Interested in starting a more streamlined, sustainable and stress-free wardrobe? Looking to stock more ethical clothing in your closet? If you’re a sustainable style beginner, you’re in the right place. If you’ve been in the sustainable style game for a while, you may even learn a few things as well. Check out this Intro to Sustainable Style Series to make an impact on your world with the clothes you wear each day.
This post is the introduction to a five part series about being a conscious consumer.
As I’ve gotten older (it happens) and wiser (it’s supposed to happen, right?), I’ve developed a growing interest in understanding and respecting the impact my lifestyle, possessions, activities, and the like have on the world around me. I’ve become so interested, in fact, that I write this whole darn blog about it.
I’m no emboldened social activist fired up to spend all my days and nights contemplating the consequences of my life. I don’t live in a 150 square foot box; I don’t limit my wardrobe to 17 capsule pieces that fit in a suitcase; and I don’t make every meal from scratch using only products grown in my backyard or within 100 miles of my house.
To be honest, having a few extra square feet of living space, rotating more than just a few pieces of clothing week in and week out, and adding flexibility and diversity to my meal planning by expanding my sources of ingredients makes me happy and reduces stress. We all chose different priorities in life, and I’ve chosen to loosely but not rigidly apply many socially conscious principles to various aspects of my life.
How so, you might ask? Here are just a few general areas in my life in which we apply ethical or minimalist principles (in moderation).
Want to skip straight to the sustainable style guide sections? Start with Part 1: Secondhand Shopping
I rarely buy books; I read books given to me or borrowed from the library and buy something only on the rare occasion I can’t find it in my county library system.
I also love to listen to audio books, which I’ve discussed previously. I listen on both Audible and Overdrive, depending on whether or not the library has the book I want to read. (Many audio books are not yet available through my library, so I have a monthly membership through Audible, which has a broader collection of titles.)
I cleared out a healthy number of pots, pans, gizmos and gadgets from my kitchen cabinets that I rarely used and only replace items as needed. The extra space feels amazing.
I try to buy organic and local food and avoid processed food (for my family’s health benefits, if nothing else) when it’s reasonably convenient. We’ve also gotten better, as a family, at limiting food waste.
After reading Zero Waste Home (she also has a blog), I invested in Pyrex and no longer buy plastic storage containers. I haven’t thrown out all my existing plastic containers, but I have replaced them with Pyrex as needed. They are actually easier to clean and they last longer too – so win-win. (Sidenote: I borrowed the book from the library. I didn’t find it necessary to own a copy for my own bookshelf.)
I no longer use the plastic produce bags at the grocery store but instead toss everything in my basket or use reusable produce bags I purchased on Etsy. We also have swapped out several other items in kitchen, opting for more reusable, eco-friendly, long-lasting alternatives.
Those are just a few of the changes I’ve made in our home.
Additionally, I have participated in Terra Cycle Brigades to help eliminate waste overall. I previously helped my sons’ daycare center run a small brigade to raise funds for their non-profit foundation. They collected diaper packaging waste (which seemed like a natural option for a daycare center). Waste collected and returned to TerraCycle earns donations to their charity of your choice.
I buy a meaningful portion of my clothing and my sons’ wardrobes from thrift and consignment stores.
You can check out a whole bunch of my outfits I’ve shared on the blog that include secondhand pieces.
We’ll be touching on style in much more depth throughout the rest of this series.
I make a concerted effort to buy minimalist-inspired or ethical gifts when appropriate, and have written quite a bit about my thoughts on birthday parties, gift giving ideas, and celebrating holidays without letting life carry us away.
One of my favorite gifts I’ve given went to my niece (who lives many states away from me). I gave her a gift card for a local cupcake shop in her area that has been featured on Cupcake Wars. I purchased the gift card through Yiftee since I didn’t have access to buy the card directly from the local store. She didn’t need any more toys, and I didn’t want to buy and ship her something she didn’t really need. With the gift card, her parents got to indulge too!
I gave another sister for her birthday the refashioned maxi dress I made a few months back. (I made it fully intending for it to be her birthday gift.)
Small Changes Add Up
None of these things are major overhauls to my everyday life. They are small decisions I made that, when considered together (and especially if we all made a few small changes) could really have a significant impact on the boatloads of trash filling our landfills and flooding our oceans or the less than ethical or eco-friendly practices employed to create and bring us many of the goods we consume each day.
Some will certainly argue I (and we all) should be committing fully and faithfully to all of these (and other socially conscious) principles, while others roll their eyes at all the hub-bub around the hype. I fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum, and I suppose I have substantial company.
In the rest of the series, I’ll discuss in more detail being a conscious consumer of fashion and style. This is an area in which I believe many of us have great excesses. That doesn’t make us bad people, but it can be one section of our lives in which we can have great impact when being just a bit more conscious about how we execute our fashion and style goals.
And if you want more about sustainable living for families, be sure to sign up for the newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You’ll get plenty of new ideas about merging ethical and minimalist practices with mainstream family living.
Be sure to check out all the sections of the Introduction to Sustainable Style Series!