On Sustainability

Here's a true story. A while back, I found myself at a friend's birthday party, talking to a classmate about sustainability. I was just getting rather excited about bamboo toothbrushes, when I realised the room had gone silent and other people were giving me strange looks. Like the social genius I am, I tried explaining my enthusiasm by giving my crowd some shocking facts about conventional toothbrushes. Needless to say that did not work out. There was no saving my reputation, as to every attendee that did not know me, I had just immortalised myself as the toothbrush girl. The memory of this embarrassing situation will probably haunt me to the grave.

Fact is, I have been intrigued by the whole ethical/sustainable lifestyle thing lately. It seems like more and more blogs have picked up on the matter, or maybe I just found my way to better reading material. Either way, I have constantly been trying to educate myself and making small changes in my everyday life. After a couple of months, I felt the need to make an overview of what I've learned and ways I have changed, and to shed some light on my remaining bad habits. Mainly for myself, but after reading Sara's lovely post, I decided to also throw my thoughts online. So here you have it.

Pick your evil


What I sometimes find frustrating about the whole sustainable lifestyle idea is that there's no one way to do it right. The environment, animals and/or workers are roughly the three main causes people choose to support based on ethical grounds. However, these causes are virtually impossible to respect all at once all of the time, and sometimes even contradict themselves. Is an organic cotton T-shirt still a "green" purchase if it has to travel half the globe to get to your front door? Which is the more ethical choice, a bag made out of naturally tanned leather which an animal had to die for, or a bag made out of vegan leather (basically plastic) which may never biodegrade after it has been discarded? And which of those two materials is actually the most durable?
There are lots of questions that I don't know the answer to, and while at first all of this seemed overwhelming, at the same time the broadness of the sustainability concept can be a window of opportunity for those just starting out. With so many possible alternatives to everyday choices, it's fairly simple to make at least a few easy changes. Something I like to keep in mind is that it's better to make good choices somewhat inconsistently, than to make bad choices consistently.

My changes


Big fat disclaimer: I'm aware that the following bit can come across as a bit holier-than-thou, which is by no means my intention. I respect the fact that different people can contribute in different ways. If you consume mindfully, albeit in a way that's different from mine, I think you're cool beans.

Care & beauty

  • I swapped my shower gel for bar soap (Alep or Marseille) and the classic shampoo and facial cleanser for their solid counterparts.
  • Drugstore deodorant has been replaced by an excellent natural alternative in a glass jar. The same goes for conditioner and body lotion, which I have swapped for one glass bottle with a blend of natural oils.
  • I have banned single-use cotton pads and face wipes and now use washable cotton pads.
  • Similarly, I have joined the menstrual cup cult, and I'm never going back to disposables.
  • I obviously also own aforementioned bamboo toothbrush (which now reminds me of that awkward conversation whenever I use it). 


Wardrobe

  • I have been taking a more mindful approach to shopping by only purchasing clothing that can last me several seasons. I avoid synthetic fabrics and overly trendy items.
  • No animals were harmed in the manufacturing of my two everyday handbags. One is made of synthetic leather, and one is made out of leather from animals who died of natural causes. (A review on both of these will be up soon.)


Everyday

  • I have been a pescatarian since I was 15.
  • Soy is my yoghurt of choice and on the rare occasion that I need milk at home, I use the almond variety.
  • I never buy eggs, but rather use those provided by my parents' chickens, who have a nice chunk of garden and a lavish hen house at their disposal.
  • I have been using a stainless steel water bottle for the last four years. Occasionally I still have to buy a plastic bottle (for instance at festivals), but probably not more than once a month.
  • Similarly: my reusable cotton tote bags have replaced plastic grocery bags.

My vices


Care & beauty

  • A lot of the makeup and some of the skincare I own has been tested on animals. It would be a waste not to use it up, but I'm on the lookout for cruelty free alternatives.


Wardrobe

  • Basically, I have been taking a slow approach to fast fashion. By no means have I committed to fair or slow fashion (yet?).
  • I still own a lot of unethical leather shoes and bags, and I'm not sure I could avoid these entirely in the future.


Everyday

  • I still eat fish or seafood about once or twice a month. I am thinking about giving this up entirely when I move out of my parents' house, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
  • Cheese is a big problem. Thinking about life without any brie, mozzarella or parmezan makes me rather sad, which in itself is quite a sad statement, given the cruelty of this industry. As a start, I could look into organic and/or vegetarian alternatives.
  • I still consume processed foods that contain milk or eggs of questionable origins. Milka is love, Milka is life.
  • Although I prefer glass, a lot of plastic packaging can still be found in my cupboards. I don't think I have the dedication to go completely zero waste, but there are definitely changes to be made.
  • I use my car a lot, and should probably compensate for my CO2 emission.

Further thoughts


Even though I won't be saving the planet anytime soon, I have already taken some steps in a better direction and I hope to continue this journey. My current way of handling fashion is something I'm particularly on the fence about, and will definitely require some more thought. I recently started doing some research on better brands, and will be sharing my findings on this blog soon.
I feel a similar way about my diet: I'm not entirely comfortable with the way I handle animal products at the moment, but I also don't think I'm prepared to become a strict vegetarian (or even vegan) just yet. However, I do suspect I will be making more substantial efforts in the future, when I'm ready.

Anyways, if you made it this far (I applaud you!), I'm guessing you're also into the sustainability thing, so I'm leaving you with some of my favourite resources:
  • Anuschka Rees: a blog by a lady of the same name, about how to curate your perfect closet.
  • Cowspiracy: a documentary about the unsustainability of animal husbandry.
  • Ikbenirisniet: a Dutch blog by Iris, about a green and happy lifestyle.
  • Justine Leconte's Youtube channel: filled with videos about classic personal style and how to recognise quality clothing and shoes.
  • Kouwe Kleren: a Dutch blog by Hermien, about her journey into sustainable and fair fashion.
  • Litterless: a blog by Celia, discussing zero waste and everyday sustainability, one issue at a time.
  • Paris To Go: a blog by Ariana, who proves zero waste living can be stylish indeed.
  • The True Cost: a documentary about the immense negative impact of the fashion industry on people and the planet.
  • To Universe, with love: a blog and online journal by Archana, about steering away from fast fashion and focusing only on quality pieces that are well loved.
  • When Sara Smiles: a Dutch blog by said Sara, who has a great eye and passion for fair fashion (and was undoubtedly my inspiration for this post).
  • Zaailingen: a Dutch, well researched blog about sustainability by Linda.
Feel free to leave some thoughts in the comment section, as I'm always open to some conversation. Yes, even about toothbrushes.


Thanks for reading!
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