Friday, 13 May 2016

Purchase with Care

Three years ago, I wrote a post about ethical fashion. It marks the change in the way I view clothes and retail shopping. The post itself was written quite spontaneously, when I started to think about the way we treat clothes and the people who manufacture them. Like many others, the Rana Plaza incident struck a chord in my heart and I can't, in good conscience, contribute to such practice anymore. From then on, I constantly educate myself on manufacturing processes and what it means to go ethical. Three years on, I can't say I'm already perfect but I do shop a whole lot less often now—although financial aspect also helps me accomplish this mission—and when I do, I make sure they have very little carbon footprint—in comparison to big international brands, per se. I've sworn off retail brands and stopped window-shopping altogether—both offline and online.

Reading this, you might think I'm out of tune with fashion—which is strange for a style blogger, eh?—but I don't see it that way. I still pay attention to fashion, but I pay attention to ethical fashion or the movement towards becoming more ethical and responsible. And, although it is yet within my budget to shop ethical brands at the moment, I still seek out other ways to show my love and support for them, for I will always applaud their effort to stay true to their workers, their buyers and the environment.

Last year I discovered zero waste lifestyle. It is a wider horizon to ethical fashion, I believe, in which we apply the responsible and conscientious way we look at clothes to other aspects of our lives. Suddenly, it's not just about fashion labour and manufacturing process anymore, it's about everything that has ever been made and tossed in this world. Zero waste has really made me question everything I have ever known and been taught since as long as I could recall. When my preschool teacher used to tell me to toss the trash in the trash can, why did I never stop to think: "What happens to it then?" As if a trash can could become a black hole where all trash goes to die.

But trash doesn't die; some of it rots while some others keep on living, possibly longer than mankind. These things need to be stored somewhere, so they won't pollute our environment and threaten our way of living. But if we keep on producing them and no action has been taken to get rid of them for good, the number will grow and, eventually, we'd have no choice but to drown in them. Numerous animals have suffered and died because of the waste we toss—sometimes not even in its 'rightful place'—then we consume these animals and wonder why we suffer from strange, new diseases.

Then it hit me: it doesn't matter if we buy ethical products; as long as we still adopt the buy-and-toss lifestyle, the problem will still not be solved. This is where zero waste lifestyle comes in. It replaces the linear way we see the lifespan of an item into a circular chain, where every item gets recycled or rotted and used to create a new product. This way nothing will ever have to be piled onto a landfill. It will soon be a thing of the past.

Not only that, it also imposes a minimalistic way of living, in which consumption ceases to become a central part of our day-to-day life. The post-modern society tends to purchase unnecessary items on the daily, only to have them tossed out the next day or shoved at the corner of the closet—or, even worse, to condone to social protocol. Seldom do they think really hard and long about the impact of their one very small action. Will this last? What will happen to it if I decide to throw it away? Can I turn it into something else when I no longer need it? Is it necessary? Often, the price is the one thing considered the most in buying stuff, not the aftermath or even function of the item bought.

Lately, I've been trying to achieve this lifestyle little by little. Man, I can't believe how much plastic I use on a daily basis when I try to not use them anymore. In Indonesia, especially, plastic seems to appear as if they grow on trees because they are literally everywhere. You find them on the food carts, you find them at the mall and you can even find them on the streets—because, let's be honest, we're not the cleanest and tidiest of people. Bulk grocery store doesn't even exist on this part of the world. If we want to buy bulk, we can possibly rely on farmer's markets. Even so, it is only limited to a very small selection of products—forget getting zero-waste dairy products and noodle. But I also see that there are tons of alternatives we can go for, which is unique to this section of the earth—because it is embedded in our culture. However, the fault lies in me because sometimes I just choose to give in to temptation without a second thought. But it can all be avoided, of course.

So I am writing this to remind myself—and, hopefully, inspire some of you—to purchase with care. Care for the people, care for the environment and care for oneself. If it's unnecessary, please reconsider. Who cares what other people think? They're not the ones who has to pay for it—not financially anyway. Imagine what that money can do for the less fortunate or the greater good, even! Why not give it to them, who will most likely appreciate it better. From now on, let's purchase with care.

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