This post first featured in January’s newsletter. Click here to subscribe for monthly updates.
Doubtless, you’ll have noticed it’s 2019 now. That came round quickly didn’t it? 2018 was an enormous year for sustainability (more on that below) and, if things go right, 2019 might just be even bigger.
As with any sort of movement that calls upon people to question and change their behaviour, there will surely be backlash. Some might think it’s self righteous, or exclusionary, or not worth bothering with. Some people’s criticism might very well be honest and valid. Some might be mean spirited or fueled by a (very human) sense of indignation when they’re, essentially, being told they might just be part of the problem.
Some people might support your sustainable lifestyle. Some might take it as an attack on theirs. Some people might jump on board. Some might disagree with it. With such a glaring spotlight on the issue, there will be countless diverging opinions.
But, let’s remember that sustainability is rooted in kindness. By boycotting and calling out brands who pay their garment workers a pittance, you’re showing kindness to the person behind the sewing machine. By air drying your clothes and saving energy, you’re showing kindness to future generations. By buying less, and therefore discarding less, you’re showing kindness to the communities who simply don’t want any more of the cast offs of western excess.
It’s OK to feel fucking well fucked off when you see hundreds of people at your local shopping spot laden down with bags from fast fashion offenders. Haven’t they heard what’s going on? Don’t they give a shit? Maybe. Maybe not.
But it’s then that we should remember that we’re conditioned to buy and shop and consume. If we’re happy, we’re supposed to buy something as a reward. If we’re sad, we’re supposed to buy something to cheer ourselves up. If we’ve got some extra money we’re supposed to treat ourselves. If we’re skint we’re supposed to buy now, pay later. When the economy is tanking, we’re supposed to do our duty and shop to prop it up. There is no juncture at which we’re not supposed to shop. That’s the message we’ve all grown up with and those people with the bags are just acting exactly as they’re supposed to.
It pisses me off too. Of course it does. If everyone would just stop shopping then we wouldn’t be in this mess! But think of all the money and psychology that goes into this shit. Think about yourself before you started shopping sustainably or stopped shopping altogether. Wasn’t it lovely getting a new top from H&M? Or buying a little something on the way home from work? It gives you a boost. Much needed in a world that is seemingly engineered to make us all tired and sad.
Yes, collectively we need to change our behaviour. But we also need to take a look at the structures in place that fuel it. We absolutely should shout and get angry about that. We need to kick up a fuss. We need to hold industry giants to account. We need to ask why brands that make their people at the top millionaires don’t even have the decency to pay those at the bottom of the pyramid the legal minimum wage, or why they’re working with factories who are more than happy to contaminate their local community’s drinking water, or why they’re making so much product that 30% of it remains unsold, or why they’re burning the leftovers.
But while we’re doing all that, we need to keep kindness in mind. Don’t tell your best mate they’re a prick for shopping at Primark. Tell the Primark bosses they’re the true pricks and then, if they ask, tell your mate all the pros about sustainability and let them make a decision in their own time, just like you did. Let’s be kind in 2019.