Recently I made time to watch the BBC documentary which I’d seen mentioned a lot on my social feeds: Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashions Dirty Secrets.
Shocking and deeply moving, it exposed the consequences of fast fashion that, I think it’s safe to say, most of us were simply unaware of. As retailers supply the demand of keeping up with trends, it is no longer the case that new clothes can only be found in high street shops around the Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons; we can now find multiple collections every month.
This excessive cycle results not only in phenomenal wasteage as the clothes which are too-cheap-to-pass-up are discarded after only a few wears, but the production of those clothes is, quite literally, killing off vast expanses of life on our one and only planet.
The thousands of us who have seen the documentary are no longer unknowingly ignorant.
The good news is that if we want to become conscious consumers, we now have the opportunity to take responsibility; potentially it’s a tipping point for thousands of ripples for positive change!
Rewind twelve months and I’m not sure at what point exactly, but I had the realisation that I simply did not need any more ‘stuff’.
Clothes and homeware items were things I had always enjoyed buying both in person and online. I excelled at it! Never feeling I was materialistic, if I saw something I liked, I saw no reason to make the purchase. It was rarely about need, more of a casual harmless wanting. I love stuff, love tech, love great packaging, love new things, there wasn’t and still isn’t anything wrong with that. Those people content to live with a capsule wardrobe and dwell in a more minimalist environment…? Yeah, that’s not me.
Around the same time, I had been studying the six human needs according to Tony Robbins and made the association that most of my purchases were simply meeting a subconscious need for variety in my days. Personal growth causes you to become aware of aspects of your life you didn’t even think were ‘a thing’, but I remember thinking ‘yeah, that’s totally what happens when I spend’.
Without even particularly wanting to change, almost overnight, the desire to spend and acquire fell away from my life as something I just didn’t feel the need to do anymore. Interestingly, I was completely ok with it realising that more often than not, I had actually been looking to scratch an itch.
This past twelve months I have made purchases, including impulse ones that I love (rainbow sequinned skirt from Dublin I’m talking about you), but have drastically reduced my consumption.
Back to the documentary which, if you’ve seen, may have left you with a sense of how extreme and seemingly insurmountable an issue it is. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re already a little bit inquisitive about wanting to reduce your impact.
We can’t do it all, but we can all do our bit.
What can you and I do?
Becoming aware of the damaging consequences of consumerism such as the disappearance of an entire sea as the programme shows may be a baby first step in comparison to the magnitude of the solution required, but it’s a step.
Of course, very few people are in a position to tell us if it’s too little, too late but for now, how about the premise that it’s never a wrong idea to make a right change?
Without action, the situation will not stay the same but will, in fact, get worse.
The big brands who are the ‘supply’, clearly need to move towards sustainability and fast. Interestingly on the documentary, with the exception of one, nobody wanted to talk to Stacey.
For our part, we can change the demand. Two things we can all do are to buy better, and to buy less.
At present, sustainable, ethical brands are still too few-and-far-between for buying better to be a straightforward swap. Making a choice to only purchase from these brands will likely be too extreme for most given the price tag and limited range of items available but there are brands pioneering change!
Meanwhile, like me, if you find yourself asking “do I actually need this?” you’re already being more considered about purchases which will undoubtedly lead to buying less. In a relentless culture that exists to convince us that enough is never enough and you ‘need this now!’ it’s not always going to feel natural but the more of us who do so, the greater the impact.
The decision to be more thoughtful about the things we buy is not about morbidly denying ourselves things in an over-the-top pursuit of the altruistic existence. More so as ever, it’s about addressing the balance which our planet, for one, drastically needs.