The role of social media in the proliferation of fast fashion

This article discusses the role that social media has played in the growth of fast fashion, which is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends (Wikipedia). Popular retailers such as Zara and H&M are excellent examples of companies that promote fast fashion.  The article posits that social media accounts such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and so forth, have encouraged fast fashion, as people do not want to be seen wearing the same item often, or even more than once.

I know that some people who read this article will say “well, that’s certainly not me,” but is that actually the case? How many of us have closets bursting with clothes? How many of us buy items of clothing, shoes, or bags, for a “special occasion,” even though there are perfectly adequate items in our closets, because we want something new, or because we don’t want to be seen wearing the same outfit for the occasion? How many new items of clothing, shoes, and bags do we buy every season, even though we already have so many clothes? How many of us buy something because it’s on sale, even if we don’t need it? How many of this think that we’ve scored a big sale: “look, it was 50% off,” even though its money wasted because it’s adding to the mountain of clothes we already own?

I am the living embodiment of this attitude. In my student days and earlier in my career, especially when I lived in very small accommodations (I was living “tiny” before it became a thing), I didn’t have all these possessions. As my living quarters and pay cheque grew larger, so did my purchases. My Achille’s heel has always been handbags. When I travelled, it was always with a suitcase large enough to accommodate the purchases I would no doubt make. Shopping became a hobby; this was particularly true when I lived in Detroit, where the large variety of shopping malls beckoned me every weekend.

I’ve been committed to environmental causes since I was a child. I have always done what I could to reduce my carbon footprint. I remember me as a child lecturing my no-doubt exasperated mother on the need to shut off lights, to not let the taps run, to wear sweaters in the house in winter to stay warm, and so forth (I still do this. Sorry, Mum). My shopping and accumulation of stuff, however, was a hurdle that I did not overcome, or even acknowledge, until a few years ago.

I have made significant reductions in the items that I buy. My wardrobe has been pared down considerably, and I buy at most 2-3 items of new clothing a year, and now only to replace something that I can no longer use. I’ve slipped once or twice, I will admit it, but I see a vast improvement. I no longer care if people see me in the same clothes, as I rotate a small amount every week. Frankly, most people neither care nor remember what you wear. Men have been getting away with wearing the same items for years; it’s about time that women stopped this ridiculous obsession with not being seen in the same outfit every month or, heaven forbid, every week.

Fast fashion has many negative impacts on the environment, not the least of which is the sheer waste it generates. In our narcissistic world of selfies and posting daily updates (of which I plead guilty), we tend to be guilty of greenwashing. We congratulate ourselves on using travel mugs, recycling, composting, and so forth – all of which are excellent things to do, of course – but our rampant and increasing consumerism is causing far more damage than using bottle water or disposable coffee mugs. I have been appalled by my own consumerism, as it has crept up on me insidiously; I think so many of us equate possessions with success. I have been blessed – or is it cursed? – with a love of beautiful things, and I have indulged in this love far too many times. I applaud the growing movement of minimalism amongst younger people in their twenties and thirties; they have come to this realization far earlier than I. I think we have a lot to learn from this movement, and I, for one, am enjoying embracing it in incremental steps.

I have found owning fewer things to be liberating, not limiting. I smile when I see empty cupboards in my home, extra storage containers I no longer need, rugs that I no longer need to vacuum, and clothes that I can actually see in my closet. Travelling with a small carry on for a two-week trip with no more than four dresses that I rotate makes decisions about what to pack so much easier, not to mention negotiating airports so much faster. Not feeling the need to buy souvenirs for other people that will simply add to their clutter (hint, please don’t buy me souvenirs) saves so much time when I’m travelling; time that I would much rather put towards visiting museums and art galleries. It has been a most enjoyable journey, and one I look forward to continuing.

