Sustainability. It's somewhat of a buzz-word at the moment, mostly in the online world because that's obviously where information and ideas spread the fastest. The first time I probably started realising what it meant and realised the daily impact we can have on the world was when supermarkets stopped handing out plastic bags Oprah-style.
I remember pausing and thinking, oh. Something has actually changed...it must be a big deal if huge chains have actually stopped handing out bags. I didn't give it too much thought after that other than feeling a bit better when I did go shopping because it felt like I was helping by being that extra person in the world who didn't use a plastic bag that day (even though I didn't really have a choice in the matter...ah ego!).
That is until last year. I started seeing more discussion on sustainability on my social media, noticing metal straws at bars and events and most of all, reading many comments on my YouTube videos from people pointing out what I was doing wrong and what I could be doing better in my content & daily life to be more eco-friendly.
Now, I have to be honest. Being someone who shares their life online, I had already been 'pitchforked' by the Vegan movement when that first made it's way onto the YT comment scene. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Veganism, I admire people who live the lifestyle and it's helped me to eat better too now that i've been exposed to more meat-free meal ideas. However at the time, out of nowhere I was being chastised for what I was putting into my mouth - without much context and without diplomacy. This made me quite defensive off the bat, as is probably human nature when you feel threatened, even when it's through anonymous comments.
I think the problem was that - given some time to look into the epidemic myself and realise what I was doing daily to exacerbate the problem and therefore make some active changes, it would have gone a lot smoother. Unfortunately, the way that many people seemed to go about the issue, was in the pichfork manner.
Listen. I know that sometimes the only way you think you're going to get through to people is by yelling in their face because perhaps that's the only way you'll get through? I don't believe that is the case. Many of my lovely followers though have messaged me over the last 6 months, level-headedly letting me know how to be more eco-friendly and I thank you so much to anyone who has approached it in that way because that's the way that messages get understood and taken on board.
It's from many of you but also through my own research and newfound interest/horror in sustainability that i've been starting to try to do my part. I have realised that it's one thing learning what it is and what it means...It's a whole other thing having the realisation of how big a role I play in contributing to mass wastage and consumerism, far bigger than someone in more of a 'normal' job role.
What I wanted to talk about in this post and what I really wanted you to understand, is that for many years I was ignorant to this. Probably because we live in a capitalist, consumer-driven, individualistic world. Purchasing new items gives you a hit of dopamine (because we process buying something as a 'reward'), it makes you feel better for a short amount of time. It makes you happy to share that new purchase with those around you. It makes you happy to feel like you're helping other people make informed purchases and it made me happy over the years to build an audience who seemed to really enjoy content I put out doing exactly this...but something's gotta give.
Also, it doesn't really make us happy does it? That is another realisation i've had over the years. When I started my channel I did honestly think that all these new things made me happy but at this point I am aware that happiness really doesn't come from a new pair of shoes (yes, even Manolos), so that isn't what I try to get out of purchases these days. What I enjoy about shopping now is the creativity of then piecing outfits together. While we're on the topic of enlightenment, I know that really I shouldn't be buying anything to be truly happy, but thats a blog post for another day and er...something i'm also working on.
Youtubers have come under a lot of fire when it comes to the topic of sustainability. From viewers telling us directly, to being pinpointed in documentaries on the topic and I do understand why.
Our high streets are always going to be busy on a Saturday afternoon with people filling their baskets aren't they? But it is the excessiveness of 'Hauls' and the level of influence that they have on viewers to then go out and consume clothes that will eventually end up on landfill sites decomposing for hundreds of years that make us an important group of people to 'awaken' to the impact we are having.
This is a confusing place to find yourself in as a Youtuber. Here we are, we have built our platforms and our followings after years of sharing our personal style, what's new in our wardrobes & showing you how to make items work - after being asked multiple times for this content. No party in this exchange has had bad intentions. It helps to see that jumper you've had your eye on styled by someone with the same body-type as you or the same height as you. You are happy as a creator that you're having such great feedback to your videos and that you can make content that you and your audience really enjoy. 10 years later we find ourselves in a spiralling vortex of eco-guilt.
I understand peoples frustration with hauling and shopping, I do. But I have to say, in defence of Youtubers, we are trying to get our head around this all, aswell as you. We are people in our bedrooms, putting on a one-man-band and videos like hauls perform well on youtube for one reason or another. We don't have a team of people around us who suddenly call us into a meeting room and tell us exactly what to do to help solve global warming and how we should be changing our content. (Even though that would be handy)
We as a collective (perhaps not all but many) are slowly figuring out ways that we can still do our jobs, still produce inspirational & topical content, keep our loyal viewers happy, yet not leave such a big carbon footprint behind. These things take time and I know we are held to a high standard and understandably so because we hold a lot of power in our influence whether we like it or not, but we are human beings too and we are each going to make these changes in different ways.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who are going about their daily lives, perhaps not in the most sustainable of ways. The person you sit next to on the train, the guy who picks up when you ring customer services, the CEO of a major corporation, maybe your uncle Steve - EVERYONE is going to come to terms with the problem and then decide whether or not to try to make changes and although as a blogger/youtuber we have more responsibility, at least many of us are acknowledging the problem and in doing so, starting to spread awareness.
I have made videos where I have spoken about Sustainability and mentioned that I'm going to try to be better, only for people to tear me down if I then buy anything from a shop or grab a coffee in town without a re-usable cup. Life changes rarely happen overnight. We are all used to daily habits, not all of which are good, but what matters is that you acknowledge that and then just try your best day by day, so yes that might mean making a few mistakes along the way.
I haven't wanted this post to come off as whiney or long-winded at all so I'll wraps things up instead rambling but to finish, in a nutshell I wanted to say thank you for anyone who had made me aware of this global problem and who had recommended material where I could learn more about it, it opened my eyes in a big way.
I also want to say that after you have seen that an 'influencer' has recognised the problem, perhaps leave them to it to figure out ways which work for them to do their part. Alot of the time it will be ways you won't even see because most of it is done off-camera. Hopefully just as much time can be spent on typing comments to people online, as is spent saying the same things to people in your daily lives, unless everyone you know is 100% a sustainable eco-warrior 😉
I am cutting down my fast-fashion consumption - especially from certain stores. I am bringing a reusable coffee cup to London with me (even though sometimes I completely forget that it's in my bag). I am recycling at home. I am boycotting single-use plastic. But yes, I still go shopping sometimes to buy nice things, I'm still going to be talking about fashion on my channel but over time I am focusing on it being less shopping-focused and more style focused.
We all need to look at ourselves & what we can do to help and not because it's a buzzword - But because we are already too late to reverse the damage that we have caused the earth as a collective, so the least we can do with our remaining time is to try to leave it better in any way that we can, for our children.
Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.