It seems like the newest trend is "sustainability." People are hopping on the bandwagon and purchasing metal straws, Hydroflasks, and to-go silverware. Though it's become cool to care about the environment, I want to make sure this trend becomes permanent. Over the past three years, I have worked to educate myself on environmentalism and sustainability. It is clear that our world is threatened by climate change, yet political leaders have failed to create legislation to protect our environment. Though we need government action, people should not feel completely helpless. Individuals have the power to make lifestyle changes, especially those of us with money and privilege, to reduce waste and help our planet.
One of the most harmful industries for the environment is the fashion industry—especially fast fashion companies like Shein and Boohoo . As a follower of all things fashion, it was difficult to realize how much waste is produced from the clothes we wear everyday. Here are some facts to put it into perspective. Over 3,000,000,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere from the production of clothes, making the fashion industry the second biggest CO2 producer. Fast fashion makes up 10% of the global carbon emissions. It also requires a surplus of our water supply as a single cotton t-shirt uses over 700 gallons of water to be made. These harmful effects are amplified as our generation consumes more clothing than all of our previous generations, yet 85% of clothes still end up in the landfill. If these statistics weren't enough, fast fashion companies are guilty of using child labor and not paying their workers a proper living wage. I know what you're thinking, "but the prices are so cheap" or "but I really love these clothes." However it's important to know the true cost of the clothes in your closet, and is the five dollar top that's perfect for a Friday night out really worth it? ( Feminist IG )
This summer I made a vow to no longer buy new clothes unless I knew it was sustainably and ethically made. It was hard in the beginning, especially when my mailbox was filled with sale alerts from all the stores I was subscribed to. It's hard not to feel the desire to keep buying new clothes when we live in a consumer society. Everyone wants the next best thing or is following the latest trend. But, I am going to let you in on a little secret. You actually don't have to buy the newest pair of shoes or latest designer purse. You can re-wear clothes from five years ago. I know. Shocking, right? One of my favorite instagram influencers, Venetia LaManna, always post her Old Outfit of The Day ( #OOTD) to encourage her followers to celebrate the action of repeating outfits and making clothing last. Another challenge I faced was prices of sustainably-made clothes. In our market, clothes that are handmade are much more expensive, which can be difficult for college students on a budget. Girls are constantly cranking out orders from Princess Polly, ASOS, Shein, and H&M because they're cheap and still fashionable. Sadly, the low prices cause us to overlook the true cost of the clothing. The harsh reality is that these clothes were made in sweatshops and there is massive overproduction that leads to extreme waste. Let's stop this mindless shopping and get back to slow fashion. Fast fashion teaches society that clothes are disposable because of the cheap prices, but we should go back to valuing the clothes we wear. I'm lucky enough to live on an island where this movement is booming.
I met Randi Sylvia two years ago at a Flea Market in Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, and I instantly fell in love with her work. Randi is a fashion designer on Martha's Vineyard who created the fashion brand Kenworthy with her mother Marlene. Together, they design and sew everything by hand in their studio in Oak Bluffs. They stick to small-batch production so nothing goes to waste. Instead, they focus on making high quality clothing that people can wear forever. If they aren't doing it themselves, they outsource their work to a local group of women in Oaxaca, Mexico to embroider their pieces. This summer, I am blessed to be able to work alongside these two amazing women who I look up to. When you put on Kenworthy clothes, you can truly feel the love and hard work that went into creating it. ( http://kenworthydesign.com/ )
Still, Randi isn't the only woman on the island working to end fast fashion. One of my favorite shops here is Conrado, owned by Angela Sison. Conrado is a fashion brand based in Martha's Vineyard that makes eco-friendly, up-cycled clothing. Over the years, Angela has become a friend to me whom I admire greatly. Just this past week, I visited her studio to buy some of her new clothes. It was amazing to see her office because it's just her, her sewing kit, her sketches, and some pins. She is doing everything herself. I learned that Angela worked in Paris for a very small fashion house, teaching her an array of skills that has helped her with Conrado. She also told me she worked for Old Navy, and after seeing the horrors of fast fashion up-close, Angela was inspired to start her own business. It amazes me how she takes fabrics and scraps headed for the landfill and turns them into beautiful new clothes. ( https://shopconrado.com/ )
Last but not least, two years ago, I met Gareth Brown at the Chilmark Flea Market (are you sensing a pattern here?). Gareth is the founder and head designer of Rooey Knots, a sustainable fashion brand that takes vintage menswear and repurposes them into women's clothing and accessories. After bonding over our shared New Jersey heritage, I quickly became a regular at her stand every week. Gareth makes everything from clutches to custom made dresses. My personal favorite are her headbands, which are made from vintage designer ties that have been forgotten about. Just like Kenworthy and Conrado, Rooey Knots is dedicated to making high quality products that are made with love and better for the environment. When she is not in Martha's Vineyard, she is also at the Chelsea Flea Market in New York City, and I will admit to making a trip to the city just to buy her products. ( http://www.rooeyknots.com/ )I could keep going on and on about these three women and the other island-based companies dedicated to sustainability. As a person of privilege, I feel that is my responsibility to support these businesses. If we have the ability to choose where we spend our money, we must choose the right places in order to protect our planet. Also, if you can't afford to support sustainable and ethical brands, the best thing we can do is to stop buying. That's right. Reduce comes first for a reason. Slowing down our consumption can be on the most powerful steps we can take as individuals. Though we need legislation to change, it may take time simply because our government does not prioritize these issues. While we continue to advocate for change, we must also take initiative to make changes in our