My love affair with walking

I have been involved in a number of sports activities in my life and, in particular, three different forms of martial arts, and extreme weight lifting. I have also suffered a number of injuries as a result of these sports, most particularly in my knees and ankles. These injuries have forced me to give up these activities. Since my injured joints don’t allow for activities that involve much impact, walking has become my favourite activity. Swimming is an option as well, which I have done in the past, but it’s very time consuming, particularly with hair that can’t handle blow drying (think Poodles).

I gave up car ownership 10 years ago this month. I could no longer justify owning a car, considering that I was taking the bus to work (parking is a huge hassle on campus), and using my car only on the weekends. Owning a car made no financial sense, not to mention the guilt I felt about all the carbon emissions. Once the lease was up on my car, I made a clean break and bought a bus pass. Now that my employer participates in a discounted monthly bus pass, my fixed transportation cost per month amounts to about $55.

The freedom of not having a car – for this is how I see it – allows me to spend more time walking. At first I walked only for occasional exercise, but I now incorporate walking as part of my desire to go from point A to B. I try to walk a minimum of 8 km a day, seven days a week; I average about 95 minutes of active walking a day.  Rather than do the 95 minutes at one stretch, I normally divide the walking into sections. On a typical weekday, I take the downtown bus to work, but get off at the terminal, then walk about 25 minutes to the office. I walk for another 50 minutes or so at lunchtime, then after work, I walk part way home (about 45 minutes or more), then catch the bus to finish the journey.  The routine changes over the weekend, where I walk to and from my errands, such as the library, farmers’ market, local coffee shop, and so forth. Weather is, of course, a factor to be considered. Halifax gets quite a lot of rain (normally heavy) and wind, and winters can be gruelling. I don’t mind walking in the cold, but it’s the sidewalks covered with thick ice and snow that can cause problems.

Discipline is the key factor, as with all forms of exercise. It’s easy to make excuses, saying that it’s too windy or cold to walk; before you know it, those excuses turn into days of not walking, which can turn into weeks. For me, the most important aspect of walking is the mental break it gives me. When I walk, I don’t listen to music, and I avoid using my smartphone. I do carry my phone in case of emergencies, and I’ve used it on more than one occasion to report sightings of missing cats, but I will not use it for any other purposes. Walking is a time for me to simply let my mind wander. I am an urban walker, so I enjoy looking at houses, front yards, and so forth. Music simply adds to the busyness of life that we all seem so eager to embrace; in fact, I think busyness has become a competitive sport.  We all seem so afraid to simply be, as though we fear being judged for being unproductive. I relish the opportunity to take time for myself to just be, and walking appeals to my reserved and introverted nature because I don’t need to talk to anyone, except to every dog and cat I may encounter.

A book that reflects well my attitude to walking is Frédéric Gros’ book A philosophy of walking, which discusses the role of walking as part of the thinking process, and charts the impact walking has made on philosophers such as Rimbaud, Rousseau, Narvel, Thoreau, and Nietzsche. I don’t count myself in such heady company, of course, but I can fully appreciate the role active walking has in my intellectual and psychological well-being.

 

Halifax Forum Farmers’ Market

I am lucky to live in a city that has several year-round farmers’ markets. This video looks at one of the newer markets in the Halifax Forum. I visit this market quite frequently, as it’s the closest to where I live.

 

The costly side of eco living

An article in today’s Guardian discusses the phenomenon that I have often observed to be associated with eco living namely, that it caters to a higher socio-economic status:

Many of the companies and individuals marketing a sustainable lifestyle tend to give the impression that it takes place on another fairytale planet, and is unattainable for normal people down here on the ground with limited cash, who have to go to work every day.

This phenomenon has been true for a very long time. I have always been struck by the often ridiculously inflated prices that are charged for environmentally-friendly alternatives. I think that this can be problematic because,  a) it gives the message stated above; and b) it feeds into people’s egos and makes eco living a competitive shopping sport, where it becomes a matter of showing off brands.

