Three Purchasing Stages to Sustainable Living
In the suburb that the AJ Boutique calls home, which also happens to be the same suburb that I live in, you can find a melting pot of people in so many contrasting situations. It is a hub where sustainable living is a priority for many. There are professionals, architects, lawyers and doctors walking their dogs, meeting friend in the cafes and restaurants. There are the creatives with their exhibitions and excentrics that fill the bars and add colour to the streets (great for people watching!). And then there are those who many people categorize as disadvantaged. They are living and sleeping rough, many struggling with mental health issues or they are displaced and finding it hard to make ends meet.
Lack of Choice
It is easy for us to look at the latter as having a lack of choice. You may walk past them and pity them and their situation, or you may feel compassion and empathy. You also may have conveniently placed them in a box of misfortune, a tribe of people with a lack of choice.
It is understandable that we would do this, it's an obvious association to make, when their outward appearance and life direction is so drastically different to our own. But I beg to differ, we can't let outward apprearances fool us. It is also the professionals, walking past these people on the streets who are living a life half lived through lack of choice. A self-imposed lack of choice. And the scary part is they probably don't even realize it.
It wasn't that long ago that I fell into the trap of blaming my misfortune on things that I felt were out of my control. I have been focused on sustainable living for most of my time as an adult and in another life, I ran events. If an event failed it was because of the weather, not because of my lack of planning. If my finances went south it was bad luck, not because of poor decision-making. I then read something that changed everything. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it went something like this. If you take responsibility of where you are in your life, then you can take control of your future. I translated this into, own your decisions, own your choices and own your life. And if sustainably living is a priority for you then owning your choices will make it that much easier.
How Does This Relate to Sustainable Living?
We are all guilty of making excuses for our bad mood, blaming it on others, or attributing a negative outcome as bad luck. But when we take full responsibility for our life we take back our power. You see, saying things are not our responsibility is simply giving away your power to someone or something else. Easy in the short term but holding you back in the long term.
We spend our days following the status quo even if we don't realise it. We do the done thing because it is, well, the done thing. Or maybe you don't want to create waves. Being in the fashion industry, I see it all the time. People's buying habits have evolved from saving up for investment pieces to wear for years and years to manic fast fashion that is lucky to last a year or even a season. Anything but sustainable living. The majority of consumers know fast fashion is detrimental to our earth, to our very existence. But they keep buying it. Why? Because it's an accepted thing to do, they aren't really taking control of their own choices. It doesn't actually feel like a choice when it's such an automatic action. If everyone else is doing it then it's no big deal, right?
But to not choose is still a choice.
It Starts with One Person
Let me give you an example. Think back to when we always used plastic bags when we went to the supermarket, or at least the vast majority of us did. It was the done thing, we were not asked if we had our own bags, the people who worked there and the shoppers all just accepted that their supermarket purchases went home with them in a plastic bag. We even knew plastic was not good for the environment but we still did it anyway. Then one day someone started making the conscious choice to say no to plastic bags. That one person became a few. Then it wasn't just the odd person who was going against the grain, it became normal to not use a plastic bag. It became the natural to choose this option, even if sustainable living was not high on your agenda. This movement found traction and we all started to question the shop for choosing the plastic bags for us. Now they don't even have them as an option.
Look at us now! I bet we all have our own reusable bags for our shopping, something we probably didn't have 10 years ago. See what taking ownership of our choices did for single-use plastic bags. Imagine if we did this with everything in our life, for fashion, for all consumer goods.
So Where to From Here?
It can be really confronting to realise we have this power. It's unnerving, it opens up a world of vulnerability and accountability. But it is also empowering to take control of your life. It's not left up to chance anymore and that means you are in the driver's seat.
Below are the three steps to changing your spending habits.
The first step to making a change to sustainable living is to just be aware of when you do the thing you don't want to do anymore. You still do it, you still buy that cheap fast fashion dress but it gives you an uneasy feeling inside. That is change happening.
The second step is to stop yourself before you actually do it and make a conscious choice as to whether it's a positive choice to buy it. Maybe you don't actually need that cheap dress and you are just filling a need for an endorphin rush that you get when you buy something new. Or maybe you do need a t-shirt but there is a more ethical place to shop. You are now one step closer in your sustainable living journey.
The third step where sustainable living comes naturally is when these choices become a habit. We don't have to stop ourselves from impulsively not choosing, we are naturally intentionally shopping and not mindlessly purchasing.
It all starts with making a conscious choice. It could take months, or it could take years for you to change a habit. Don't try and do it perfectly. You will slip up, and that's ok. Perfection isn't the goal here, constantly improving your spending habits is the goal. Remember, sustainability isn't a goal to reach, it's a journey you take.
This entry was written sitting in Bistro SouSou, a cute french restaurant on Gertrude St in Fitzroy. You need to visit this street if you are in Melbourne, it was rated Worlds Second Coolest Street in the World by Time Out. It's just around the corner from the Abbie James Boutique.
I ordered a French wine and my very first souffle. I have eaten snails in Paris, road-tripped across France eating crepes in roadside cafe's, but I have never tried a souffle! There is a first time for everything! x