BY: LAURA DI CECCO, CREATOR OF ECOLOGY
Sustainability has become something of a buzzword lately. Scroll your feed for a few short minutes and it’s easy to tell that green living is certainly having its moment. But from an environmentalist’s perspective, let me tell you, the moment is far from over! Sustainability is not a fad meant to disappear in a few months. It is a necessary part of the future, and with that knowledge can come a lot of fear, guilt, and anxiety.
We are so busy simply trying to survive - make rent, eat well, work out, walk the dog, go to work, clean the house, have friends, see family - all while feeling crushed under the weight of the environmental (and social and political and economic) issues that bear on us. It’s overwhelming, and if we are to create a world our kids feel safe in we are going to have to make some serious changes. It’s a big undertaking - for all of us - and it can feel paralyzing.
It’s certainly not that we don’t care for and love our planet, but we are tired. We are overloaded and inundated with information, problems, solutions, opinions, and ads; and with more time at home than usual (thank you COVID-19) and more hours on social media than ever before, many of us have been thrown into a chronic state of fear and stress compounded with the guilt of “not doing enough”. There’s so much to tackle, we simply don’t know where to start, and we fear it’s too late. While this seems bleak for us, it’s created the perfect opportunity for marketing strategists. All of this uncertainty allows companies to capitalize on our fear and “soothe” us with products, and while there are many grassroots brands out there with innovative ideas and quality outputs, they now exist in an overly saturated environment with rampant greenwashing and inaccessible price points. As a result, privilege has entered the sustainability space.
Many eco-conscious goods are marketed by and for mostly white folks with the extra time, money & picture-perfect, mason-jar-filled pantry. If you don’t have the organic hemp produce bags, coconut husk dish brushes, handcrafted ceramic tumblers, and locally-made bamboo straws then you’re told that you’re not doing it right… Hello elitism - I see you, and you drive me crazy! If sustainability is necessary for the future of our planet, why is it so inaccessible?
I tried my best to participate in the Instagram-worthy idea of sustainability. I bought into the aesthetically pleasing low-waste products and natural alternatives. I shopped at the specialty stores and took pretty photos. And sure, I felt good for like.. a minute. But the irony of it all quickly unfolded. By definition, sustainability is the ability to continue a behavior indefinitely. And this, neither I (or my bank account) could keep up.
I quickly decided this narrative of eco-privilege didn’t work for me, and it didn’t work for the environment either. So I started looking for educational resources on living simply - throwing it back to simpler times when sustainability was the ‘poor man’s’ game. My immigrant grandparents didn’t have much and needed to live in an eco-conscious way out of necessity. Using less, saving more, never wasting, always preserving, sharing with neighbours, and working with what you have. This felt like a more authentic and practical means to save the planet. But I couldn’t find any resources that felt accessible or easy to understand and my elders could no longer share these teachings with me, so I dove in headfirst. I started collaborating with educators to create accessible and affordable resources to teach folks the skills we have forgotten in our modern society - things like growing your own food, canning & preserving, dyeing with plants, healing through herbs. The knowledge that, to me personally, felt like a right, not a privilege. And thus, ecology was born. A business to create accessibility around sustainability education. Shifting the narrative to create a focus on knowledge rather than commerce.
Each educational resource is short, concise, and available on a pay-what-you-can scale so that the teachings can fit seamlessly into your life without any added stress. We also stock an online shop with local, small-scale, accessible brands with goods meant to supplement your lifestyle, not define it. I created what I needed in the sustainability space. I created a space meant to inspire long-lasting lifestyle shifts, not short-lived product placements. And isn’t that the point of sustainability anyway?
Laura is wearing the Contrast Bra in Cornflower
For me, the answers always lay in the bare-bones definition of the movement. In simplicity, traditional practices, and educated choices. In buying less. In using what you already have. In being practical & keeping it functional. Learning, always. Sharing, no matter what. For me, getting sustainability right was about getting back to basics - and that’s the good news. Living eco-friendly is actually very accessible, and making the switch can be a fun, exciting, and educational experience.
Here are some tips that helped me remove the privilege from planet-focused living and tailor the lifestyle to fit my own:
Forget picture perfect
The first and hardest step is letting go of the guilt & fear around living up to the picture-perfect idea of sustainability. The famous quote by Anne Marie Bonneau says it best: We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. Know that you will fail, and know that trying your best is the best thing you can do.
It’s not all on you
Secondly, it’s important to remind ourselves that the environmental crisis isn’t on our shoulders alone. Millions of people, businesses, corporations, policymakers & big political players have gotten us to where we are, and it will require the same collaboration to get us out. We have to trust that our community is putting in the work, and focus on what we can do as an individual. Oh, and vote.
Educate, educate, educate
The third step is to educate yourself. Empower yourself with the knowledge and skills you need to live a simple and honest life. Learn to grow your own foods. Learn to preserve after harvest. Learn to repair your clothing rather than throw it away. These are simple, lifelong skills that are powerful tools to have in your sustainability arsenal. Not to mention, they are fun hobbies to cultivate and pass on to your kin.
Keep it functional
Lastly, focus on functionality. Find what works for you and your lifestyle. Set attainable goals that make sense. Keep yourself accountable. Lead with love. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Keep trying. And don’t forget, the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be functional.
We have the ability to live in eco-conscious and sustainably impactful ways. It can be done. It can be accessible and it can be easy. It is just up to us to get back to basics and strive for simplicity.