Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Fashionable Way Forward
There’s a lot more to being fashionable than knowing how to accessorize your dress, how to tie an outfit together with the right pair of shoes or a quirky handbag. Being fashionable is also about knowing where your favourite skirt came from, what materials were used to make it and how they affect not just the environment of production but our entire planet. It’s about putting a face to the designer you wear so proudly and understanding their ethos and approach to design. It’s about making conscious choices rather than allowing yourself to be skewed towards fast fashion trends for the sake of running with the masses. A true fashionista understands the power of uniqueness, and there is no better way to achieve this look than by practicing the three most sustainable approaches to fashion: reducing, reusing and recycling.
For the older generation – especially pre and post-war generations – the three R’s have always formed a part of their manners of consumption. Having grown up during times when resources were scarce, when creativity and innovation was the order of the day, they learned how to make the best out of very little. They learned how to make wholesome, savoury meals with minimal and the simplest of ingredients; how to make home-remedies out of plants and herbs readily available in the garden or local environment, and even how to make make-up using simple kitchen ingredients. This attitude has gotten lost on our generation, one that has grown up used to the easy and 24/7 accessibility to everything our spoiled hearts’ desire: an abundance of ready-made food, clothes, cosmetics, beauty products, entertainment, etc.
Many of us are still prone to believe that, our parents and grandparents assumed this humble approach to life due to necessity, in other words, that it was all down to the lack of resources available at the time. And while this is of course true, their mentality surrounding consumption and natural resources, runs much deeper than that. It comes from a place of knowledge and wisdom: the abundance of food and natural resources is, in fact, exhaustible and it can happen in the blink of an eye. It is our responsibility as the inhabitants of this earth to work towards an environment that promotes quality over quantity, to distinguish between our needs and wants, and to ask all the right questions when spending our hard-earned money – namely the who, how and where behind your chosen product.
Change is never easy, especially when it comes to changing the ways we have always consumed, simply for not having been taught better by our current society. On one hand, we have big advertising agencies, social media channels and the media at large urging us – on every screen, on every street corner, in every public space – to spend, spend, spend with little regard to the origins of the products in question; on the other hand, we have environmentalists and activists such as Greta Thurnberg, warning us of the inevitable consequences of our consumerist behavior. It is hardly surprising that many of us can make neither heads nor tails of what it means to be eco-conscious, but in following the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle – you can rest assured you’ll already be contributing to a significant change. Let’s break down each R and study how we can put it into daily practice.
The first and most important thing we need to keep in check, is ways to reduce our outputs – whether it is our carbon footprint, our food or fashion consumption, our water or electricity use. There really is no need for us to spend more than ten minutes in the shower – any added time is nothing but a luxury considering many countries don’t even have access to clean drinking water. A quick lather and rinse is more than enough to get you clean and sparkling. There’s no need to stock your fridge to the brim either, even if you are a family of five. If your fridge is so full you’re forced to go on a chilled expedition every time you’re trying to find your daily, plant-based yogurt, chances are the products shoved into the very back of your vegetable drawers will be rotting by the time you get to them.
Reduce your weekly shop to the essentials needed for daily meals to avoid food spoiling and going to waste; reduce your washing load by setting strict laundry days and waiting for your clothes to pile high enough for a worthy cycle rather than washing just three white t-shirts separately from your white bed sheets; don’t use twenty squares of toilet paper when three easily do the job. As is true for most things in life, a little goes a long way – we just need to keep reminding ourselves of that fact.
Following the summer months, you’ve probably gone through quite an assortment of ice creams, which are usually sold in plastic containers. Instead of adding them to your pile of trash ready to be recycled, reuse them as Tupperware to store your work lunch in. The same counts for your mason jars – these can easily be reused as glasses or storage containers for anything from cereal and pasta, to herbs and veggies from your own garden.
Another important thing to consider for this R, is hygiene products such as diapers and sanitary pads. While the older generation may remember the day disposal diapers and sanitary pads hit the market as a happy one, seventy years on we see just how this modern trend impacts the environment as well as our bodies – in other words, there’s a reason babies are prone to diaper rashes. Disposable diapers take around 500 years to decompose and create more than 3.5 million tons of waste a year and sanitary pads are no better. Consider making the switch to reusable diapers and sanitary pads: not only are they the eco-conscious choice, they are also much healthier for the skin and genital areas.
Why buy a new pair of denim shorts when you have two pairs of long jeans you no longer wear? They are begging to be turned into shorts! There are so many ways to create new, fashionable clothing items and accessories with the things you already have but no longer use. Those old, stained t-shirts you no longer wear? Turn them into a quirky carpet or cover the stains with a unique print: simply print your image of choice and cover the front and back with plastic wrap. Position it on the t-shirt, cover it with parchment paper and iron it on – et voila, your very own printed t-shirt design.
If you haven’t already switched from plastic to glass bottles, use your collection of plastic bottles to make planters, a DIY sprinkler system, a vertical garden or even a bird feeder. There are so many ways to recycle common household goods, you just need to keep your eyes open to the possibilities, and your mind open to creativity!