Today’s post comes from the ever engaging Leah from Stylewise Blog, a resource on all things  ethical, sustainable, eco-conscious, and fair trade. As well as practical resource, Stylewise also has a strong focus on grace, justice and collaboration, which I particularly love.

Below are Leah’s words…

Ethical blogs and marketing can make it seem like the first step to buying better is, well, buying.

But I say that’s thinking in the wrong direction. I was commissioned by the college ministry at my church to talk about “ethical fashion” this month and I might have confused them a little in last week’s lesson, because I didn’t talk about consumption at all.

Instead, I talked about the false narrative of scarcity in our capitalist, individualistic culture.

Scarcity claims that:

  • there’s not enough to go around
  • we must circle the wagons, putting our self-interest ahead of the needs of others
  • we are inadequate, and the solution is to hoard goods and buy more

I also shared the counter-narrative of abundance.

Abundance claims that:

  • there is plenty to go around
  • we are valuable and valued
  • our lives need not be driven by a fear-based need for more

I believe we must internalize this life-giving narrative before we can begin to consider our consumption. After all, if we don’t know what drives us to consume in the first place, we are still being controlled by outside forces. And that means we are still susceptible to the toxic pull of over-consumption, keeping up with the Joneses (or FOMO), and stress shopping.

That being said, thinking through the ideologies that under-gird our behavior only go so far in helping us make practical, everyday habit changes.

These are my top 5, very simple suggestions for consuming more sustainably…

1. Buy less.

Were you going to go shopping this weekend? Here’s an idea: don’t.

Go apple picking. See a movie. Go bowling. Do anything at all besides shopping for new goods and see how you feel. In my experience, a lot of shopping is done out of boredom, or to fulfill social needs. If you can find a way to cure the boredom and see your friends without going to Target or the mall or online, do that instead.

2. Ditch the straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids.

It is estimated that Americans use as many as 500 million straws per day, and they’re typically not recycled. Straws are not biodegradable. They break down into ever smaller pieces, making their way into oceans where they wreak havoc on wildlife.

If you can resist some of the most common single use plastics, like straws, plastic wrap, and coffee lids, you can make a big impact. When you’re out and about, simply say, “I don’t need a straw/lid” to your server. When you’re at home, consider putting leftovers and cut fruit and vegetables in reusable containers. I keep one reusable container in my fridge at all times, and fill it with onions, peppers, and whatever else needs to be sealed.

3. Upcycle, swap, or buy secondhand.

One of my readers just told me that the thrift shop she frequents gets 10,000 donated items in every single day! Americans discard or donate 14 million tons of clothing each year, and only 20% of clothing donated is actually sold in charity shops each year due to saleability and overall demand. The crisis is two-fold: we buy too much new stuff and we don’t buy enough used stuff.

The solution starts with step one of this post – buy less – but the problem can also be alleviated by reusing secondhand goods. If your pants are too short, consider cutting them into crops. If you’ve never like the way that dress fit, see if a tailor can fix it for you. Instead of buying a new dress for that wedding, see if you can borrow one from a friend. And, by all means, go thrift shopping.

If you’re looking for specific items, try searching on ebay or poshmark.

Related: Why Everyone Should Support Community Thrift Shops

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