Since March, as for the rest of the world, we have been living in small social bubbles in our homes, flattening the curve of the Covid pandemic in efforts to prevent massive outbreaks. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what this traumatic experience means for our future, and its effects on our lives, our communities, economies, and climate change.
Many experts agree that the root cause of climate change is our high consumption lifestyle. One just has to look around and see the accumulation of waste in our landfills. Over the last two years, and even prior to this, there has been a decline in the manufacture of quality consumer products including textiles, clothing and household appliances. This propensity towards low quality, cheap goods means that these items aren’t even useable to the secondhand industry, which is important to people in underdeveloped countries. The inevitable result is tossing these no longer useful items in the garbage.
Now, more than ever, our lifestyle and priorities are concerned with the health and well-being of our families and communities over anything else. There is no healthy economy without healthy people. Believe it or not there are “positive” effects of the pandemic on the environment, less CO2 emissions, better air quality, and reduced toxic waste, because we simply have reduced the amount shopping, decreased manufacturing and we’re not travelling long distances anymore. Imagine what we could achieve by maintaining a similar approach once we are back to a “new normal”.
It’s not surprising that during a pandemic, we don’t need so many clothes in our closet, because we aren’t going to the office as much, participating in or attending events, or often meeting face-to-face with friends. For the most part, I’m not wearing some of my favourite outfits. When I do it’s because I feel better putting on something nicer than exercise clothing. I’ve realized that my closet already has quality, fashionable pieces with the occasional item that adds interest or the fun factor, and I don’t need anything new just for the sake of shopping. I’ve consciously organized my closet this way. As aptly quoted in the above image by Fashion Revolution “the most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe”.
And I couldn’t imagine being housebound without my knitting or other arts and crafts to occupy my mind. I believe there will be an increased interest in many of the arts, crafts, and other skills lost to us, because they do matter to our well-being. Life isn’t just about work and providing the basic necessities.
As the world slowly moves towards a new normal, we need a new relationship with our stuff, rethinking our old habits and choosing quality over cheap. I hope that manufacturers of consumer products will move to designing and making better products. What’s wrong with a designer garment that can be repaired and worn for a long time, which could mean becoming a loyal customer to that designer or company; definitely good for business. What’s wrong with purchasing or renting an appliance in which the manufacture will repair it for you, or at the end of its lifecycle, break it down into component parts to be reused in new products. We can never go back to some time before, but we can certainly move forward to a better way of living that includes being a conscious shopper of better made products, something our planet so desperately needs.