While looking for things to do in Chicago, inevitably one suggestion comes up. Even though “The Bean” and Chicago Deep Dish Pizza are popular ideas, what actually comes to mind is the endless amounts of suggestions for shopping. It seems every website has a category for shopping and where you can get a designer label. Since my recent shopping and fashion habits are now influenced by ethical and sustainable principles, does this mean I should reject all tourist shopping and luxury fashion? Is there a way to balance my efforts to live sustainably with a few small pleasures or should I look past shopping destinations like Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier? Making my way through the crowds of people below the skyscrapers and towering buildings of glossy windows on Michigan Avenue with multiple shopping bags and families looking through tourist gear at Navy Pier, I wonder how terrible would it be to pick up a small souvenir? After all, I’m making a career change on an unpaid internship, which makes affording more expensive purchases from sustainable fashion shops I’ve visited a little more difficult. Would it hurt to pick up a little trinket if it interests me?
When it comes to my involvement in sustainable and ethical fashion, I’ve often wondered if there is a way to find some balance. In a recent post from Wild Tussah, “Q & A-5 Tips for a Sustainable Lifestyle,” a statement from Carlotta Cataldi, the founder of Slow Fashion Forward gave me an important reminder about supporting sustainable fashion: “Live with balance: do not sacrifice absolutely everything in the name of sustainability to avoid burn-out. Find the perfect equilibrium in your life between responsibility and non-systematic guilty pleasures.” It sounds simple, but in my mind I wondered, “Is this possible?” Here’s a few thing to keep in mind when it comes to sustainable living and fashion.
- Sustainable fashion should not be about guilt. You should not feel obligated to purchase because you feel bad about past or current decisions. Shop with sustainability in mind because less stuff means less clutter and feeling overwhelmed. Shop for eco-friendly products because they benefit you and the environment.
- Buying tons of organic or recycled clothing isn’t the only answer. Remembering to shop second-hand or exchanging clothes with friends and family to give clothes another life is just as important as buying new. Buying a whole new wardrobe of ethical and sustainable fashion isn’t the answer either since over-consumption of any kind means creating more waste and clothing shoved in the back of a closet. Wearing what you have and helping it last is key to living sustainably, so don’t think you have to throw out your entire wardrobe.
- Using current collections from fashion companies to trigger inspiration isn’t a bad thing. From here you can shop for the sustainable and ethical option or make it yourself. Knowing I’ve taken the time to find an option that is better for the environment and/or empowers artisans around the world makes me have a stronger relationship with the clothes I’m wearing.
- If you purchase from a company that mass-produces, make it a purchase that has longevity. Cost Per Wear and purchasing items that have meaning will make you realize just how important is to find an option that will last. I keep this in mind when I’m traveling and finding a “You Are Here” Starbucks mug for my sister. I take a careful look at the design and determine if it’s one that’s appealing and worth keeping. Knowing my sister’s taste goes a long way since I know she won’t give the mug away a few months later.
Although I did not purchase a souvenir that day, it wasn’t out of guilt. It was just that I didn’t need or want one. Looking at the countless stores packed with Chicago t-shirts and stores lined along the Michigan Avenue sidewalks, a Cartier store caught my eye. I was taken back to my visit at the Denver Art Museum that showcased the artistry and craftsmanship behind Cartier’s pieces and I began to think more on companies that value workers and the environment. Eileen Fisher currently states they’ll be a 100% sustainable brand in the next several years. Maybe I’m naïve to think that these businesses will change current practices in fashion, but one day I believe I’ll see Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier with stores that support sustainable and ethical practices. One day I believe we won’t have to sacrifice or balance anything, sustainability and ethics will be a part of our everyday fashion choices.
What do you think about balancing a sustainable lifestyle with occasional guilty pleasures? What helps you balance guilty pleasures with sustainability?