5 Ethical and Sustainable Trends
I spent a good portion of my 20’s in what I call “disposable clothes”. These were outfits bought solely for the purpose of going out for cocktails and dancing, purchased on a 20’s single lady budget, without worrying about if they were spilled on or forgotten in the back of a cab. They were cheap and trendy, not meant to last for more than a season. Honestly, I never gave a thought to who or where the clothes were made. I gave zero consideration to the products I was putting directly on to my skin or in my hair, and to be brutally honest, my meals were far from desirable, consisting mostly of take-out and junk.
By my 30’s I had a grown-up job and three kids in diapers. My clothes were no longer club-worthy but had to withstand the plethora of misfortunes that can happen to a mom between breakfast and arriving at the office. I pretty much wore plastic that could stand up to projectile baby fluids. Words like “organic”, “fair trade”, and “sustainability” were just catching on. When I think of the number of disposable diapers my kids contributed to the local landfill, I cringe with shame. Now I’m doing my best to make up for my disposable lifestyle by making changes at home and instilling ethical, sustainable and green living into my kids. God willing, they never leave any piece of clothing in the back of a cab after a night out, and they better only dress my future grandbabies in organic cotton.
What I’ve learned is that there are several sustainable options to meet every consumer who has the environment in mind, or for those like me trying to make up for past sins. You can focus your energy anywhere and make a significant impact. For me, I’ve started replacing my cosmetics with organic, natural products, after realizing the largest organ of my body was being doused with God-Only-Knows what. My cleaning products have been replaced by chemical free products (Thank you Better Life!) we stopped spraying chemicals on our lawn and to the neighbor who brags he has no weeds but his kids and dog can’t run around on their grass, I say I would rather have a dandelion pop up and know my kids aren’t absorbing some freaky engineered chemical through their feet.
Ethics and sustainability are everyone’s responsibility and you can take it on as fiercely as a passionate activist, or you can start with baby steps. Every bit of change counts and I have been surprised by the huge impact that occurs even in casual conversations with like-minded friends.
Following are 5 Ethical and Sustainable trends that can have a huge impact but can be easily implemented into any lifestyle.
1. Sustainable Fashion
The exact opposite of disposable clothes. Sustainable fashion items you buy that are meant to last, make a minimal imprint on the environment during the manufacturing process and are made ethically. Clothing companies have come under the microscope for unfair child labor practices, unsafe sweatshop conditions, and for damaging local ecosystems due to dyes and other by-products. I realize how much I’ve learned when I now get embarrassed thinking about how many things I have bought over the years from stores without a second thought. I now try to buy from companies who produce clothing from organically grown cotton and from sustainable clothing companies. The one problem with purchasing new is the same thing we’ve seen with organic foods- they aren’t cheap. That’s why I only buy things I truly need and love and plan to keep for a long time. Here are some baby steps we’ve come up with to make your closet more sustainable: How to build a more Friendly Wardrobe.
2. Palm-free products
There really is an app for everything, including apps that tell you if products are made with rainforest-destroying palm products. It is in so many products we use every day from foods to cosmetics to household products. Palm oil deforestation over the past 16 years has lead to the decline in the orangutan population (turns out palm oil farmers aren’t fans of the primates who eat the young palm shoots either). The harvesting of huge forests also emits high amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Trying to find palm-free products is tough, but if you’re dedicated, you can find plenty of alternatives and apps to help you navigate good vs bad products and companies. The Android Play Store and Apple Store both have a great selection of apps to help you avoid Palm Oil including POI (PALM OIL INVESTIGATIONS - HOME) which allows you to scan barcodes and the Orangutan Foundation International recommended PalmSmart app. Both are great resources, and who doesn’t love pictures of cute baby orangutans?
3 Buying local
Here I go again with the whole emissions thing, but as we all become more and more dependent on the convenience of online shopping, and trust me- I am a big fan, consider where those products are made and how far they need to travel to get to your front door. When possible, buy local. You’re supporting small businesses and cutting down on fuel needed.
Thank you, Pinterest! In my opinion, Pinterest lead a big charge in the home redecorating, do-it-yourself, make something old and ugly into something pretty trend and I must say, I love that so many people are on board. Thrift store finds and garage sale finds can be turned into something amazing with a bit of creativity. My most favorite piece of “furniture” is a set of lockers, yes- like high school lockers! That I got for free from my place of work. I got them home, painted them with some spray paint and they now live in our entryway, holding baseball bats, backpacks, shoes, and coats.
5. Buying from companies you believe in and want to support.
This one is a biggie and a trend I hope so many more businesses make a normal part of doing business. My favorite company,Sword & Plough, has a 4 part platform that makes them the perfect company for me: People, Planet, Purpose, and Profit.
People: S&P is a veteran-owned business that employs and supports other veterans and uses vendors that do the same. The products are made from upcycled military surplus materials and all products are made in the USA.
Planet: Over 40,000 pounds of “waste” has been turned into gorgeous handbags, totes, and jewelry, all made with the highest quality and are meant to last. Hello, sustainable fashion!
Purpose: the company was started by an ROTC cadet after being asked countless questions about why she was in uniform when on campus, Emily Nunez realized that while the military had been her calling and a big part of her family, there were a lot of folks out there who had no interaction and no understanding of military life. She has made it one of the sole purposes of the company to start the conversation through great looking bags.
Finally, through their profits, S&P gives back to several charitable giving partners including Team Red White and Blue, The Green Beret Foundation, Purple Hearts Reunited, and more.
For me, I’m doing what I can to implement more each day. I suggest crazy things to my family to trial for a week at a time- like Vegan Week and No Plastic Week, to see if we
- A) can survive and
- B) when we do try to stick to most of the principles we learn during our week of trying something new and difficult.
We’ve learned that while we don’t eat organic, grass-fed, or vegan all the time, we now do a lot of the time and we like it. We know cutting palm oil is difficult, but it’s fun researching products together as a family and making a change we believe feels right.
I get to have really cool conversations with people because the bag I carry is made with surplus desert camo and is a nod to my husband’s Marine Corps service and know that it helped reduce waste.
Thank goodness I grew out of the disposable clothes phase and get to enjoy the sustainable lifestyle phase!
Jen Flickinger is a full time working mom of 3 busy kids. Married to a USMC and Army National Guard Veteran, Jen was drawn to the mission of Sword & Plough to bridge the civilian and military divide while promoting awesome looking products.