In the past month since being quarantined at home, I have felt such an array of emotions. One of them has been a giant sigh of relief for our E A R T H. I have seen graphs of the ozone being cleaned up in just days from factories shutting down, airplanes flying less, people driving less. I have seen images of the air pollution in cities like Los Angeles at levels that have not been seen in years and decades. I myself have noticed how much less I have been driving, I have yet to need to fill my car with gas, we have spent more time in our garden, supporting local stores. I am not saying that it is great that this has come at the cost of lives being lost, serious sickness and loss of so many businesses, jobs and so on. I am saying that there is something happening for me as a business owner in an industry so entangled with the environment.
It is strange to be an environmentalist who also owns a clothing store. On the one hand, we partake in an industry that is one of the most polluting industries out there: contributing to factory emissions, large amounts of industrial waste, overconsumption, toxic fabrics and the list goes on. I often find myself feeling a sense of powerlessness. And yet, on the other hand, I have complete buying control. I get to choose which designs to bring in, which fabrics to focus on, which companies to support and so on.
The trend towards vintage, repurposing, clothes sharing and other sustainable practices makes sense. We simply have too much. We tend to overconsume - I know I can easily get into that habit - not only in clothes, but news as well as even simple things like food, fun, working out and pretty much every part of life which ironically leaves me and most of us feeling depleted. More is not better.
Really what I have always known and what I keep learning is that our greatest power is the power of our purchases. Since this pandemic, we have regrouped, circled together as a store and talked about what we stand by and what we want to support. Over and over again, we return to supporting small designers, who are aware and conscious of their footprint without sacrificing style and design. We are aware of how companies ship their products, what packaging material they use, how they present their clothing, the actual fabric, the attention and craft of the sewing. All of these things go into how we buy our products and will even more greatly do so.
For years I have stopped shopping on Amazon for so many reasons - mostly because I found myself upset when boxes would pile outside my home knowing I could buy the same product from a local store down the street. It slowed me down, it taught me and my kids to not have immediate gratification, but to look locally first and then if needed to buy online from another small store. It has also taught me to not return items - I know this is a hard one, but the back and forth flying of airplanes delivering non-essential items feels wasteful to me and an easy one to let go of. At the store we use non toxic, recyclable plastic mailers. They cost us more but we think it’s a better solution. It’s part of why we’ve stopped accepting returns for online orders and instead have offered a discount.
It is not to say there are not big companies doing great things - look at Patagonia, or All Birds - these are big companies who spread environmentalism, who are changing the fashion industry and setting new standards.
And so like many businesses we oscillate between feeling this push and pull between the powerfulness and the powerlessness of what we do. We find strength in aligning to our values and we also find humility when things don’t work out as we thought. It’s the ebb and flow of business.
I am curious how you oscillate between the power and powerless, how you navigate being earth conscious and also part of our online and well our general society. It’s a big conversation - one that brings up my own subjective feelings and judgements.
To all who keep this conversation going, I am grateful to you. And to the E A R T H who keeps us going, I am grateful to you.
Happy Earth Day,