getting started on sustainability

Companies are doing it, governments are doing it, but you as a private consumer are the most important factor in creating a sustainable world! This is something that is brought up often in my seminars, especially in my recent ones on global environmental governance. As much as states and governments should be laying the groundwork for sustainable infrastructure and the large-scale changes needed at the global level, at the end of the day what truly needs to happen is people deciding that the future of our planet is important enough to change the way we act.

Obviously, a super easy task, let’s just all get started with that right away.

But in all seriousness, changing habits can be difficult especially when some of them are so ingrained. I’ve created a quick guide for you to get started on sustainability, including who to follow (and learn from), what to buy (as an informed consumer), and what to change (about your habits). This guide is mainly written from the perspective of a student/young adult so it’s not all-inclusive. I’d love to hear more about how you engage in a sustainable lifestyle!

who to follow

sustainable people to follow

There are obviously many people out there who have a great handle on living sustainably but I wanted to highlight the 4 that I follow and admire the most!

@inspiroue – Cynthia is a sustainable fashion icon and has a really great video about why you should consider moving away from fast fashion.

@vandadobritoiuu – Vanda is an endless source of inspiration especially if you want to tackle other areas of your life other than fashion. Do you think about your toilet paper and the plastic that it’s wrapped in? She does!

@leevosburgh – Lee is local (Guelph!) and also the creator of the 10×10 Style Challenge where people are given constraints around how many items they can build 10 days of outfits with. It’s a really neat exercise to do to start contemplating how much you really need.

@msbeltempo – Alyssa is also a great blogger to turn to if you’re looking to get more inspiration in slow fashion.

brands to admire

I also want to start this section off by acknowledging something that is often overlooking whenever there are articles about being ethical and sustainable. Understanding that being sustainable isn’t just about the materials but also includes labour conditions and fair wages, these brands may be cost-prohibitive especially if you are a student or just don’t have that much disposable income. You can still be mindful of the way you shop without having to break the bank. It’s important that we recognize the cheap allure of fast fashion and mass-construction is exactly a symptom and a stressor of the issue and that often people just can’t afford something that isn’t that.

sustainable 1

1 – Everlane – they talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to ethical fashion and transparency. Their business model involves investing in their factories to improve the quality of life for their workers, and illustrating what exactly goes into the prices of their products.

2 – Eileen Fisher – along the same lines, EF is all about sustainable materials and ethical supply chains.

3 – Encircled – sustainable clothing that is also made in Canada so you can look cute and ensure that your money supports homegrown talent. I mean, just look at this kimono/dress piece!

4 – New Classics – this Canadian company recognizes all the problems that fast fashion brings and actively acts as a platform for change while supporting other sustainable brands.

sustainable 2

5 – Allbirds – ridiculously comfy and cute sneakers that are also made from sustainable materials and also machine washable! (Yes, there’s a theme.)

6 – Rothy’s – here’s my pitch: super cute flats that are comfy and machine washable and also made from plastic bottles!

7 – Berg + Betts – are you forever inundated by ads on your Instagram for cute and minimal watches? If you’re looking for larger watches I recommend you take a look at this company because they are Canadian (!!) and also use leather scraps from other products for their straps so they don’t waste any materials.

(I am also in no way the expert on eco-friendly fashion so I direct you to Lee Vosburg’s very comprehensive list of additional retailers who you can look into.)

Abeille Wraps – this is great as an alternative to plastic wrap.

Eco Courier – looking for a delivery or courier service in Kitchener Waterloo? Look no further, Eco Courier offers all those things and with the use of bikes/electric vehicles!

Mama Earth Organics – if you want excellent local produce delivered to your doorstep, this is a great option to explore more foods from the area.

The Eco Hub – this is a great (Canadian!) resource for anything that is eco-friendly and sustainable.

habits to change

I definitely think that this is one of the most difficult changes that we can make – collectively. Working on our habits to become more eco-friendly and sustainable as individuals is totally a doable thing. We just need to get to a point where we have rewired our society to think sustainably.

Here is a list of ways to live a little more green:

sustainable 3

1 – Stop using single-use plastics, this includes cutlery and plastic straws! I have a bunch of travel utensil sets from Orientation Week but you can also get yourself a set online like this one from Amazon. Mine comes with a lid to hold it all together and it’s super easy to throw into my bag. Jill decided she wanted metal straws in her life and honestly they’re super handy. Yes, you can also get your own set from Amazon. Additional perks: no more wine teeth and metal helps keep your drinks even colder as you use them. Sure, it’s a little more effort to keep these things with you but I think you’ll find that it’s worth it.

2 – Start using Tupperware and reusable water bottles! This is a no-brainer. My dream is to be able to invest in some nice glass Tupperware that won’t get tomato-stained with use but until then my plastic sets will do nicely. Reusable water bottles are everywhere and I’m not even convinced that you need to shell out money for one considering how often I see them as swag items being given away at events. If you are looking for a new water bottle, here is a great compilation of eco-friendly ones.

3 – Say no to plastic bags. I have mainly switched over to using reusable bags at the grocery store and it’s a very easy habit to change. I think the biggest hurdle is making sure that you have the bags on you when you decide to pop into the store. I recommend just shoving one into your purse or backpack so you’re never without one. It’s also so much easier to haul groceries when you can carry bags on your shoulders!

4 – Bring your own containers to Bulk Barn. One of the awesome KW people that I follow (mentioned earlier in this post) posted about her low-waste pantry earlier this year and this was one of my favourite tips! You can bring in your glass container, get it weighed, and continue shopping! That’s a super neat thing that they do and I’m ready to shove my next load of blue sharks into an old pasta sauce jar.

5 – Thrift more! There are a bunch of reasons why I think thrifting is fun and beneficial, but chief among those reasons is that it’s more sustainable. The textile industry is very resource-intensive but our consumeristic tendencies result in a lot of turnover in clothing. If you’re new to thrifting and want a how-to guide, I’ve got you covered.

6 – Bikes are nice. While using public transit is much more eco-friendly than driving around everywhere, it’s still not the best. When the weather is nicer, biking is definitely a better option for transportation if that’s something you’re able to do. If you’re on campus and don’t have a bike I recommend looking into the Bike Centre for an affordable rental option.

7 – Recycle your fabrics. Last year we discovered that H&M has a fabric recycling program where you can bring in your old clothes/fabrics and they’ll give you H&M coupons in exchange. If that’s not something that appeals to you then you can also look into the fabric recycling options in your region! Here is the link for Kitchener/Waterloo.

8 – Look into shopping at farmer’s markets more than regular grocery stores. You can often reduce the amount of packaging required at farmer’s markets since they aren’t wrapping everything in plastic and of course you’ll be bringing your own reusable bags right? This also has the added benefit of shopping local which supports the local farms and businesses in your region. If you haven’t been yet, Kitchener Market and St. Jacobs are fan favourites.


Okay, that was long and somehow not even the most comprehensive guide out there, but I hope you found some new inspiration and new ways to start living your life a little greener.

If you have other really great habits that would be good for people to adopt, pop it down in the comments!


SOURCES FOR PICTURES AND ICONS

People to Follow Graphic – 1, 2, 3, 4
Sustainable Fashion Graphic 1 – 1, 2, 3, 4

Sustainable Fashion Graphic 2 – 5, 6, 7
Sustainable Habits Graphic – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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