In many cases, there are much cheaper and reasonable alternatives that don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You don’t need to spend a fortune on reusable kitchen towels, for example; you can easily cut old towels into rags for this purpose. I buy inexpensive sackcloth towels from my pharmacy that last a very long time. You can re-use all those glass jars that once held jams, condiments, and so forth, to store and freeze food; there is no need to buy overpriced mason jars that serve only to replicate these humble glass jars. Re-using in this manner serves also to cut down on waste. Stainless steel tiffin boxes are a little pricey, but they last for years, so they are an excellent investment. Buying expense eco cleaners ($8 for dish soap? Completely and utterly absurd) is unnecessary when you can easily make your own products for much less money. Full disclosure: I used to buy a lot of these expensive products, but realized that I was simply generating more waste by doing so. No matter how recyclable a product, waste is generated to produce and recycle it. I have slowly weaned myself off this buying cycle. I now use bars of Marseille de Savon soap to clean bathtubs, counters, handwash laundry, make laundry soap, and wash dishes. This soap does not come in any containers, serves multiple purposes, and works far better than any eco cleaner I have ever bought. I buy 1kg bars of soaps that last a long time. The humble vinegar and baking soda work like a charm.

I don’t mind investing money into a product that will last for a long time, and which I cannot replicate easily myself, but I think we need to be careful of supporting overpriced eco products especially if, ironically, they serve only to add to further waste and consumerism.

 

Spring cleaning, 2017 edition

As I have stated before, I actually enjoy doing housework. I’m a tidy person who hates clutter, and I find housework to be soothing. Most people think I’m odd in this regard, but I’m not bothered.

I weed my house on a regular basis; most people like use to the term “de-clutter,” but I prefer the term that is used by professionals in my field. Because I weed about twice a year, it’s never too onerous a task. I rotate my clothes twice a year, and have been paring down my clothing considerably. My love of shopping is no secret, but I’ve made huge dents in this practice over the past two years. I am reducing the number of clothes that I wear, preferring to rotate a smaller number of good-quality items, rather than have a large number and variety of clothes. I do not intend to buy any new (or used) clothes for the spring and summer. Capsule wardrobes are very popular right now; I’ve been working on mine for the past four years and have made good strides. I’m not normally one for trends, but since I have hated clutter since childhood, this trend suits me perfectly.

It’s amazing how much one still manages to accumulate even with regular weeding. This month I focused on the kitchen, only I was more ruthless this time around. I got rid of small appliances that I had not used in at least a year: A juicer, a food processor,  a bread maker (which had stopped functioning properly), and a soy milk maker (ditto). I’ve tried juicing, but never embraced it fully; I much prefer to eat my fruit and vegetables, as juicing removes all the fibre. If I do feel the need to juice, I can use my Vitamix, which juices the whole vegetable, rather than separates the juice from the pulp. My Vitamix has replaced the need for my large food processor. I have a two-cup mini food processor that I use to make my laundry soap, dice onions, etc., so there was no need to keep the large one.

As I explored my kitchen cupboards, I found at least four containers of rice in different places. I have a weakness for storage containers; this comes from being a very organized person. The problem, however, is that I had simply too many storage containers in different places; as a result, I would forget that I had these containers, and would buy more rice, etc., from the bulk store. I now use the cupboard that housed the small appliances as my pantry so that I can see all my storage containers with dried beans, pulses, pasta, rice, and so forth. I got rid of a lot of mugs that I don’t use. It feels good to see empty shelves, and I plan to keep them that way.

Using simply cleaning products such as vinegar, water, and liquid castille soap, I washed the walls and baseboard, and painted the kitchen shelves and use shelf liners to protect them. The biggest challenge was re-painting the baseboards. I enjoy painting, even if my knees complain from all the bending; the problem, as I found out, is that my companion felines Atticus and Calpurnia like painting as well. I now have two Pepe Le Pew cats, only their white stripes are not quite as symmetrical.  Fortunately, the paint does peel off.  I intend to re-paint all the room and closet doors as well; I’m sure some cat whiskers will be embedded in the results.

