Sustainability means consuming mindfully and consuming less
In the third of our four part series examining a holistic view of sustainability, we take a step inward and look at how our own consumption and mindfulness (or lack thereof) can exacerbate ecological impacts, and work at odds with our desire to live a more sustainable life.
We often feel trapped in a cycle of over-consumption that has been marketed to us as a way to cope with a range of mental health concerns that come with our modern and demanding lifestyles: stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, disconnection, and boredom. It goes without saying that consuming for the sake of buying things, or because something is fashionable and on-trend, is a powerful driver that is harming our planet by favouring cheap, mass production which is not sustainable for the planet, or the communities that contribute resources and labour to the supply chain.
One exercise we can all do to help live a more sustainable life is to be more mindful of what we choose to purchase. When we consider buying anything, we can ask ourselves questions like, “Do I really need this? Why do I feel the need to make this purchase? How often will I use this purchase? Do I already have something similar that I can use?” The point isn’t to delve into a deep psychological analysis, but just to be more mindful and grateful for the possessions we have in our lives already, and evaluate the impact that each new purchase will make.
Quite often, we buy things on impulse and because we project our desires into a story starring our future selves...only to never use that new bread maker we bought, or wear that outfit, or play that game, or read that book. Clothing and textiles are one particularly tricky purchase area that traps us in these stories. We are lured by the excitement of a trendy new look, and are often carried away by how the outfit will “make us feel”, daydreaming about what good fortune and happiness the garment will bring us. But, how often do we open our closets -- full of clothes – and complain that we have “nothing to wear”?
Aside from being mindful of our purchases before we make them, another helpful exercise to make your life more sustainable is to buy items that are multi-functional. Instead of buying items that only have one use, consider buying an item -- even if it is more expensive -- that can be used in many different ways. Items that can be used in different ways will last longer, and will not need to be replaced as often, helping to break the overconsumption cycle and helping us consume less.
Our Turkish towels are a perfect example of multi-functionality. They can be used as towels, of course, but also as scarves, shawls, sarongs, table coverings, throws, and yoga mat covers. Our small towels are also extremely versatile and can be used as hand towels, tea towels, hair towels, and burp clothes. They can also be used for any number of activities, and are perfect for throwing in your bag because they take up very little space. Specifically, we like to add our small towels to our gym bags and yoga bags, as they are the perfect size sweat towel because our Turkish towels and blankets are highly absorbent, lightweight, and take up very little space, they can be taken with you without adding weight or bulk to your bag. You won’t have to compromise space or routine to take a functional, beautifully handmade towel with you, helping you to easily incorporate a sustainable purchasing decision into your life.
Sustainability means individual mindfulness and self-care
Although we discuss ways that we can make our lives more sustainable externally, such as with our purchasing decisions, it is also very important to consider the ways in which we can make our lives internally more sustainable.
It is helpful to consider that we have a finite amount of energy, time, and motivation in each day, and that we all have things that we need to do in addition to the things that we want to do. Many of us struggle with burnout and exhaustion these days, especially in the current climate of the pandemic, where we have not been able to make usual social visits to people we care about, or do the things that we love doing. Many of us often feel chained to our computers and feel like we are exhausted from leading less exciting lives compared to the not so distant past.
That is why it’s important to consider ways in which we can take a sustainable approach to our time and energy. We can practice mindfulness, gratitude, and self-care so that we can recharge and will be able to focus our energy and enjoyment in the future. While we often think of sustainability in terms of ensuring resources for future generations, an internally sustainable mindset is one that allows us to make decisions so that we can live grounded, fulfilling lives now, without compromising our future selves’ ability to do the same.
For example, are we eating well? Are we getting enough movement? Are we staying connected (even virtually) to those we care about? Are we getting enough regular sleep? While these steps seem small in the short-term, building these habits helps us live more fulfilled and sustainable lives by ensuring that we remain energized, grateful, and happy into the future. When we are tired, burned out, irritable, hungry, and overwhelmed, these are often signs that we have not taken steps to practice our own self-care.
In our fourth and final post on leading a more sustainable life, we examine the real way in which using our Turkish towels and blankets reduce your consumption of fossil fuels -- a small change that can have a real impact on the planet.
-- Stray & Wander Team