“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan
A few weeks ago, we hosted a design thinking session for our Green Heart Conversations series to discuss the barriers in adopting a sustainable lifestyle when it comes to our clothing. From all the thoughts shared, there’s one that stood out clearly: “the long term benefits of sustainability”. As we spoke further to our community and our team, we all realised that even though there’s the will to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, many find it harder to understand the personal gain or, rather, benefits.
This led us to what you read as our blog title today - how do we “decode” sustainability and help understand it better. Let’s start with the basics.
What is sustainability?
As defined by Oxford Languages:
- the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
‘the sustainability of economic growth’
- avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
‘the pursuit of global environmental sustainability’
In our world today, it’s a word that we are all becoming more and more familiar with. Sustainability, however, can be confusing, a subject with too many aspects to it which can be overwhelming. You can talk about the concept in relation to almost anything. With how we will tackle it here, how we can define it in its simplest form, is that sustainability means to be able to sustain the life of our planet and the life within our planet.
For us at SUI, sustainability is referred to directly with the meaning of a green heart. For us a green heart is a heart which respects the planet and the people within it, one that operates for the benefit of all life.
Defined in 2003, the World Summit on Social Development identified three core elements “that contribute to the philosophy and social science of sustainable development.” Those are...
Economic Development - This point is the most argued of the three as economic growth and sustainable values have always clashed in ideology. In our day and age, consumer culture is fast-paced, we’re used to having momentary wants and the gratification of getting it instantly. Many businesses know this and capitalise off of it. Sustainable reform calls for an upheaval of our current system and norms that have existed for many, many years. This point calls for a large change in how the foundation of our economies work, to adopt sustainable operations that put our planet and people first.
Social Development - Essentially, this point asks us all to prioritise the health and safety of our people. Operating heavy machinery, being in contact with harmful chemicals like pesticides, all can compromise public health especially if those in direct contact do so without the proper equipment. The point asks that we forego harmful (often normalised) practices that put workers and the general public in danger.
Environmental Protection - And finally, we come to our third point. It’s self explanatory but to expand, how we operate in our daily lives, how companies operate, and so on, all contributes to how we affect our planet. This point especially encourages constant study of our ecosystems in order to be able to create greener, more sustainable practices, practices that lower carbon emissions, plastic pollution, air pollution, and understands mindfulness in how we use our resources.
All in all, what we do always has a consequence, so we need to hold ourselves as well as those around us accountable.
Why it should matter to you
By now, we are all aware of just how important it is to have a conscious mindset, one that is aware of our own choices and knows that it matters though we may think individual action has too small an effect for such a big, global issue. And that’s not true. If what you do is done by thousands, even hundreds, of others, we’re capable of achieving a lot.
In a recent article by NBC News, it examines how our current pandemic may have saved 2020 from becoming the year with the highest carbon emissions. That year still remains to be 2019, unsurprising as, since the start of our industrial age, emissions have risen each year. Our global need to stay home and slow down has been a saving grace thus far in this sense, however, it’s only estimated that emissions will only dip around 4-7% for this year, which is not enough to curb climate change, something we undoubtedly need to make a change to prevent. Just last year the UN had announced we only had 11 years to make considerable changes to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. And what does that mean for us?
- Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted as approx. 2 billion people suffer from hunger. This will only continue if we don’t change our habits and call for better practices.
- Industries like fashion will continue to add to the carbon emissions already present in our atmosphere at unsustainable rates. This means our planet will get warmer and compromise our ecosystems.
- Natural disasters like cyclones, hurricanes, droughts and tsunamis will become more frequent and deadlier.
- Millions of animal species could go extinct in decades with human action such as deforestation and overfishing continuing - we’ve significantly reduced many populations of animals as well as taken away a lot of their homes.
- Deforestation that occurs in agricultural practices has destroyed a third of the planet’s forest cover, which all happened within the past 2 centuries. Trees and plants could help us combat climate change and by continuing to remove them from existence, we’re sealing our fate.
These are just a few overarching concerns that will happen if we don’t all make a change!
How to practice a sustainable lifestyle
Sui was built on the idea of making a positive impact through sustainable acts in whatever we do. As a business, we examine all our actions and consider what that could mean for our communities and environment. For example, we often connect with ethical organisations who also practice slow, sustainable methods of creation to help us make our pieces. We also look at the absolute starting point of how our clothes are made, that being the fibres, where they are made and how they are then formed into fabric. We look locally in order to support our communities as well as cut down on needless carbon emissions that come from transporting goods internationally. Moreover, we opt for processes that don’t use harmful chemicals - like, pesticides and azo dyes - that are hazardous to workers and, ultimately, our customers who wear the final product. These are just a few acts we are dedicated in carrying out.
However, sustainability should not only be practiced by companies but also by you. It can exist in any aspect of your daily life, from your food to transportation and, of course, your consumer habits - basically, what you buy, who you buy it from, and how you make these choices. It may seem like these actions do little to effect change but each choice help us all work towards a greener future. Here are just a few ways you can practice a sustainable lifestyle…
With your food
- Try reducing meat within your diet. What this does is cut down on the enormous amount of carbon emissions these particular organisations create from using energy, land and water resources.
