Is Sustainable Fashion a Myth?
Everything we do has impact.
That’s how it works here on Planet Earth (which really should be called Planet Ocean, don’t you think?).
But is it always a negative impact?
Having been entrenched in the Environmental & Sustainability movement since, well, childhood, I used to believe that pretty much everything that humans created had to have some kind of negative impact and sustainability meant that we would try to minimize our impact as much as possible.
But there is a problem with my earlier perspective that I didn’t see.
You see, I didn’t take into consideration that EVERYTHING on this planet - every living thing and otherwise - has impact.
Perhaps humans aren't the parasitic perpetuation of self destruction I initially believed us to be!
The truth is, we are a PART of this wild Earth as much as it is a part of us - it is no surprise to me that our cerebral spinal fluid (our essence of human life) has an almost identical composition to the ocean.
We have separated ourselves from this truth that we are a part of the natural world - and not just outside of the environmentally conscious community. In fact, the “sustainability” community can actually perpetuate this underlying belief that human impact is “BAD” impact.
Because we only do things that are harmful right?
That’s why sustainability has mostly been based around harm reduction.
But what if we were to challenge that paradigm?
What if the things we create, whether it be technology, or whatever else, can be mutually beneficial to ourselves and our environment?
It turns out, we humans already know how to do this and have been doing it for generations - from the indiginous tribes setting fire to the landscape to clear the land for their own cultivation, mutually providing more abundant grazing opportunities for deer and other animals, to many other examples.
And no, we don’t all have to go “back to the land” and live tribally - to live in relationship to our environment is to live in conscious relationship with how our choices make impact. It’s that simple.
Take surfing for example.
We have so so so many choices - from the attitude and energy we bring when we paddle out into the lineup, to how we choose to invest in our equipment.
There is no “right” or “wrong” choice - but what you do chose IS a choice AND always has impact.
Then there is the bigger picture.
For me personally, I chose to invest my time, energy, and resources into people, companies, and products that take the bigger picture into perspective.
For example, with my outdoor gear and especially my surf equipment, I chose to invest in quality and overall value, rather than just looking for the cheapest option.
I’ve chosen to support small women owned & operated companies that support & empower other women and yes, while I’ve paid more for a surf suit for example, that suit has outlasted many other swimsuits, having fully been put to the test.
So sustainability in this case is so much more than an amazing, functional, and durable product, but it’s also the quality of life for the people that run the company - it’s about their health & wellness, care & connection. It’s about bringing us in connection to the inherent abundance of the planet we are very much a part of.
And it’s about how those tendrils of new branches of community is what we actually give back!
To our community, and to the planet.
Our ideas of sustainability as simply harm reduction are not just a myth, but are also limiting.
We DO have impact - and we have the potential to shapeshift what that means and looks like.
I think it could look like magic.
By Jenn Plotnikoff
About the author:
Jenn is an ocean loving, self proclaimed hippy, surf loving, bruja.
Her passion for saving the planet started at birth and grew as she studied & taught environmental education & sustainability, and worked as a Wilderness Park Ranger for 10 years.
These days you can find her rigorously testing out her Hakuna Wear suits in the tropical waters of her home breaks on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.