My interest in sustainability sparked when I moved to Vancouver from Ireland in 2016. As a city that prides itself on its beautiful scenery and healthy lifestyle, there is an emphasis on recycling and sourcing locally which led me to think more about where the things I buy are coming from, and who has been involved in getting them to my kitchen and wardrobe. Moving in with my friends in to what had become a boarding house for new Irish arrivals in the city, I started to notice how much stuff we accumulate and, inevitably, leave behind when we travel or declutter.
Like the majority of our wonderful Eco-Age team, I love clothes. As early as I can remember I would spend hours playing dress up in my mum and sister’s wardrobes and save any pocket money I had to get a dress or top that I would wear constantly. However, when I got older and started working and earning for myself, my spending habits started to change and I began buying clothes just for an occasion or to have something new to wear to the office that I didn’t really need or love. I realised that what I could buy on the high street didn’t hold any value to me or make me feel special. It felt like a waste and I really wanted to find something different.
A younger Charlie wearing her sister’s handmedown dress – beyond #30wears!
I have always been nostalgic and adore films set in the 1960s, so when my mum first brought me to a vintage shop I was instantly in love and I started saving my money again for pre-loved dresses that I had coveted for months to help me on my quest to look like Twiggy (except shorter and with a wildly less chic mop of hair).
My wardrobe is now full of vintage or second hand dresses that I treasure, and I find it special that they have a story behind them and have been produced uniquely with time and care. My love affair with thrifting has also proved useful since moving to London, particularly when much of your savings have been spent travelling on the other side of the Atlantic!
Buying vintage clothes, that are pre-dominantly handmade and long-lasting, made me start to think about the speed in which the things we buy are produced now and how easily we can buy a t-shirt made in China, or an avocado grown in Mexico. Once I started to consider this, the idea manifested in my head and I began questioning where everything was coming from, and what it took to make it and get it to us. How is it possible that we can produce a top for less than £5, when the average retail sales assistant is paid £7 an hour to sell it?
I don’t understand how you can watch a documentary like the True Cost, or see images of marine life suffocating in plastic, and not feel restless and compelled to make some change. There is a scene in the True Cost where you see the impact of the chemical run-off from shoe manufacturers and the illnesses that causes for the people living nearby. The idea of that haunted me and I wanted to be involved in something that was trying to rectify these issues, which led me to find Eco-Age. I think so much of the change we are trying to achieve is about compassion, I hate the idea that something as basic as the clothes we wear can lead to causing someone else harm.
As well as buying pre-loved clothes, I started trying to make a positive change, or “sustainable swap” in my day to day life, to help reduce my carbon footprint and tried to encourage (read “preach”) to my family and friends to do the same. Great companies like Oddbox and Who Gives A Crap have made it easier to reduce the packaging from my weekly supermarket sweep, and I have finally found a natural deodorant that can withstand a Zumba class. I am also the proud carrier of a Keep Cup (thank you Eco-Age Halloween costume competition) and feel quite smug when I remember to bring my reusable tote to the shops.
That being said, I am by no means a model of zero-waste and sustainable living! There are definitely many things I need to improve and educate myself on, but I endeavour to be more aware and make conscious choices in what I consume. Working at Eco-Age has encouraged me to improve on my sustainability knowledge and practises. Our team are wonderful at finding new ethical brands making beautiful things and sharing new ideas for reducing our carbon footprint, and it’s always nice to have someone with you when you’re bringing your own bowl to the local café at lunch! I think we will always be able to do better, but it’s imperative that we continue to try and implement a change in consumer habits for people and the planet.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef