Sustainability and the climate have been a topic of conversation for many years. Whether we are depending on things such as its literal existence, all the way to how we can save our Earth, sustainability has worked its way into every inch of our lives. This course has helped me expand my knowledge of what sustainability is as well as how we, as a society, can help.
I think one of the biggest things I have learned from this course is the art of mindfulness. Through the meditation and articles we have read, I have learned how being mindful can help us lead more sustainable lives. One way being mindful can help us live sustainably is by recentering our focus. By this I mean, how mindfulness has been proven to help with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. By using mediation as a way to help with stress, we have now opened up a whole new set of feelings and time that may have been previously occupied by whatever was causing said stress. With this newfound freedom and time, we can focus and dedicate our lives to mindfulness, which in return, means we can dedicate ourselves to sustainability.
Compassionate curiosity is another common topic when talking about sustainability. Compassionate curiosity is the ability to search for deeper information without judgment, as well as, being able to identify a person’s thoughts or feelings. Through compassionate curiosity, we can respectfully and intentionally learn about the environment as well as our impact on the environment. An example of compassionate curiosity could be understanding another person’s culture, and how said cultural attributes help sustainability. For example, some cultures do not eat meat. It is argued that the meat processing industry is a huge contributor to climate change. By living and engaging in this culture, people are actively helping the climate. If you are using compassionate curiosity, you would learn about this culture without judgment and prejudice. With this, we can have an appreciation for new cultures as well as the wealth of information interacting with new cultures gives us.
Another thing we learned in this class is to dive deeper into what makes up the problems of things like sustainability. These are called wicked problems. One of the wicked problems I recently did some research on was sweatshops. Of course, I always knew the unfairness that happens in sweatshops, but never to the level, I have recently learned about. The biggest problems with sweatshops are their work conditions as well as the unfair wages employees receive. I recently learned about how many fires are started in these sweatshop facilities. Another problem sweatshops face is the diseases. Because the world conditions are so poor and unsafe, people get sick constantly. Hundreds of people die a year because of the unsafe work conditions of sweatshops. Another issue with sweatshops is the wages. Most employees working in sweatshops get paid as little as 3 cents an hour. Obviously, this is way too low of a wage as most countries’ minimum wage is anywhere between 5-10 dollars an hour. Along with learning about the problems with sweatshops, I also learned why people may stray into work conditions like sweatshops. I never really understood the fact that even though sweatshops are horrible, for some people, 3 cents an hour is the best they can do. With people having no other choice than to stay and work in these conditions, the cycle of sweatshops continues. As one can imagine, sweatshops also cause a lot of pollution as they are not willing to pay their employees fair wages, they definitely don’t want to pay for responsible and sustainable production.
Another wicked problem of sustainability is fast fashion. This is a topic I am pretty passionate about as it is something I think we all experience almost daily. Fast fashion is the irresponsibly made clothing products that are made simply to keep up and follow fashion trends. A good example of this is the company, Shein. This company is very good at keeping up with trends, but at what expense? Their clothes are usually horribly made and made irresponsibly. Fast fashion can also mean the literal act of changing and keeping up with trends. Fast fashion trends usually change every 6 months. If you are someone who likes to keep up with trends, you essentially have to buy a whole new wardrobe every six months. When buying new clothes, we are most likely going to throw out the old trends. This is not only a waste of our own money but also a waste of time and materials. These trends are being mass-produced in order to keep up with the speed of trends, so they are most likely not being made ethically. This is completely irresponsible on the part of the producer as well as the consumer. This, of course, begs the question if it is so important to live and shop sustainability, why is it so hard? Social media is always pumping out brands and clothes that contribute to fast fashion. As a generation that spends so much time on social media, we are easily influenced and persuaded by these ads. The best way to not fall victim to fast fashion is to avoid overzealous trends. As consumers, we know that trends are eventually going to change and die so, in order to shop responsibly, we should try to not give in to every single trend. We can also shop with second-hand apparel stores in order to prevent mass production.
In conclusion, sustainability is a part of everyone’s life and it is our duty to ensure and protect our environment. I hope that one day we can all live in a world where our environment comes first, and our greed comes second.