As I continue to weed my home (laundry room and bathrooms this week), it bothers me to generate such waste. I will donate some items to charity shops, but the fact that I have produced such waste still bothers me. I fully appreciate the irony that a proportion of this waste consists of storage containers that are meant to help keep everything organized. The problem with buying storage containers is that you buy things to fill them with. My approach over the past two years has been to buy something only to replace an item that I need. So, for example, I keep only a very small number of mugs (I am not one for entertaining much at home; I’m too introverted for that); no matter how many beautiful mugs I might come across, I will buy one only to replace a mug that has broken or become chipped.

I have made great strides in reducing my shopping habits; in my various travels over the past two years, I have purchased only two dresses, three scarves, a crucifix, a rosary ( I collect rosary beads), and a bracelet (a birthday present for me on behalf of my mother). Travelling with only carry-on luggage helps reduce what  I can buy but, frankly, I’m losing the interest in buying anything. I still like to window shop and admire good-quality items, but I find myself applying the “do I really need this? What do I need to discard to make room for this?” approach. My single biggest challenge is to not buy handbags; it’s my biggest achilles heel, but I have improved considerably.

Goth toothpaste

img_4213-2I thought that my teeth were looking a little dull lately, so I explored some options for tooth whitening. I had no interest in using any whitening strips, as they create far too much waste. I tried one of those dual-tube products, where you brush with the first tube of toothpaste, then with the second tube of whiteners. I tried a sample, and was horrified with the results. The whitening product contains a lot of hydrogen peroxide, and it bleached my gums, not to mention hurt them. No, thanks.

I came across a glass jar of a natural toothpaste that contains activated charcoal. The product is made by Nelson Naturals, located in Nelson, B.C.; the company makes only toothpaste. The toothpaste makes your entire mouth black when you use it; I look like an extra in a Goth film. It’s actually rather fun to see the effect. The toothpaste is messy (the jar warns you about this), but I’ve been impressed with how well it works. My teeth look whiter since I started using it Saturday. I brush with it only once a day.

 

 

Earth-friendly spring cleaning, Canadian style

I am one of those odd people who enjoys doing housework; I am particularly fond of ironing, which I find very soothing. Because I do some housework every day, I don’t find the need to do spring cleaning as such, but for those who do, I thought I would share some Canadian cleaning products that are earth friendly, and whose companies have a long-standing commitment to the environment (i.e., no greenwashing). I make my own cleaning products, but for those who are not inclined towards DIY, and who want to use locally-made products, the list below might be of some use:

Bio-Vert: Bio-Vert environmentally-friendly cleaning products are manufactured by Savons Prolav Inc., a family owned and operated company based in Laval, Québec.  They use only recycled plastic containers, and sell refills. An interesting fact is their use of square-shaped containers, which allows them to fit more of them on shipping pallets, and thus reduce transport costs.

Nature Clean: Their website is being overhauled right now, so I can’t determine where these products are made, but if memory serves, they are based in Ontario. Their products are all scent-free, which I very much appreciate.

Gentle Earth: This company is based in Victoria, BC.  They sell products at both the retail and wholesale levels.

Eco-max: These products are made in Oakville, Ontario. The company uses Bullfrog Power to make its products, which are EcoLogo certified.

Attitude: These products are made in Montreal.  The company uses renewable energy sources, is EcoLogo certified, and makes only vegan products.

Sapadilla: These products are made in Port Coquitlam, BC.  Their products do contain fragrance, but it’s derived only from essential oils, and are phthalate-free.

Effeclean: These products are made in Toronto.  The products are all plant-based, and the company does a very good job of explaining all the ingredients that it does not use.

Down East:  The products are made in Dartmouth, NS. Their cleaning products were the first in Canada to be EcoLogo certified.