Being a changemaker, can you tell us what happened during the year of 2017 that changed your lifestyle completely?
In 2017, I made a connection between what was happening to me in the emotional and psychological capacities, and what was happening to our natural environment. When I look back at it now, it seems very easy to understand, however, at the time it felt bewildering and overwhelming. Eco-anxiety can have that effect.
The American Psychological Association defined eco-anxiety in 2017 as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” My experience included sadness, anger, and panic, and it came to a head in a supermarket aisle when I couldn’t stop staring at a coconut wrapped in a fruit foam sock and clingfilm. My head was racing with images of collapsing icebergs and wildlife in distress, yet my legs were as heavy as lead, and I couldn’t move. I knew something was very wrong.
When I researched the words ‘plastic’ and ‘panic’, the world of eco-anxiety opened up to me and it was a game-changing moment.
There are a number of ways to work with, or through, eco-anxiety, including getting active in a sustainability community or starting one of your own, making small changes in your daily habits such as eliminating or cutting back on meat, composting, and using public transport. Reading books on the topic is also very helpful, as is making art or contacting your local legislator. Once you understand what you are experiencing, you are in a better position to navigate it, because you are empowered.
Today’s consumers buy 60 percent more clothing than they did 15 years ago, and they last half as long. What do you think drives this behaviour?
A number of factors have merged to create this dynamic: social media, falling costs, rising consumer spending, and streamlined operations mean that brands can offer up to 24 new clothing collections each year, and in some cases, refreshing their selections on a weekly basis.
I think most people don’t fully understand how clothing manufacturing affects people and the planet. In October, I did a TEDx talk with TEDXTinhauWomen where I addressed some of these topics. Some of my closest friends, who have known me for decades, were surprised at the data I shared, and told me they would be changing their fashion habits after watching the talk.
Fashion’s environmental impact isn’t as clear cut as it is with, for example, animal agriculture. Most people can make the connection between choosing to not eat steak and the impact it has. Choosing not to buy that cute dress with the discount price tag is a less obvious connection.