Sustainability with style – the juggle is real
Introducing our new blog partner and PHD sustainability writer and professional - Lisa Heinze
Nearly ten years ago I published a book, Sustainability with Style, about my personal journey into environmentalism. It was an eco-memoir of sorts, where I documented how I learned to live more lightly on the planet while I maintained a sense of my personal identity and style. It was the early 2010s, the term ‘sustainable fashion’ was nearly unheard of and it was hard to find quality, stylish, environmentally sustainable clothing (except among the earliest pioneers like Pure Pod).
Since that time I’ve continued my journey into sustainable living, completed a PhD on sustainable fashion, and worked as a sustainability professional. Sustainable fashion has come a long way, too, with more sustainable labels being launched and mainstream labels adjusting their methods. I could write for days about the benefits and complexities of sustainable fashion – and I promise a more detailed article on fashion in coming months. For now I will state that the connections between fashion and creativity, comfort, pleasure and identity are incredibly important for transitioning fashion toward sustainability. And while there are heated debates about which fabrics are ‘most’ sustainable, and where it is ‘most’ ethical to produce clothing, one thing nearly all sustainable fashion advocates agree upon is the importance of loving your clothes.
Statistics vary, and are incomplete, on the carbon footprint of fashion, but we do know that fashion generates a lot of waste. Australians are the second highest consumers of clothing in the world, behind the United States. It’s reported that we each consume 27 kilograms of new clothing each year, and send 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill each year. Knowing your style, choosing wisely, and loving what you have in your wardrobe will go a long way to addressing this unnecessary waste. In a forthcoming post I will write more about how you can create your ideal sustainable wardrobe – but since you’re reading this on the Pure Pod website, you’ve already taken an important step by seeking quality fashion made of sustainable materials under ethical conditions.
On a personal level, perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is that sustainable living is a constant juggle. Renowned sociologist Elizabeth Shove wrote about the 3 C’s – comfort, cleanliness and convenience – as hallmarks of contemporary life. The 3 Cs are also known barriers to sustainability, alongside another important C – cost. And in recent years I have experienced firsthand yet another C that is complicating my sustainable lifestyle – children.
I became a parent three years ago, and life got complicated really fast. I had sustainable living down to an art form by the time I had children, or so I thought. I had visions of walking around my Sydney beachside neighbourhood with my baby in a gorgeous linen baby carrier, meandering to the food co-op to stock up on local and organic ingredients for a delicious meal. Using cloth nappies would be non-negotiable. Maybe even writing book number two while home on maternity leave. I cringe just remembering these expectations, and reflect upon the woman I was when I wrote Sustainability with Style and think:
“Oh you sweet innocent soul, just wait until you have kids.”
I’ve made more compromises than I ever anticipated I would. My footprint is definitely larger than it has been for awhile, my eco-guilt goes up and down (often in relation to my levels of sleep deprivation), but I’m finding my way.
Importantly, I also have lived experience of the complications of everyday life that get in the way of sustainable living. Whether it is children, or a new job, an illness, or pandemic (yikes!), life on earth is complicated and messy. I have more compassion and less judgment of others and their choices. I have even greater conviction in the need for systems, industries and governments to adjust to enable us all to live lighter on the planet. It’s time we stopped living with so much guilt and started fighting the fights worth fighting, the ones that will have the biggest impact.
In this series of blog posts I will share with you how I am juggling sustainable living. I’ll covers topics such as food, nappies, clothing, cleaning, transportation and, of course, fashion. What is working for me, what isn’t, and where I think we need greater systemic intervention to ensure it is easy and accessible for all people to live sustainably – to reduce our negative impact on the planet, and even, just maybe, increase our positive impact.
I look forward to sharing my experiences and thoughts with you all. Please do get in touch if there is a particular topic you’d like me to address in the blog. Until next time!
Model - Carryn Jack
Image - Bad Cat Photography