Altruism, Environment, Fashion

What is the cost of what you’re wearing?

The fashion industry seems like one of the most sophisticated industries in the world but honestly it belongs in the gutter. You’re probably thinking how can I say this with the clothes that are piling up in the corner of my bedroom but I never claimed I wasn’t a hypocrite!

Anyway that’s besides the point of me writing this.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of these “drip” pages (personally I think they’re ruining twitter) and also there’s this podcast I like called reasons to be cheerful where there was an episode on fast fashion that actually got me thinking about fashion outside of a creative context. I did some reading around it and a part of me wishes I didn’t but I think it’s worth sharing despite the fact that (spoiler alert) everything is hopeless and it seems like the world is going to hell.

Basically there’s two ways to look at the impacts: the social and the environmental. I think that the two do overlap in some ways but I won’t get into that.

The social side is essentially that fashion is great because it allows us to shape our identities, how we dress can serve as an indicator of who we are and is often a defining part of almost all cultures. Our styles evolve with our age and in a lot of ways its a vehicle for us to improve our self-esteem. But on the other hand it’s extremely exploitative on a lot of different levels. There is the issue of larger and more powerful brands stealing the works of smaller brands, the child labour, unsafe working conditions often endured by the people who make our clothes , unfair pay, animal cruelty and a whole lot of more nuanced issues. These social costs are often the ones that appear to be addressed the most in the media especially after the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013. What’s even more tragic is that about 1/6 people in the world work in the fashion industry and 75% of garment workers globally are female so these issues are incredibly widespread.

Some people say things like how we kind of have to consume fashion because otherwise people in third world countries might not have jobs, but if you have managed to convince yourself that you’re doing a favour to anyone but yourself when you buy a cheap T-Shirt I have news for you…You’re delusional. What’s the solution I propose then? Well I’m not entirely sure, I barely know enough about the problem to even begin to understand the solution I’m just putting what I do know out there.

The environmental side is a little different because I don’t think there are any actual benefits of fashion to the environment (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The fashion industry is unbelievably harmful to the environment. Some issues are honestly so random, like when you wash clothes that are made from polyester the micro-plastics from it inevitably enter the water which is consumed by fish that are then fished for human consumption. Then there’s the fact that it takes 2700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt and that fashion is the second largest polluter of water. This is so NUTS because only like 2.5% of water on Earth is fresh water and only 1% is accessible because the rest of it is frozen so we really don’t have water to waste at all. Not only that but the pollutants can cause the water to become carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Additionally, fashion accounts for 10% of the global carbon footprint and it produces billions of pounds of fabric waste annually which will continue to grow. From 2000 to 2014 the clothing we own has increased by 60% and we kept each item of clothing for around half as long as usual. About 150 billion garments are produced yearly; so as much as recycling is a great idea the rate that clothes are produced heavily outweighs the rate at which it is re-used or re-manufactured. Even if you just think about it aside from all the data, it’s kind of crazy how every few weeks when you enter a clothing store it looks slightly different. We call it trendy, how fashion is always changing but is this cost worth it? Absolutely not mate. Things go in and out of fashion so quickly we almost forget things exist, like look at ZX Fluxes, they went out of fashion as quick as they came in. I can’t even imagine how many of them are in landfill or collecting dust somewhere in someones shoe cupboard because it’s social suicide to wear them.

We’re literally wearing our planets demise. Maybe this is slightly dramatic but then is it really? The data says otherwise.

As consumers who live in a consumption culture whose fault is it? CAPITALISM!!!

I’m kidding, sort of.

But I think with issues like this everything is so complicated, we all play a role, some larger than others and since this isn’t an open letter to the industry or government I want to talk about what we can do. It sounds flowery but we should be more mindful. Before you buy anything you should really think about how much use you’re actually going to get out of it, is it disposable? If it only going to be good for one picture? Can you even genuinely afford it? Maybe you don’t want to think about this because you don’t want everything in your life to be that deep but the reality is that it is that deep. I’m not saying you should never buy another garment again because that’s unrealistic but I don’t think anyone should act like it’s impossible to cut down how much they consume.

It can be hard because a lot of the time you’ll kind of forget the point or feel like you’re not making a difference at all, but everyone thinking like this is dangerous and we can’t convince ourselves that we don’t care just because we assume everyone else won’t. And that goes for anything that matters.

Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want – Anna Lappe

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
Easy to read facts on the fashion industry:
https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/07/apparel-industrys-environmental-impact-6-graphics
Interesting paper about our responses to fast fashion alongside general attitudes to sustainability. (If you can’t access the paper just let me know and I’ll send you the PDF)
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.2752/175174112X13340749707123?needAccess=true&instName=UCL+%28University+College+London%29
Short video on the social and environmental costs of the fashion industry:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq0–DfC2Xk
Rana Plaza Accident in Bangladesh:
https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang–en/index.htm
Cost of Cheap Fashion TED Talk:
https://youtu.be/5r8V4QWwxf0
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Altruism, Social Media, Vegan

6 Reasons why you’ve tried & failed to go VEGAN.

I really hate to be that vegan girl (not really lmao) that writes about going vegan or whatever but it seems like veganism is really popular these days and worth writing about. Everywhere you go there is at least one vegan option and honestly over time, that one option doesn’t totally taste like shit. I’ve even noticed that less people are making grass jokes which is always nice.