- Don’t let food go to waste. Buy what you need, cook what you need, and if you happen to have some waste, compost and grow green - more plants are always better for our planet!
In your work life
- Carry a reusable water bottle/flask to use all day. Plastic pollution, especially single-use items like water bottles, are incredibly harmful to our environment and often end up in landfills or our oceans, polluting ecosystems. What’s worse? Decomposition of plastic takes approx. 1000 years, doing irreparable harm over a very long time.
- Commute sustainably, use public transport, carpool, or you can even ride a bike if your office is nearby! Transportation is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions so consider alternative ways of getting around.
In fashion (of course)
- Reduce! Create a wardrobe that is full of much loved and essential pieces you know you’ll wear for a lifetime so less clothing ends up in landfills. The average consumer throws away 32kg of clothing per year and, globally, we produce 13 million tons of textile waste.
- On that same note, don’t throw away clothing items, upcycle, resell or swap clothing with others. Reuse can also contribute greatly to less pollution,
- Opt for pre-loved clothing, this can be thrifting or simply getting hand me downs from relatives who no longer fit particular pieces etc. Overproduction in fashion is common and we can avoid encouraging it by switching to a more circular form of shopping.
- Buy better.
We also urge you to look to your peers, spread the green love, and have conversations constantly in order to make changes together. This only works when we all work as a team. Moreover, petition, call out brands you see are working unsustainably and ask governments to change policy because they are a big part in fostering progress. Use your voices and be heard.
Our sustainability experience
It's never too late to start your own sustainability journey. A few green minds share their stories with us here about their own experience:
"I started on my eco warrior journey because I saw the injustice and the damage done to the planet from the products we were using, single use containers and bags to toxic household and beauty items, it drove me to do something and drastically change our lifestyle.
Now I only shop when I have to and support Brands that strive to work towards both systemic justice by empowering local communities to continue their trade and earn a fair income, as well as environmentally justice by researching and executing production practices that protect the planet."
"Sustainability is simply the act of resourcefulness, ensuring that what you do today does not negatively affect the future of humans, animals, and the planet. The best thing you can do for yourself in staying motivated throughout your journey is to know that every small action leads to big change. Challenge yourself, but don't make it a battle. Every action causes a reaction, and sometimes that reaction is simply inspiring another person to be more conscious, which leads to our community expanding."
"My journey into sustainability was one of self realisation. A whole bunch of experiences and learnings helped me realise the person I wanted to be to our planet, and the fact that I wanted to contribute to a better tomorrow. It all began with building a relationship with my clothes, which further expanded into a relationship with nature. I’ve realised that little step to being conscious and taking that extra minute to question your impact - goes a long way."
Where to go from here
What’s so important to all our sustainable journeys is that we all keep learning. Knowledge is power and the more we understand how our actions affect our Earth, the more we learn about the specific changes we need to make in our lives.
Here are some resources, we’ve gathered that you can read/watch/listen to to help you along!
BLOG POSTS… to start, we have always shared as much as we can through our own blog. You can check out a few of our recent posts:
For the Love of Our Oceans - For World Oceans Day earlier in June, we talked more about our effect on the ocean and what particular actions cause the most harm.
A Heart Full of Nature - For World Environment Day that was also earlier in June, we looked at our effect on land too and the current situation of our planet. The overall impact we have and the lessons we need to learn and take action on.
Your Guide to Eco-friendly & Ethical Labels - The fashion industry is responsible for a huge amount of negative climate occurrences from excess waste to poor ethical standards. Here, we help you understand what to look for from clothing brands that ensure you’re making a sustainable, conscious choice.
Conscious Chatter - This podcast is committed to discussing sustainable fashion, style, and the global garment supply chain, hosted by Kestrel Jenkins.
The Slow Home Podcast - Brooke McAlary describes herself as “a slow-traveling, gutsy shiraz-appreciating writer who currently lives in the Blue Mountains, outside Sydney, Australia.” Here, she talks more about her lifestyle and the benefit of conscious living.
Green Dreamer - Interviews many visionaries within the ethical and sustainable living space in order to inspire and share knowledge of their own experiences.
Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things - Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are The Minimalists, American authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers, who promote a minimalist lifestyle. In this documentary, you can learn how they obtain a minimalist lifestyle and find that less is more.
Rotten - This docu series tackles a number of issues from climate to social and cultural effects. It delves into various specific food industries and tells you more about where your food comes from and how it benefits a corrupt system.
A Plastic Ocean - This documentary follows it’s filmmaker as he investigates the full scope of how humans have polluted our oceans.
Explained series: The Future of Meat - Within Netflix's Explained series, this episode tackles the meat industry, the history of it, how it currently operates and what it means for our future if we carry on the way we have for many years.
We hope this has helped you understand the importance of sustainable living and values. Like we said, change can only happen if we do this together so we hope you get started on your own green journeys!