Last semester, I knew next to nothing about problems with sustainability and how much they really affect our world. After taking a textile sustainability class this spring, I feel like I have a pretty decent understanding of how great of an impact the textile industry has on our surroundings. Wicked problems has taught me that mindfulness is a big factor in the first step to a more sustainable world. I would have never thought that sustainability was (in any way) related to mindfulness. I have always been told that less is more, but I never really understood what that meant until I got older. I never really thought about all the effects of me having my material possessions until more recently.
I am a person who gets overwhelmed and stressed pretty easily. My mom has mentioned meditation a few times and I never thought that it would be something that actually helped me decompress. Since wicked problems started in the middle of the semester, I was already carrying a lot of stress on my shoulders. When we were told that meditation and mindfulness was a part of the class, I wasn’t sure what that had to do with the topics we were already talking about. I went into it thinking that it wasn’t going to do anything, and I was just wasting time by sitting there. While I was listening to the recording, I found that it actually really helped me de-stress in a way that I’ve never been able to before. I carry stress in my back and shoulders and realizing that I needed to relax them and let go of the tension was a huge help. As well as meditation helping me decompress, it also gave me a clearer mind going into wicked problems. I wasn’t worried about other things going on in my life and I was able to focus more on the wicked problems that were talked about in class.
Wicked problems aren’t just simple problems that can be solved with the push of a button or the snap of your fingers. Often times once a problem is solved, another one (or few) more problems appear. Everyone has different opinions on these problems and the solutions that were made to resolve them. Some people may care more than others and that’s okay. As someone who hopes to start my own business one day, I understand that I’m going to have to come up with solutions to problems. I’m going to have to work with a team that may or may not be on the same level of open-mindedness as me. Mindfulness is realizing that these problems can be solved multiple ways. It’s coming up with one that creates less issues in the future that matters the most. Working together to come up with a compromise is extremely important in solving issues more effectively. For one wicked problem that is solved, an infinite number may appear as a result. Doing something about it in a timely manner is what matters.
Standing by your own personal beliefs, values, and morals is something that I think is extremely important in today’s society. In our current world, I see people getting so caught up in their material possessions. Something that I will never stand by, is putting a material item or money above the well-being of a living thing. People and the environment should always come before wealth and materialism. Before taking textile sustainability, I thought I was going to be bored and have no interest whatsoever in the course material. As it turns out, I found it extremely interesting to learn about. From the time a material is picked from its most raw form, it starts going through a process. It gets washed, stretched, dyed, washed again, sewn, cut, and shipped all around the world. So, when we break it down, how is this actually affecting our planet? The fields where some material is grown (like cotton) take up too much land and that takes away from farming practices. Pesticides are washed into (previously clean) sources of water. Sweatshops and textile mills employ tens of thousands of people at little or no pay and in horrible working conditions. Many of these companies being brands we know and love. Dye from the material gets washed out and dumped into water sources that families rely on to bathe in, drink out of and other everyday life activities. chemicals and fossil fuels pollute the environment more than most people think. And not to mention, the disposal of clothing after a person is done with it. Most fabrics are non-biodegradable so they’re harming the environment more than people realize.
So, let’s go back to when I mentioned sweatshops. This relates to morals, beliefs, and values as an example of when people put wealth above treating others humanely. During the wicked problems course, I have not only learned about some of the issues that are holding us back from sustainability, but also about how much mindfulness can help with your overall mindset. I have found that when I practice mindfulness more in my daily life, I can focus more on my values and the positive side of things more than when I’m stressed. Money is a huge obstacle along with materialism. People in today’s world get so caught up with their material possessions that they sometimes forget what’s more important in life. How you treat people and how you treat our world has a lasting effect, but does having the newest iPhone or driving the nicest car? During your next Shein haul, maybe stop and think about the people that made that top you’re wearing. What did they have to endure just to make sure you could get 5 new outfits for only $100? Is the short-term satisfaction of wearing your new pair of shoes worth the price that other people may have to pay for you to get them? Think about your own values. Think about what’s more important to you: having more money and material items or doing your part to make sure our world stays safe and continues to improve in that aspect. Sometimes having the most isn’t the best. Sometimes less really is more.