My name's Lindsay and I'm a writer, speaker, workshop facilitator and all-round sustainability enthusiast! I write the blog treadingmyownpath.com, and I'm passionate about zero waste, minimalism, real food and plastic-free living. Or, to put it simply, making better choices. I live in Perth, Australia, but I'm from the UK originally. I always thought of myself as a bit green, but my epiphany came in 2012 when I signed up to the challenge Plastic Free July. The challenge was - to give up plastic for the month of July. I thought it would be easy - after all, I considered myself sustainable. I purchased eco-friendly washing up liquid and took my own bags to the shops. Never mind that I'd fill those reusable bags with plenty of overpackaged plastic-wrapped products! It was a bit of a shock (and definitely an embarrassment) to realise the amount of plastic I was using. I'd thought I was sustainable, but I realised I wasn't really acting like it. I'd thought that recycling was good enough. Now I realised there was a whole lot more I could do.
That was the beginning of my journey towards living plastic-free, then zero waste. Looking at all the choices that I made, asking questions, and trying to do things a little bit better.
This is a tricky one to answer, because I don't think there's a perfect solution. Fair means more to me that simply having a "Fair Trade" logo. For me, waste is a top priority, and there is so much clothing that is still perfectly wearable going to waste in the world. Charity shops are overflowing with garments. To use resources or the labour of people, and then not really honour those fully, seems wrong. So whilst clothing in charity shops might not be Fair Trade, I think it is important to consider these second-hand items.
Then there is the issue of materials. I try to choose materials that are biodegradable: cotton, hemp, wool and silk. I don't want to be contributing to landfill or polluting the environment when my clothes are no longer wearable. But finding these materials in the charity shops can be challenging, as so much clothing is made from polyester these days.
Next is wanting to support companies who are trying to do the right thing: producing Fair Trade clothing. These companies are trying to change the system, so whilst they use more resources than choosing second-hand, it is important to help these companies where we can. Finding second-hand organic Fair Trade clothing isn't easy, but I hope in the future it will become easier.
In practice, my wardrobe is a balance. My clothing is a mix of second-hand and newly purchased organic Fair Trade pieces. Some of my clothing was purchased pre-2012 when I'd never considered the environmental impacts of polyester or microfibres. I hope at some point that my wardrobe will be predominantly biodegradable fibres.
Definitely! I used to have far too much stuff, most of which I didn't like and didn't wear. I was the classic girl who opens her full closet and cries that she has nothing to wear. I kept all this nice stuff that I didn't wear for when all my tatty old stuff had worn out, things that I wanted to suit me but didn't, things I'd hope I'd slim into... Eventually I realized that if I wanted to get the best life out of what I owned, I needed to let go of everything I didn't wear. This may sound obvious, but it took me a few years to get my wardrobe down to what I actually wear right now -from a couple of hundred items to about 50. Keeping stuff for the future didn't make sense. Some of those things I was keeping, I hadn't worn in 3 years! How is that not a waste of resources? Why did I think that once my tatty stuff wore out I'd even want to wear those things?
In reality, I wear the same thing day after day. I don't need a huge choice. Clearing out the excess made it easier for me to see what I actually owned that I did like. I ask myself "Will I wear it 30 times?" If it's too obscure, not made well enough, or there's another reason why I can't imagine myself wearing it 30 times, then it's not something I should own.
I'd expect most people would say yes to this, but actually, right now I'm going to have to say no. I've had favourite outfits in the past of course, but recently I've had several things that I love wear out, and I'm yet to replace them. Honestly, I'm dreading shopping! It's an ethical minefield out there. I'm still feeling my way with ethical brands. The hippy style that seems common with ethical brands just isn't me. The charity shops are full of fast fashion that won't last.
I have a skirt that is 100% silk in a mustard yellow, that I bought second-hand. It's an exact match of the previous skirt I had, that was also 100% silk, mustard yellow, same brand, also purchased second-hand. I loved that skirt so much that I decided to keep my eye out for a replacement, so when it wore out I'd have another. By chance one became available - for sale via a charity site on eBay. I couldn't believe my luck! I bought it, and it sat in my wardrobe, waiting for it's turn. But you know what? When that much loved skirt finally wore out - and it disintegrated in spectacular fashion! - I didn't want to wear the new one. It looked so new and shiny compared to the old faded, worn one that I'd worn almost every day. The one I'd had to restitch, and move the button numerous times. I still like it, and of course I'll wear it, but there is something less magical about it. Maybe some things are meant to be worn and loved, but not repeated.
My biggest challenge is finding balance. On one hand, my desire to reduce waste by choosing what already exists, and diverting clothing from the waste stream. On the other hand, supporting ethical companies that produce brand new clothing, even though there is already enough clothing in the world for everybody already. I want to do both, but that is hard! Ethical companies are fairly new, and finding second-hand ethical goods are a challenge. In the future it will be easier, and I can keep both parts of my ethics happy.
The other thing I struggle with is buying online. I'd rather buy in a store, where there isn't unnecessary packaging, transport costs and I can try things on for size, but ethical shops seem to be predominantly online.
My main goal is to ensure that future purchases are made of natural fibres. I'd love my wardrobe to be plastic-free. I'm always keeping an ear out for new ethical brands too. My ideal goal? A wardrobe full of ethically made, natural fibres, all purchased second hand. :)
Thank you so much, Lindsay, for taking the time to chat with us! I love your story of the yellow skirt and find it interesting in so many ways. I love that you use the word "magical". Isn't it interesting that some pieces just have that magical quality + some just don't? Is there a time limit on love of things? Does the back-up item ever live up to the original? Lovely food for thought. And I love the belief that ethical choices will get easier in the future...let's keep this movement going + growing!
Read more about Lindsay's journey and lessons learned at treadingmyownpath. Lindsay offers so much juicy content to inspire thoughtful awareness + action. I especially enjoyed both a peek into her minimal home and her articulate TED talk. You can also find Lindsay on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thank again, Lindsay! I appreciate you!