In the latest in our Life as I know it series, our very own Simon Lee shares his journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on his career and daily life.
Despite working at Eco-Age for over five years, I’m probably going to make a very controversial statement – I wouldn’t necessarily say that I am typically ‘interested in sustainability’. I am most definitely an active citizen, and try and reduce the negative impact my life has on the environment, but I hate the old-fashioned idea that you have to be some sort of ‘eco-warrior’ or ‘hemp-enthusiast’ to make a positive impact on society and the planet. Of course, if you are – that’s great, it’s just we can all make a difference in our own special way.
I grew up in a small village in the Yorkshire Dales, and while we did the standard things you’d expect from a normal middle-class suburban family – like recycling our waste and buying organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible – ‘sustainability’ wasn’t really a thing I was really aware of until I was a bit older, and I certainly didn’t link it to fashion. I remember going on holiday when I was about four years’ old, going to the beach and asking why it was so dirty – there were so many bottles and rubbish and plastic! My mum’s answer was that “some people just don’t care”, so I decided that I would – even if at the time it was just so I could build a better sandcastle.
My next eco-epiphany came much later on, when I was studying Geography at the University of Edinburgh and had become much more aware of the world around me. In my final year, I chose to combine two of my interests – fashion and geography – and focussed my dissertation on the environmental impact of the fashion industry. I looked at one fast fashion brand in particular and focussed on its sustainability policies and impact. It was a really big wake up for me and made me rethink my (and my friends’ and family’s) shopping habits. Even though I still buy from high street brands occasionally, at least I am fully conscious when I purchase – I look at the materials and where it was made, and make sure it is something I will wear for a long time (#beyond30wears). I haven’t quite managed to motivate myself to learn to sew or knit – especially as my mum is an amazing knitter and usually has a new winter piece for me every September – but there’s still time!
I think that most people are aware of the world around them, and possibly their own impact on the planet, but I guess I’m a little more so than the general man-on-the-street – I carry a Chilly’s reusable bottle (rose gold – it’s the way forward), as well as using companies like The Restory to extend the lifespan of products I already own. I mean, if I’m paying a decent amount for a bag than I’m definitely going to get the most out of it that I can!
But there is always more I can do. I don’t really buy a lot, but whenever I have to, I’ve recently tried to buy more from vintage stores, charity shops, second life apps like Depop and responsible retailers like MATCHESFASHION.COM and Reve en Vert. I always try to channel my new muse – Marie Kondo – will this product bring joy to my life?
When I give gifts, I love giving experiences that I can share with the recipient. I’m currently in the wedding / 30th birthday years so I’ve become somewhat of an afternoon tea connoisseur – The Berkley Hotel does an amazing fashion-themed afternoon tea – Pret-a-Portea – and all the ingredients used are organic and seasonal.
I’m not sure I’m the poster-child for a sustainable lifestyle, but I do my bit and have changed my habits over the past few years to make sure I’m impacting in a more positive way and reducing the negative – and will continue to do so, making small changes as I go.