Three years ago, you’d find me in my favourite fast fashion retailers hunting for clothes in the sale section. Now, I haven’t been inside one for over a year, and I haven't purchased anything from them for over two years.
As I sit here to type this piece, I’m reflecting on how much my life has changed since I began documenting my journey in December 2016. I grew up on a flower farm so naturally being in the outdoors and surrounded by nature was ingrained in who I am. As a result the importance of sustainability and caring for the environment is something I was taught from a young age.
I also grew up only wanting to buy things that were on special, which meant I often bought more than I needed or originally intended to purely due to the little yellow reduced sticker.
Looking back, there was a huge disconnect for me about being sustainable and then purchasing a cheap new item of clothing purely because it was on sale. I held the mindset, if Ididn’t like it I could always get rid of it but the thing is, when you get rid of something it has to go somewhere.
Ethical Made Easy and my journey started for me (like most others) with watching The True Cost documentary. What I thought was just another documentary I could watch while aimlessly scrolling social media on the side left me completely speechless.
When I watched The True Cost I was in Cambodia with my boyfriend, spending six weeks travelling through South East Asia. It was my first time outside of New Zealand and Australian waters and I’d spent months prior researching all the things to take, all of the scams we had to watch out for and what you should realistically expect to barter for certain things.
The week before I watched the documentary, I’d been hunting through the local marketslooking for the cheapest price I could find on an embroidered bag that was in almost every second stall. The thought about who made it, where the fabric was grown and what it was dyed with never crossed my mind. All I focused on was how much it cost and making sure that I was getting myself a bargain.
I was initially told it was going to cost me $35USD, and I ended up bartering down to $9. The truth is, $35USD wasn’t actually unreasonable for it, especially as it was something that I can safely say has been used more than 100 times. Yet, I was conditioned to the idea of having to barter to get a cheap price, as opposed to thinking how much I personally needed the money as opposed to the person selling it to me.
While I’m not saying that people can name any price and you should pay it, what I am saying is that for the price I was originally offered - it was a fair deal and one that if I was purchasing back home I would have been elated at the price of. Why did I feel the need to barter so hard?
Fast forward to watching this documentary with my new bag next to me, I couldn’t help but feel that the way I had been conditioned to look at what I purchased needed to change. From then on, I made a conscious decision to act on what I had watched, to not let this documentary be something that I watched once and then decided it was too hard to carry out.
I tried to find a hub that really dived in deep by showcasing brands doing incredible things that were changing with the industry in which they worked. Truth be told they were very limited and I felt most brands didn’t fit with my fashion sense. Instead of giving up and deciding that it is all too hard I created Ethical Made Easy. A place where I would write about the ethical and sustainable fashion brands that were paving the way alongside myjourney to learning how to be that little bit more mindful and conscious of what I consume every day.
What began with caring about the people who made my clothes has transformed into caring about sustainability, being aware about the amount of waste we create, the importance of not using single use plastics, through to natural beauty products and being more aware about the products that we put on our skin.
Looking back, one of the key things I’ve learnt is the power consumers have to influence the world we want to live in. Change via government’s decisions takes a long time. However when large companies start to see a drop in their profits based on consumers changing where they spend their dollar things get changed a lot quicker.
As an individual you have so much power to change the world just by voting with your dollar. Where you spend your money tells businesses that there is demand for their products and therefore their business will grow. When you decide to spend your money with conscious businesses like Yuhme, that mix doing business with doing good for the planet, is when we start to see a change in the world.
I find I am now more mindful of where I spend my money and truth be told I’ve actually found I have more money in my bank account than before. While I may be purchasing items that cost me $100 or more, I know that these items are going to be staples in my wardrobe for many years to come. It means I have less of those $9, $19 or $39 purchases that end up adding up to a lot more, especially when they only last one season at best.
What started as a way for me to make shopping ethical, easy for myself has become a place others go to find ethical and sustainable brands. I’m so humbled (and still bewildered) that it’s reached and resonated with the amount of people it has. However this is only thebeginning. I can’t wait to continue growing and highlighting such beautiful businesses for years to come. At the end of the day, for me, as long as I know that the people who made the clothes are paid a fair and living wage, AND have healthcare and employment benefits that we do and that we expect of our employers then that’s the most important part. Everything else is a bonus, but a brilliant one at that.
I hope that my journey can help inspire people on their own. However I think it’s incredibly important to remember that we aren’t all perfect. While I may have a staunch policy now on only purchasing clothing that I know where it came from, I still make mistakes when it comes to using plastic bags every now and then, or accidentally forgetting to ask for no straw in my drink. It happens. So instead of beating yourself up, step back realise that you are human, and congratulate yourself for all the steps that you have made.
Overall, just do the best you can with the resources you have available. I saw a quote the other day that said
“what difference will one plastic bag make? - said 7 billion people’
and I think that perfectly sums up how much power you have as an individual to change the world.