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Sustainable Shopping - What it is and Why we need to adopt it?

Updated: Jul 31, 2021



 

Let’s take a moment off our screen and look around the room. Can you count how many items are made from plastic or are non-biodegradable?


Most of the items you see around you will mostly end up in landfills without ever being recycled. If you are able to think of ways to reuse those things or find suitable sustainable substitutes for those things that can't be reused, then pat yourself on the back as you have just taken the first step down this journey.


If you couldn’t bother thinking of any alternative and find yourself asking “Why do I need to think of an alternative?”. The answer is pretty simple actually. It's because such unsustainable practices lead to global warming, which causes an ecological imbalance - animals dying, a disturbed food-chain, rising sea levels and pandemics.


I’m sure you already know what I am talking about.


But let me remind you that in the recent past, the scientific community has painted a much grimmer picture of the risks posed by human activity to the environment. We could prevent all of this by making small changes in our everyday lives. However, in this blog, we will talk about only one aspect of humankind’s existence that is vital to reducing our impact and that is shopping.


Now, most of us do not really care about the raw materials that are used in our products, or where our products are sourced from, but here's why we should care.


Our ignorance of the materials used, often causes us to over-consume (collectively speaking) harmful, synthetic and non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, glass and batteries. If not disposed of properly, this waste can cause pollution, disrupt food chains and harm the ecosystem. There are several aspects of our life where we can be more sustainable in our approach to shopping and through this article we explore 3 crucial components of shopping in detail: Fashion, Stationery and Food habits


Fashion

What we wear is often a testament to the times and one’s own preferences.

In this day and age, the need to be in vogue has been further aggravated by the rise of fast fashion, which can be attributed (i) to the dynamic and growing nature of technology and (ii) the existence of those enterprises that acts in their own self-interest to maximize their profits without considering their impact onto the environment.


I’m sure you have observed this yourself. Take, for instance, your own instagram profile. You have probably noticed how the trends are constantly changing and with it, the content that you post. Similarly, the influence of social media have become pivotal in influencing a larger section of society, changing consumer consumptions through the use of influencers, marketing campaigns, advertisements etc. This is exactly one of the things that we need to be careful about. We need to be more mindful of the choices that we make wherein we should actively look for what exactly constitutes the products that we buy and whether the conditions under which it was manufactured is fair.


To make things worse, when it comes to clothing, this innate urge to ‘keep up with the times’ is complemented by one’s desire for high class fashion. And for the average Joe, fast fashion brands come to the rescue with cheap knockoffs of the more pricey original. I’m sure you already know this storyline about the fast fashion industry from one of our older articles.


But the fact of the matter is that fast fashion is killing the planet. In fact, the fashion industry, which contributes somewhere around 4% - 8% of the global carbon emissions is right up there with the likes of the oil industry which accounts for 3.8% of global carbon emissions. Unbelievable right!?!?.


To solve this crisis, we need to work with the core problems. We need to start by consuming only what we need and not over consume, because everything we want is available at the press of a button. In other words, if you are able to control the ‘Emacity’, the uncontrollable desire to shop, then you’ve taken the second step towards a sustainable lifestyle. However, the buck does not stop here (it ain’t that easy lol).


The longer a garment is used, the lesser the adverse impact on the environment


With the fast fashion trend, garments tend to be used half as much as compared to 15 years ago. This is primarily due to competitive practices that have led to inferior quality of fabrics used and churning more and more collections every month. Typically, a garment used frequently over years has less impact than a garment used a few times to then be quickly discarded.


This brings us to something called slow fashion which is essentially an alternative to fast fashion as it emphasises the ecological & ethical qualities and the time-aspect of the clothing rather than the convenience factor (e.g. how cheap it is) and alleged quality of the fabric. It respects human living conditions, the biological aspects, and the scarce global resources, ultimately contributing towards products that serve to cater to the human-ecosystem equilibrium that we talked about earlier.


Slow fashion believes in manufacturing durable products, by using traditional, labour intensive production methods and also making use of product concepts that last longer both in terms of the aesthetic and material sense. Slow fashion also ensures that the clothes are designed and manufactured in a way that factors in the working conditions of their employees even in the primary level, and also their impact on society and the environment. In my personal opinion, factors other than the materials used itself should be factored in when judging the quality of a product. It should be holistic and should encompass the impact on all stakeholders to its manufacturing. Environmentally speaking, it essentially means that less industrial waste is produced so that we can reduce the pollution that is produced and sustain use of resources for a longer period of time. This is exactly what we did when we came up with our collection ‘Rouge’. We used artisans from a cottage industry within India for the embroidery on our t-shirts and also made our manufacturers adopt fair trade practices (which is also certified). Needless to say, the cotton used in our t-shirts (as in all of our t-shirts) are made using sustainably sourced and grown cotton (i.e. Non-GMO) which GOTS certified. If all of this sounds too good to be true, then have a look at our products in our very own Emacity shop.







