“I thought when you started this, you were just going to start thrifting as much as you were shopping, but you really surprised me.”
That was something my partner Eli said to me a few months ago. It's really stuck with me.
I must admit, my transition to a more sustainable, low-waste lifestyle has NOT been graceful. In fact it's been quite jolty. Quite in your face. Building momentum along the way. I'm still figuring things out, but I'll admit that in the beginning, I wasn't focused on limiting the act of shopping (read all about my break up with fast fashion here). Instead, I was focused on the KIND of shopping. If I buy this dress secondhand, it's saving it from heading to the landfills, right? So I should get it? And in black? And beige? And white? And these adorable flats? And this hat? And OMG what will I do without this leather fanny pack? I mean, have you seen these prices!?!? (Seriously sounds just like me in my fast fashion days...)
And I really can't guarantee I would have gotten to this point without participating in Bel's #sustainapril challenge where I didn't buy any clothes, shoes or home goods for a month! (I'll let her explain in an interview below.) It was during a moment of weakness when I was feeling bored and like I could use some new items from the thrift and felt bombarded by this company's new spring launch and these influencers new items. I thought, "Ugh, I can't wait until April is over so I can buy whatever I want."
And then it smacked me in the face: Girl, you need a hobby.
I realized that while shopping is fun, and definitely a stress relief for me -- maybe even a little adrenaline rush at the checkout?? -- it's definitely not my hobby. At least, I don't want it to be. I think you can love fashion, have an appreciation for fabrics and stitching, but not be a "shopaholic." Loving fashion doesn't mean you have to buy it all to keep. Now, I'm thinking of fashion more as I do of flowers. Admiration goes a long way.
And truly, all of my shopping, fast or slow, is unnecessary and irresponsible if it's not something that I really need. I realize that now, but as I was feeling upset with Instagram's capitalist culture, I remembered that the girls in my community have plenty of hobbies aside from shopping! (Even though shopping sometimes takes precedence in this space.) So I grabbed some of my Insta friends and asked them what their hobbies were. And then I made a list of 100 things you can do instead of shopping .
What started as #sustainapril transformed into #swappingshopping! So thank you, Bel! Sincerely!
'‘Well, I bet you I’d be able to not buy anything for a month’'
Location: Melbourne, Australia
My sustainability journey began when…
Oh my, where do I begin?! I’ve always opshoped, ever since I was young, which I think came from my dad - he loves opshops and garage sales, and now we go together. But I guess my love for it was originally more so for the vintage items I would find, and not so much for sticking it to fast fashion.
Fast forward to maybe three years ago, and I was buying probably two coffees a day in disposable cups. At the time I was living with two girlfriends (one who is really into sustainable living), and she suggested I buy a reusable cup and make a coffee at home. I bought a keep cup which I tried to use most of the time, and now I wouldn’t buy a coffee without one.
From there, I just started becoming more and more interested into a low-waste lifestyle, which I was continually researching in my spare time. I started implementing sustainable practices at home, experimenting with DIY and reducing the plastic I was buying, and on top of that, annoying my boyfriend, friends and family.
Thank you so much for not only challenging me to stop spending for the month of April, but, correct me if I'm wrong, this challenge originated with you! Where did the idea come from and for those who don't know, explain the different options participants had.
Thank you for participating - you did an incredible job! Well, I cut out buying anything new nearly a year ago (bar a few bits and pieces), so I only shop secondhand, whether that be in opshops, on Facebook Marketplace or at markets, and I always get great satisfaction out of my purchases.
One day my boyfriend mentioned that while it was great I was only buying low-cost secondhand items, I was purchasing a lot, and not only does the cost add up, but I’m adding more items to my wardrobe while continually hammering on about a minimalist lifestyle. In a defensive unplanned, almost shouting voice, I said, “well I bet you I’d be able to not buy anything for a month.”
I’m certainly competitive and have made many bets like this, haha! And there it started. In a tough four weeks, I managed to buy only two books and a pair of boots - I had allowed myself to buy one thing though in that time, and one of the books was for work, so I was pretty proud of myself. I found that in the weeks after the challenge that when I was opshopping that I would question everything I was buying, I would walk around the store holding my items for that bit longer deciding if I really needed them, and most of the time I would put most of the items back! While I found the challenge extremely difficult, I realised how much it influenced my buying habits, and I wanted to share that with others, so I decided to do it again - with support of you and multiple other amazing ladies!
When I decided to challenge you and others I wanted there to be two options. For me, as it had been so long since I was buying items new, cutting that out didn’t bother me. But as majority of people don’t buy only secondhand, for them cutting out everything would be difficult, hence why I added the option of either buying nothing new, or buying nothing at all.
#Sustainapril was really challenging for me at first, but along the way I incorporated it into my mindset and have decided to stop hobby shopping altogether. What did you learn during this challenge and was it different than you expected when you began?
That’s fabulous, and exactly what I was hoping you and others would gain from this challenge. I expected to have a whole heap of money in my bank account after the challenge, but I ended up just mostly drinking fancier beers with it, haha! But seriously, I just expected it to be hard, and something I needed to cut down on my spending.
But what I did learn is that you don’t need a new outfit for every event, and that people really don’t care if you outfit repeat. I began to fall in love with the items I already had in my wardrobe, and really shopped my wardrobe, working out ways to put different pieces together. During and since the challenge I’ve been only buying pieces that are timeless, and really just thinking fuck trends, and fuck fast fashion! I ultimately hope to have a capsule wardrobe - I’m certainly not a minimalist, but eventually I would like to get to that stage.
What has the response been like from those who participated?
It has been amazing! Wow. I was in absolute disbelief at the amount of incredible ladies who joined up! And I thank you especially - you spread the word and it means so much to me! I think ultimately everyone has has a similar response at the end - that their buying habits have changed as they’re thinking about their purchases more. Not everyone got to the end, but that’s okay, too, just trying it out meant so much to me.
I think it goes without saying that this challenge was helpful for the environment -- but what does it personally mean to you?
It means looking at myself, my consumption of fashion and how I contribute to over-abundance of clothes being produced.
Do you have any tips or final thoughts now that the challenge is over?
Just continue to made considered purchases, think about what you’re buying.
Do you really need it?
Is it going to be out of fashion soon?
I’ve really found that the thing that helps me most while shopping is carrying my items that I’m thinking about buying around the store for that little bit longer, and not rushing up to the counter. Most times I put majority of the items back.
I urge people to try this - take the challenge. You’ll be surprised at how often you step in to a store, or go to buy something online.