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Mindful Consumption for a Healthier Planet + Better Mental Health

By Jemma Finch

Throughout the last few months, we have been made crucially aware of our individual and global vulnerability—alongside our global health emergency, scientists have been continuing to communicate the facts about our impending climate crisis. We have an opportunity to empower collective action, to rewire the way we consume and live on our planet. ⁣⁣One item we need to address is our relationship with fashion. As the designer Vivienne Westwood says, we should be buying less, choosing well, and making things last.  

I’m a co-founder of Stories Behind Things, a platform that celebrates the story behind sustainable consumption and living, and I’m passionate about putting a stop to the disconnection that many experience with the items in their lives. We need to collectively slow down and reconnect with what we are using and buying. 

In his book Notes on a Nervous Planet, one of my favorite writers, Matt Haig, delves into the effects of consumption on our mental health, writing, “The whole of consumerism is based on us wanting the next thing rather than the present thing we already have,” he says. “This is an almost perfect recipe for unhappiness. We are trained to live in the future, not the present.” I think this sums it up perfectly.

Through slowing down and reconnecting to the story of what we are buying, I believe we will have greater respect for where our stuff comes from, thus leading to a more conscious mindset to consuming, even after the lockdown is lifted. It can feel easy to avoid making big changes to your lifestyle if you feel guilty for not doing things perfectly, but in reality, we are all recovering hypocrites when it comes to living in line with our values—and that’s ok! This movement would benefit most from everybody making manageable changes, however imperfect they may be.

While we are at home, what can we do to reframe our consumption habits? Let’s start with something we use every day, our wardrobes. These four steps will help you fall back in love with the wardrobe you have.

Sell online 

As many of our charity stores and donation centers remain closed during shelter-in-place, we may need to recycle our unwanted clothing in a different way. Think before you throw! Avoid throwing clothing in the bin to add to the landfill. Instead, sell your pieces on eBay, Depop, Vestiaire Collective, or through your Instagram stories.

Reinvigorate old love

Have a pair of jeans that fit well but you are bored of? We all do! Get creative and spend an afternoon sewing a small flower or motif into it or along a pocket. Your newly personalized jeans will feel good as new! 

Make a mending pile 

Collect the items you still love but that need a bit of TLC. Learn how to mend them yourself (YouTube can teach you anything) or keep them organized to bring to the tailor once shops reopen.

Plan for donations and swaps  

Once lockdown is over, take clothing you no longer love to a clothing swap. In London, Stories Behind Things hosts a series called The Big Clothes Switch. Even if you’re not in London, why not host a swap with your friends when it’s safe?

With a few of the above tips under your belt during lockdown, you’ll be on the right track to a more conscious relationship with your wardrobe and beyond. 

Written by Jemma Finch of Stories Behind Things for Youth To The People