An interesting technique to become part of the slow fashion movement is to adopt what is known as a ‘capsule wardrobe’ which by its own wording implies how one can have a wardrobe that is not time-sensitive. It may not necessarily mean to buy bland or dull clothing, but to own a condensed version of your taste that is relatively time appropriate and durable. You can read more about it in one of our older articles on Slow fashion vs Fast Fashion.


Day to day stationery products

Our stationary includes everything from pens, pencils and erasers to staplers, binders and glue. All of them use a lot of plastic and toxic substances. They are often disposed of after a single use. The good news is that there are easily available sustainable alternatives.


Pens and pencils can be made out of wood while erasers can be now made of recyclable rubber which can be sharpened so that it lasts longer for minute usage. Most erasers these days are made from either synthetic rubber or vinyl. Synthetic rubber is derived from petroleum and which affects the ecology negatively.


Eco-friendly staplers can now be used, if not for large bundles at least for the smaller sheets as the technique simply involves making a hole through the corner of the sheets in such a way that the papers get folded at an angle so as to not get separated again (source- http://www.buyecostapler.com/).


There are books in the market that are chlorine-free and printed with non-toxic soy ink thus, which are much better than those notebooks which are made using heavy petroleum distillates.


One can also use unused pages from old notebooks that would otherwise take space or be thrown away. All you have to do is take out the unused pages from all of your old notebooks and simply staple them together to have a brand new notebook for yourself. As a student, this is one of my practices. I personally use it to make mini notebooks that fit my pockets to pen down my thoughts if I am out or to sketch something as inspiration hits. All in all, one needs to be mindful of the usage of one’s own consumption and should constantly be in the pursuit of becoming more mindful of our actions one step at a time.


Food Habits


Now, the last thing that I would like to consider is our basic necessity - food. Every visit to the nearby mall is followed by a coffee at Starbucks or a pizza on the go. While it may seem almost impossible to make changes in our lifestyle when it comes to our food habits, let me remind you that little steps taken now, compound to bigger changes tomorrow.


For example, let’s consider the cycle of how meat is put on our plates. Firstly, farm animals need pasture land to graze, which is made available through the mass cutting down of forests, known as deforestation. It immediately follows that the main absorber of greenhouse gases is eliminated from the natural system through humankind’s intervention to harbor domesticated animals for consumption. And let’s not forget the massive amounts of crops, grains and water used to feed and care for the farm animals. Finally, the animals themselves and all the manure that they produce release even more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are all powerful greenhouse gases and they all cause climate change and it is for our own good that we make efforts to move towards a more plant based or vegan diet.


Research shows that an average meat eating individual causes twice as much the carbon footprint as a vegetarian and 2.5 times a vegan. While I know that dietary changes can be difficult to make, we need to acknowledge the fact that in recent years, the production of meat has increased exponentially. Due to globalisation and opening up of hundreds of MNCs and fast food centres, highly processed meat is available almost everywhere. For example: Indians during the Medieval times were predominantly plant eaters and the availability of non vegetarian food was in the form of fish on the coastal regions while those that were from the colder northern states consumed meat. To the contrary, nowadays, even pork and beef, which have the maximum carbon footprint, are easily available in restaurants. While it is true that historically, people from the colder Scandinavian countries in Europe consumed a lot of meat to keep themselves warm, now this has spread rapidly almost all over the world through fast food chains like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and the list goes on.


Greenhouse gases emitted directly from all Mc Donald restaurants amounted to approximately 0.764 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2017 and this alone shows that we as consumers need to be more aware about what we consume so the rate at which our climate is changing will reduce at least marginally.


Store bought plastic containers are a major cause for plastic consumption and now with the availability of biodegradable water pouches, it is our responsibility to make wise choices and think about their impact on our surroundings.


While it can be hard to make responsible choices and make lifestyle changes and incorporate sustainable shopping in our daily routine, having to live in a world with temperatures rising and greater ecological imbalances. It is up to us to choose our hardest and we must take the decision now so that we don’t regret it later.


Check out our shop to see what you can buy to replace the plastic-made products that you may be using otherwise









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