As a sewist, I have a lot of opinions on conservation efforts and Earth Day in general. In no way have I achieved zero waste, but as I hand-make garments (I don’t make them all, though), I can’t help but think about the effect consumerism has on the environment.
Since NJ is pretty famous for rush hour (when did we decide it was ok to commute an hour each way to work??), we’re confronted with pollution daily, as well. While I know there’s a valid argument that America doesn’t produce the most pollution or even the most trash… everyone doing a little bit will make a difference.
Probably the only benefit of this virus will be the drop in emissions from driving and manufacturing. Now that everyone knows how to work from home, let’s make this reduction in car emissions a permanent thing.
I wish I could say I was better at this… but I do try, and imperfect effort makes a difference. A few things I’ve done over the past year to limit my impact on the environment:
There’s a reason why they say REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: Many people skip the reduce and reusing, and just try to recycle everything…. we need to reduce what we buy overall before we’ll see a difference. I can’t say this enough: there’s a reason why REDUCE is first on the list.
My first journey into reducing was my year of no shopping (more on that here), and I do my best throughout the year to only buy things I need. When I make a purchase, I really think about it to make sure I need it/ it brings joy. I can’t tell you how much I used to love shopping, and now I’m no fun because I overthink things.
Before going into a store, make sure you have a plan.
Obviously, I know a lot of people live this way for financial reasons or because of their natural personality towards frugality. Let’s just admit that’s not most people in NJ… most of us work a ton, make a really great income, and feel like we get to reward ourselves with shopping (even if it’s a super sale). Over the past few years, I’ve been rewarding myself with puppy snuggles, long runs, reading, and sewing. While some of these do result in purchases, making a plan is key.
When you do need to shop… try facebook marketplace or craigslist before anything else. I find almost everything I need for my house second hand… and cheaper. I bought a barely-used couch off craigslist. Do you realize how much packaging is involved with shipping a couch??? Saved all of that by buying on craigslist. I also buy most of my furniture from local antique shops (specifically Made in the Shade in Andover).
I’ve always felt strongly about buying used cars first, and now American-made if you buy new. The emissions in shipping cars from Asia to America are terrible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they negate the lower fuel emissions produced when driving the car.
But do your research: a lot of Asian brands make their cars in America, so you can probably still get the car you want… in fact, some Hondas are the most made-in-america cars. I went down a rabbit hole on this topic one day, and you can’t bring me back ha.
Most of my athletic clothing I buy from Plato’s Closet or Poshmark… I haven’t needed to buy too many other clothes in a while. Although, I will buy a tshirt from Target occasionally when I feel like I’m running out of clothes. Working on this part!
Recycling around the world is a mess, so I started composting and reusing anything I can. I have no real solution for this. Apparently, Americans are aspirational recyclers and put the wrong things in single stream… so it ruins the whole batch. Please learn what your town allows and follow it closely.
And just save your glass jars…. you can use them for anything.
What’s Right For You
All of us have our own causes we want to support. While I try my best to research brands with ethical manufacturing processes and safe working environments, sometime my top priority is just supporting a local small business or a women-owned business. However, I just try not to shop at all.
Of course, now I feel like confessing that I bought Old Navy joggers and a swing dress this week. But I’m pregnant and my clothes are starting not to fit, and I don’t want to buy expensive clothes in this weird in-between size that’s not-quite-maternity-might-be-extra-quarantine-cookies… And all the stores are closed. SO there was a sale, and I bought joggers at Old Navy.
My PERSONAL principles that may not work for you:
- buy only what you need
- buy second-hand as often as possible
- find other ways to reward yourself that don’t involve shopping
- shop small and local (sometimes I will include a franchise if it’s truly owner-operated)
- daily gratitude
- don’t judge other people’s journeys
On a weird note, people are always surprised I don’t shop at WalMart. I forget what I said once about not shopping there, and the person responded “well it’s impossible to avoid!” and my husband was like, “oh no, she really never goes there. She’s pretty serious about it.”
But let’s be real — just from an experience perspective, why go to WalMart when you can go to Target?? I don’t want to spend my few hours of free time at WalMart… and I believe Target does a lot more for small brands overall, and some of their manufacturing leans more ethical… I don’t know. Target just wins every time. Is WalMart really cheaper than Target?? I can’t tell you because I literally haven’t been there in years.
Anyway — I don’t have a completely dire perspective on the earth. God’s in control, and it will end when He wants it to. But at the same time, God created all things good, so let’s do our best to preserve some of that goodness. Wake up every day no matter the weather and say — Thank you, God, for making this little planet for our good and Your glory. How can I best tend to Your garden and display Your glory in my own backyard?