Now if I had a pound for every time someone told me that they respect veganism but they could never do it (when I didn’t ask) then I would have enough money to do something expensive. I’ve had so many friends try and fail. They probably watched what the health or earthlings or something and then went vegan for like a solid week and then ate meat “by accident” and gave up. That’s no shade if you fall into that category, but if you want to try again this is for you.

 

1: YOU MADE VEGANISM A STREAK

I think what happens to a lot of people is they might start off super strong and they have a great plan of how they’re going vegan and then all of a sudden they just give into a craving and veganism is totally out of the window. I think that in some ways this is probably the fault of the vegan community making people feel like their efforts are meaningless. But I’m here to tell you that if you accidentally consume, or even on purpose in a moment of weakness, eat meat or dairy you aren’t “less vegan”. Honestly, there are so many times that I have accidentally consumed dairy and my digestive system has paid the PRICE. If every time I consumed dairy I gave up on veganism entirely I probably would not have managed to make myself lactose intolerant (that was a joke, I have no idea if that’s even scientifically possible).

All I’m saying is, don’t be so hard on yourself. Because I know when it comes to things like going to the gym or revising you lot aren’t beating yourselves up about not being consistent so why isn’t your attitude to your diet the same? If you accidentally consume meat or dairy understand that you are just an incompetent person. Kidding. Just take it easy and manage the expectations you have of yourself. Whether that means meatless Mondays or going vegan cold turkey.

 

2: GOING VEGAN IS ON TREND

We’re living in a morally surveillant era, where the lifestyle choices you make send signals to society about what kind of person you are. Most peoples initial idea of a vegan is a white left-wing activist who has blonde dreads and only uses paper straws. Personally, I don’t know anyone who fits into this but my point is that how we interpret labels like “vegan” can affect our views on the lifestyle. There a ton of vegan YouTubers who are no longer vegan and lots of YouTubers doing 30-day vegan challenges. Vegan is a word popping up literally everywhere and its presence in the media can really make it feel like a trend or a phase rather than the lifestyle that it is.

If it’s something you want to try for fun, by all means, go ahead but I think it’s important to understand that it’s not a fleeting trend that shouldn’t be taken seriously. A lot of people might fail at it just because they don’t care enough. You see the word vegan everywhere but it’s not often that you see the actual cruelty against animals that motivates this lifestyle. You’re never going to truly want to stay vegan if you just do not care about animals. This isn’t me saying that you have to care, but just know if you don’t it won’t last.

 

3: YOU WENT VEGAN AND YOU STILL HAVE ACNE

There is an extremely common misconception that going vegan will cure all of your health problems and after only eating plants you’re going to wake up extremely energetic and live till 100. This just isn’t true. The thing about veganism is that everyone thinks it’s extremely healthy. On a vegan diet it’s just harder to be unhealthy, but trust me when you get used to it and discover your fav snacks are vegan the health thing is going out of the window. The health thing went out of the window for me when I deeped some indomie was vegan and I ate it for a week straight (this is no cap).

If your skin clears up that’s great, me personally, can’t relate. But if you go vegan manage your expectations of how much your life will change. The reality is that you won’t be perfectly healthy always eating fresh fruit and veg especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like vegetables.

Then what’s the point of going vegan? Well, it’s best for the animals, best for the environment and if you do it well your health will improve.

 

4: THE ONLY VEGAN FOOD YOU (think you) KNOW IS SALAD

All I can say to this is know yourself man. If you weren’t eating salad before you went vegan then what on earth is going to motivate you to eat it now? I had my first reality check when I spent like £9 on a salad from tossed (don’t get me wrong it was good) but I realised that this isn’t going to be my story and this isn’t who I am. None of my friends let me forget how much I spent on that falafel salad and honestly I don’t blame them.

Salad is a collection of vegetables that are just water in the form of different textures. If you like salads then I’m happy for you but if you don’t like salad just know I understand. There are a billion different vegan foods you can buy and cook at home if you just look for them, you don’t even have to look that hard. If you watch one or two vegan recipe videos on youtube in a few minutes your recommended will be flooded with vegan content, in fact it will be hard for you to avoid. You can take your favourite foods and then just make them vegan. Well, what if your favourite food is steak? Have a watermelon steak. Jk, I don’t know what to really say to that other than to take the opportunity to maybe find a new favourite food?

