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On Sustainability - A Short Reprise

by Darleen Masakhwe

My name is Darleen Masakhwe. For the last six months I have been an intern at New Classics. I usually work creatively behind the scenes. However, in honor of Earth Day this Sunday I would like to share with you my current thoughts on sustainability and how I relate to it. 

Truth be told I’ve never had a singular ‘aha’ moment with sustainability. I’ve been lucky enough to have been brought up by women who lived sustainably - so this concept was a reality which didn’t need to be constructed before action occurred. They embedded their teachings and views into every part of my upbringing. We tried to compost as much as possible, using banana peels and other organic garbage to fertilize our garden. The lights were always turned off when not in use. And my parents always made sure that we gave away clothing we didn’t need, mended what could be mended, and didn’t buy for the sake of buying. Growing up, conversations around my dinner table would center on the new development goals, how the lack of rain back home was an occurrence that hadn’t been seen by many generations.

 

  
When I developed an interest in fashion and art, I began by consuming lots lots of stuff. This was not intentional. In the pursuit to discover myself and my style I did a lot of buying. I felt that the more items I tried, the faster I would come to find myself in a piece of clothing. If I simply invested in trying out trendy pieces which spoke to me, the pay off for my aesthetic was guaranteed. Now I believe that this pursuit is not only misguided, but endless. The self is always changing; there will never be a moment where you discover its truest form. There is even less of a chance that there will always be a specific style or uniform which relates directly to yourself concept. 
These days I try not to buy; I disengage myself from consumption as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong - replacing items is nice. However, when items are purchased simply for a new look that’s misguided consumption, regardless of whether or not items are sustainably made. At this current moment I believe that all unnecessary consumption is harmful. Of course the process behind the clothing is different; sweatshops brutalize people and the environment in tandem. However, waste is waste. There is equivalency between wearing a t-shirt from a fast fashion company, and wearing a t-shirt from a sustainable company - if you don’t need them it's wasteful
I don’t believe that we are going to save the environment through capitalism. Any system which wants to survive adapts to the environment which it finds itself in. I don’t know if I believe that the efforts of businesses to realign themselves in honest. Maybe a few times there is genuine concern. Most of the time though, I believe that companies just want money from all parties. Everyone wants to claim sustainability - but very few actually know what it is, and how which parts apply to their business. On the individual level I have different thoughts. While it is nice to have sustainable options, I often worry that people aren’t shifting their patterns of consumption in the right way. That instead of consuming less, people are consuming at the same level or more, allowing the claim of sustainability to put them at ease.
I doubt that many individuals have had, and try to give themselves a chance to interact with the earth. Either through exploring nature, or connecting via planting, weeding and cleaning.

At the end of the day my upbringing and exposure to the perspectives of individuals from different walks of life has shaped what sustainability is to me. My biggest hope is that everyone, from consumer to manufacturer, takes time to think critically. Not just about what is at stake - but about the best approach they can take.

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