In the latest in our Life as I know it series, our very own Robyn Hamilton shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
Sustainability really became a galvanising and driving force in my life back in 2015 when I was invited to a special screening of The True Cost. If you haven’t seen it, you really should – I can only relate it to what I imagine it’s like for someone who has always had bad eyesight, having life-changing laser eye surgery and suddenly being able to see everything in focus and dazzling colour. But instead of feeling joy at everything you can now see, you desperately wish you could unsee the effect that over-consumption (which you know you’ve personally played a part in) has on people and the planet. It’s a wake up call you never knew you needed, and one you’ll never be able to go back from.
However, when I look back at my life I realise that actually in a lot of ways, sustainability was already imbued in my life from a very young age – sadly just not when it came to fashion. My childhood was one of rich memories and laughter. I was raised by parents who had zero interest in spending their free time on the high street, shopping and lunching; instead time was spent outdoors – long rambling walks, gardening, and throwing themselves off the sides of hill (they weren’t insane, they loved paragliding… Okay so perhaps a little insane). And so my little sister and I too spent our evenings and weekends in the fresh air, and we didn’t even know what a playstation was until an embarrassingly late stage in childhood. Instead we climbed trees, helped to garden (reluctantly in my case #nails) and spent hours and hours horse riding. Because of this lifestyle, we grew up with a huge respect for nature, the beauty of it, and the importance of protect it.
Beyond our after school activities, my mother is a very successful businesswoman, with several of her own companies; the main one being that she is a Christmas tree grower and retailer – good luck trumping that at ‘bring your parents to school day’! Growing up in and around a business that produces a sustainable and British grown crop taught me so much about circular business, the importance of protecting nature in order to protect the business, and that shortcuts in the short term only ever lead to problems in the long – both in business and out.
Fast forward a few years and I escaped farm life for the big city lights and followed my dream of going to fashion school; and went on to land a highly coveted internship at Condé Nast. From day one I was hooked – the clothes, the glamour, the legacy – and quickly became absorbed. But with that absorption came a desire to constantly be in new clothes, which coupled with an intern salary was only going to end one way: fast fashion. Until the divine intervention of the aforementioned True Cost.
Now I find sustainability is a constant companion in everything I do – career, shopping, commuting, me-time, everything. I meant it when I said you couldn’t go back. I joined the Eco-Age team to lead its partnerships division because I had a strong desire to do more to drive the sustainability conversation forward and knew I wanted to make sure my career had real meaning beyond personal success. Something I am extremely proud of that we have launched is the Eco-Age Brandmark initiative. The initiative was born of a desire to celebrate and award the brands and companies across all industries that are doing sustainability well, help them on their own journeys to be more ethical, sustainable and transparent, and tell their incredible stories through our platform. I found when first trying to join the conversation myself, the whole thing can be rather overwhelming and confusing – who is actually doing it well? What does that actually mean? How do I start? – and so in celebrating these brands in one trusted space we are helping people enter their own journey, free of judgement. I can’t imagine a more worthwhile way to be spending my time right now.
I find every change and baby step I take in my life towards being a more conscious human has a positive ripple effect, both for myself and with other people. My boyfriend, for example, has seemingly overnight become more of a sergeant major than I am about recycling – who knew recycling could be sexy?! Although i’m not convinced he feels the same about my absolute insistence when it comes to taking KeepCups and Swell bottles on holidays – even if we do only have hand luggage #SorryNotSorry. But we have found that the further we venture into our own sustainability journeys, the better life seems to get. For example, our free weekends are now always spent taking long leisurely walks with our ‘Borrow My Doggy’ companion, instead of late brunches and shopping sessions; and I have exchanged tubes and taxis in my commute for buses and cycling and it is nothing short of glorious – a life almost free of traffic, and tube strikes and a heck of a lot less pollution. The dream.
I always come back to the quote I keep seeing across social media of late: ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly’. Because the old saying that ‘many hands make light work’ is so true and so applicable to life today. As long as you’re doing what you can, when you can, then you’re having a positive impact on people and planet, and if everyone can start making their own steps towards zero-waste and conscious consumerism, then big changes happen fast – remember when plastic straws were everywhere? Exactly.
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