As I have been learning more about sustainability daily, I have found myself in a slump. Although I am getting a rich education on why and how the earth needs help, I am unsure of how I alone can help it. Since the beginning of this class just three weeks ago, my environmental anxiety has skyrocketed, leaving me feeling ashamed for ever contributing to the depletion of our resources. Of course I know that it is not my fault alone, but I cannot help but feel such strong empathy for my world that I call home. It was not this class alone that has made me think like this, I have always been this way on these issues that threaten our world. Although many people learn about the changes of our environment and do nothing to better their lives going forward, I plan to take as much action as I can. I am glad that there is a fire in my belly which is causing me to see the ever-present impacts that global warming has on all of us, but I am scared too that it will cause me to give up in my efforts.
After reading and discussing the fashion and sustainability article, I realized two things: 1) people love individual style too much to give it up, and 2) giving up the endless possibilities of fashion and style might be a way to help prevent the issues that fashion waste is causing. When I type that out, I feel crazy for saying it. When I think of it simply, it would make so much sense for everyone to have a few articles of clothing only, which would reduce the need to buy more and throw out more. This idea does not work in our society, which prides itself on individuality and variety, two things that are very important to me as well. In a simple world, we would all be wearing basically the same thing so that no one is stuck chasing after someone else’s fashion sense and throwing their clothes out just to go buy new ones. But the idea of everyone having the same things and not being able to have options is called communism, and that does not sit well with many people. So, what do we do? We can’t all have one uniform we wear everyday, and we can’t keep throwing ourselves into buying repeatedly and throwing out the rest. The article does bring up a good common ground, which is to produce clothing with sustainability in mind, meaning that we use better materials with better quality, so that they will last longer. In class a few people mentioned that if well known brands start to change their ways of production, their target markets will follow in the same direction, and will end up buying things that will last them longer and are made from better materials. I guess that starting to solve the wicked problem of fashion waste starts with humble design and education to the target markets on why sustainable clothing is important.
This thought of design being used to change how people use products and save energy/resources also comes from Leyla’s TED talk. It was inspiring to me that even though many products were not designed with energy efficiency in mind, there are many people out there trying to change that for good. The tea kettle example she spoke about got me to think, if all products were thought of from a life cycle point of view, we would be taking bigger steps forward in saving our planet. It is sad to me that most of our environmental issues are coming from consumers that have the money and the voice to make better choices, though we also choose to ignore the issues. The article on poverty that we discussed in class the other day did a good job of saying it is not my fault, but those who are impoverished. I did not agree with this idea at all. In many cases, people that are struggling to get by everyday are not focused on how they can save the earth, they are focused on how they will make any money to feed themselves. We discussed in class that those who have the ability to contribute to consumer culture set the standard for how much of the world’s resources will be used for products, which in many cases depletes impoverished areas of the world, leaving those people in more difficult circumstances to survive. A lot of times, people in these areas will work to earn money, but it is burning trash, cutting down forests, or other practices that do not help to sustain our environment but will provide them with money. In that way, it is not their fault alone for contributing to the larger issues like global warming, it is the consumer culture that allows these things to happen.
As I previously stated, it is the consumer that is responsible for what is on the market, which is directly related to how many resources we use up. Merchandising, although this is not my field of study, can be used to stop the overproduction of non-sustainable products and instead can be used to promote buying less, saving more, and producing quality products. This is not the only way we can change the world, but it is a great place to start. This is similar to my wicked problem that I have chosen to learn more about. I went back and forth about what to focus on, but I ended up diving into the interior design field and realizing that I have the power as a designer to say how buildings will be built, what products to use, and how to stop the flow of building/construction waste, as it is a similar problem to fashion waste. The education I am receiving about sustainability will enable me to make healthy building decisions, and I hope to see this kind of education grow into the future, as it is vital for designers to understand and use for change. Through my continued research I hope to find that education of sustainable practices is given to all and will one day be set at a higher standard.
Like I said before, my sustainability journey has not just begun, but it certainly has gotten longer. I see that I have a long road ahead of me, as I learn how to be more sustainable on my own, and as I put it into my practices and careers. This class has lit the fire in my belly, and I hope to spread it to all I meet, as we grow into a healthier, calmer, and more loving world.