 

5: YOU WENT COMPLETELY COLD TURKEY

As admirable as this is, I’m not sure how sustainable it is. I was vegetarian for about two years before I made the switch to vegan and I think that’s a big contributor as to why I’m able to keep it up. It wasn’t an extreme switch for me.

If you slowly transition from cutting down meat and dairy from meals, to then entire days, then entire weeks etc. you’re more likely to stick to it because as you go you’re leaving the cravings you used to have behind. The good thing about doing it this way is that if along the way you realise you don’t want to go completely vegan you can just stop there. You don’t have to choose between being carnivorous and plant-based. Obviously, it would be nice to be more plant-based than anything, but know yourself and understand that if you can make a change in some areas then you should. That might be as little as ordering the vegan option when you’re eating out or picking out vegan snacks when you want a quick bite to eat.

It’s also important to change your perspective on veganism as being extreme. When really what is extreme is eating processed meat and dairy in every single meal. Even organic or free-range options are unlikely to be trusted, are usually expensive and inaccessible.

“The consumption of processed meat was associated with small increases in the risk of cancer in the studies reviewed. In those studies, the risk generally increased with the amount of meat consumed. An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.” this seems prrrrreeettty extreme to me and this is coming from the World Health Organisation. If you don’t want to believe it that’s fine but if you just do your research you’ll be able to see for yourself the effects it can have.

 

6: I JUST SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY GOING VEGAN

Nobody told you to go shopping at wholefoods or start only eating at vegan restaurants. Veganism is extremely affordable if you understand that products specifically marketed to the vegan community are going to be more expensive. If your weekly shop includes meat and dairy and all of a sudden you cut that out and spend it on alternatives the overall cost is still a lot less.

 

In light of all the above, just do your research and make sure it’s catered to you. If you grew up eating biryani don’t go looking up vegan lettuce wrap recipes, try to stick close to what you know. And just keep trying!! You have nothing to lose.

 

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Academia, Altruism

Why wait?

Most of us are our biggest critics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless we are also aware of our strengths. A lot of the time we’re more qualified than we think, we know more than we think we do and we have more influence than we’re aware of. We can often forget that we are capable of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for, and this includes the extent to which we can help others.

When I’m talking about helping others I’m not talking about conventional charity, not that this doesn’t matter, but I’m talking about doing things that directly make use of the skills we have acquired. Helping out at a food bank, feeding the homeless and bucket shaking are all things I’m sure we’d agree are extremely charitable but it doesn’t appear like us young people, including myself, are doing much of that (unless we’re forced to or you’d like to put it on your cv of course). If you’re an academic, why not teach? If you’re sporty, why not coach? You might be a musician, a creative, a programmer, a gamer etc. Whatever you are, whatever you do, where you are is where someone else wants to be. This might not seem like the case, which is understandable. Most of us are young, where we are now isn’t the end goal but that doesn’t mean we can’t share with others the things we learn along the way. Especially those of us that live in communities where our younger peers don’t have older role models, there is a space there we need to take up.

We shouldn’t just wait before we arrive at a stage in our lives where we feel like we’ve made it to then decide “I fancy giving back to my community now”. Especially after you’ve left your community, assuming that you’ve spent years working hard to become more socially mobile it’s easy to get tunnel vision and become out of touch with the lifestyle you once lived. That’s not to say that you can’t work your way up first and then ‘give back’ but you have the means to help now, so why not help now? Knowledge is currency.

What do I mean by helping others? I look at it this way: when I was slightly younger I had a few short term goals and achieving what I did was a lot easier than it could have been. But the only reason this was the case is because I had guidance. I was privileged enough to have a support system that was made up of people of different ages; but those that really had an impact on me the most were those who were close to me in age. Listening to your elders is something we should all do, within reason. But taking the advice of those who have just experienced something that you potentially might, is invaluable. You’re more likely to take the advice of someone who understands the environment and stage of life you’re in currently.

Sharing and teaching others what you have learned or mentoring someone younger than you doesn’t just benefit them. Where there is teaching there is learning. You might not necessarily gain any more insight into your area of expertise but you will learn a lot about yourself and how to communicate effectively and considerately. But don’t feel obliged, because when someone looks up to you to some extent they can become your responsibility and this is a big deal. That being said, someone looking up to you helps in keeping you accountable for your actions. I just think this is something we should all consider.

Be transparent, show people your process, learn from others, pool your resources, take someone under your wing. How do you make your mixtapes? How do you edit your videos? How do you revise? What does it feel like to achieve what you did? When did you fail? There are so many questions that you have the answer to, that could give someone else the insight they needed to live better. It’s also worth noting that we should also allow ourselves to be taught, to be led and to be corrected.

I HIGHLY recommend you watch these:

Peter Singer talking about effective altruism. (This is more about money)

What is altruism?

Shawn Blanchard on mentorship.

‘How can you climb the social ladder and then take the ladder with you?’ – A.Aboker

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