentum towards change is building. More and more people are beginning to stand up and say “ENOUGH!”, this cannot continue. We have gotten past the point of frustration; the time for action is now – it’s time for a Fashion REvolution.
Segments of the fashion industry are awakening to how their practices are contributing to climate change. They are pushing back against current practices that encourage harmful farming with heavy pesticide use, manufacturing in countries that allow toxic dyes and chemicals to be irresponsibly dumped, and using cheap labor that translates into the exploitation of workers. These forward-thinking companies are counteracting fast fashion and giving you the power to make being responsible fashionable. So, before you go to Amazon for your Christmas shopping, check out these companies leading by example of REusing, REcycling, REpurposing REnewing, and making REsponsibly.
This company was started to fill a gap in keeping unsellable clothing out of the landfill. They collaborate with sustainably-minded brands to recover some cost, energy and waste from items that can’t be sold traditionally through their brand’s channels. Clothing items are either renewed or turned into upcycled materials or recycling feedstock. Their process creates a circular model to prevent clothing with minor flaws from going to the dump. A sampling of their brand partners include: prAna, Pearl Izumi, Mara Hoffman, Toad & Co, Ibex, Indigenous, and Outerknown. Find the perfect gift for your outdoor lover on your list at a lower cost to both you and the planet.
Remake is a non-profit dedicated to empowering consumers to fashion consciously. Their education covers the cost fast fashion is taking on vulnerable populations made up of mostly women and children and the toll on the environment. Making it easier to be ethical with your wallet, they explain all the ways to learn about labels, who to avoid (for example, brands that are greenwashing), fast vs. slow fashion, and a list of vetted labels that you can feel good about buying.
This relatively new company is working to give brands the ability to create a second-hand, closed-loop system that doesn’t diminish or cannibalize their new clothing lines. Their technology allows for a company’s customer to sell their used brand apparel directly back to other consumers through the companies own website. So rather than seeing their labels for resale on ThredUp, they can recapture some of the second-hand market’s exponential growth and create a more circular model all within their own infrastructure.
Patagonia’s Worn Wear was born of the same idea as The Renewal Workshop. They offer customers a way to donate their Patagonia gear back to be repaired and resold as used clothing or recycled if it was beyond repair. The nut to crack was all the extra textiles that couldn’t be repaired and resold. Out of this came ReCrafted which is due to launch this Wednesday, November 13th. The process includes sorting through all the excess textiles and making clothes out of old clothes. We don’t want to say they stole our idea, but we are happy to be in good company with Patagonia on this one. The more companies who are willing to make the impossible, possible, the better the world is going to be for us all.
Making clothing out of clothing is not a new idea. What’s new that we are creating one-of-a-kind shirts that have the perfect mix of style and individual statement. Our hope is that our focus on one particularly overproduced garment gives room for other companies to follow suit. While we unfortunately won’t have our initial line available for the 2019 Christmas season, you can sign up for our newsletter and be one of the first to get an upcycled classic tee that is as unique as you! Join the REvolution!