WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
This is the very first installation in our series on sustainable living. Our goal is to equip you with the concrete resources and tangible steps to eat greener, shop greener, work greener AND be a radical activist for positive environmental change (whew!) Our solutions aren't perfect; as always, these essays are works in progress. And it's for that very reason that we want to hear from you about how you balance small swaps with big picture thinking. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, Instagram us @loammagazine or comment on our FB page. Sending you all our loamy love!
So often, the mainstream conscious consumerism movement posits the problem--consumption--as the solution (for more on Loam's take on conscious consumerism, read here.) In reality, there is no way to buy ourselves out of climate change. And this doesn't have to be an entirely painful truth if we consider it as an impetus for creativity. Because style and materialism are not one and the same. You can cultivate an appreciation for aesthetics, a love of the simple things, without spending a dime. You can consume less and buy better and in doing so, make room in your life for the experiences that texture our days with meaning. Herewith, four steps for making your approach to shopping a little lighter on the earth.
(1) REDIRECT SPENDING
For most of us, particularly those who are cash-strapped and living on a tight budget, it is easy to fall prey to the idea that we don't have wiggle room to contribute to the causes that we care about. This isn't true (in large part because contribution doesn't need to be financial. If we are passionate about something, there is always a way to honor that drive). Recently, I've been practicing a new strategy when I shop. If I try on a dress and feel committed to buying it, I think about where that money would be better directed. This philosophy doesn't always save me money but it sure means I consume less--and that I am now able to give in a way that brings me joy. Of course, it isn't always easy. Sometimes, I do buy the dress. But I think that once you aim to do better, it only gets easier to truly do. Any step you can take toward winnowing the distance between your values and actions is a step in the right direction.
(2) BUY SECONDHAND
There is so much solid stuff already in circulation. I love to thrift with friends because it is a social scavenger hunt. I've scored some crazy finds spelunking through secondhand stores and really like that it is becoming a trend with actual teeth. If each of us aimed to buy 80% secondhand and 20% new, we could truly minimize our carbon footprint. If you can't find a secondhand store in your neighborhood, check out sites like ThredUp or Tradesy where you can both buy and sell old (and absolutely wearable) goods. Our How-To: The Thrifted Closet dives in a little deeper.
(3) HOST CLOTHING SWAPS
Getting dressed makes me happy. I like finding cozy sweaters and cool shoes and handmade jewelry that reminds me of the places I belong to and the people that I love. But style is by no means about buying. For when you feel like something fresh (maybe to celebrate a new job or brighten up a cold winter day) turn to your friends. Everyone has something in their closet they likely feel ready to give to a new home. Host a clothing swap (with tea and pie because PIE) and enjoy reveling in the abundance that already abounds.
(4) BUY ONLY FROM A PLACE OF REAL JOY
The badass Grace Lee Boggs argued that consumerism dehumanizes us. When we become so obsessed with what's next, we lose sight of the present. We lose sight of what makes us us. Objects can be imbued with meaning but we are not objects-- nor should we feel beholden to them.
All of this is to say, if you are going to consume, consume only from a place of real joy (it's for this reason that I have a million and one books)! Don't buy because you are displacing a sad emotion. Don't buy because you think a new anything will make you feel better. Don't buy to distract yourself. Buy because this something speaks to your soul. And if it doesn't? Walk away. Channel this culturally-inscribed consumerist itch toward taking a pottery class or organizing a hike with friends or cooking a delicious meal just for your beloved self. Gobble up experiences. Savor time outside. Consume in a way that feeds the earth that nourishes you.