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Sustainability: What Does it Really Mean?

Sustainability: What Does it Really Mean?

Posted by : Talia Eisenberg   /  

what does it really mean?

We hear “sustainable” tossed around a lot as a buzzword,
similar to “organic” and “natural,” but what does it actually mean?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, it’s defined as:

creating and maintaining the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations
English please?
Sustainability is a balancing act between how we as a civilization can continue to grow while ensuring the preservation of our natural ecosystem – how we can meet the needs of the present without compromising the ecosystem for future generations; it aims to protect our and our planet’s health while driving innovation that improves our way of life
Why does sustainability matter?
We use 40% more resources every year that we cannot put back into the world. If we keep going on this path, it’s pretty much guaranteed that there won’t be a livable Earth for future generations.

The UN climate report has slated the point-of-no-return for global warming to be 2040, while the US climate report has it coming even sooner – 2030. In the past 50 years, humans have consumed more resources than in all previous history (for reference – humans have been on this earth for 50,000 years).
“We are running the world’s most
dangerous experiment right now,
which is to see how much carbon dioxide
the atmosphere can handle before
there is an environmental catastrophe.”

(Elon Musk)
How can you help?
Be a part of the change: tiny steps in the right direction toward sustainability add up – after all, there are over 7 billion people on this earth. If each person took just one tiny step, that’s a whole lot!
Think about a few everyday changes that can literally change the world:
Americans throw away 7,000 water bottles every second, and they take approximately 450 years to biodegrade.
Switch to an eco-friendly bottle from an organization that can prove its sustainable manufacturing practices, such as Klean Kanteen (for the minimalist), Earthlust (for the nature and animal lovers), Welly (this one’s especially good for tea drinkers, as it has a removable infuser), or BKR (for the fashion-forward female).
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture, and only 1% of them are returned for recycling (and just like plastic water bottles, they take 450-500 years to biodegrade). 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags every year.

Many European countries have tariffed, or completely banned, the use of plastic bags, but don’t wait for it to be illegal to make a change: use anything form an old tote bag to reusable grocery bags that retail for about $0.99 at most stores.

And there is no need to bag your fresh produce in those plastic bags at the supermarket – you’re going to wash them anyway!

We’re a big fan of the bags (and countless other goods) over at The Little Market – a nonprofit market founded by women, for women, whose mission is “is to build sustainable partnerships with artisans from around the world, by connecting them with customers through our fair-trade shop.”
91% of the world’s plastic isn’t actually recycled.
Know the recycling rules: It was only a few years back that someone pointed out that if you put a bottle in the recycling bin with its top on, it’s going to go straight to a landfill – yes, that’s right, it won’t get recycled (in most cases). This is because it takes more effort for the companies to separate the different plastic types (the cap and the bottle must be recycled differently) than it does to just throw it away.
Americans use an average of 2.3 billion tons of paper per year. 1 ton of paper requires 390 gallons of oil and approximately 75 million trees to produce

…of which at least 30% is determined to be total waste. Stop the spam and go paperless: receive your statements by e-mail and use e-readers for magazines.
Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year.

Donate your clothing to Goodwill or other local organizations, or consider re-selling it on websites such as Poshmark andeBay. Many local clubs and organizations will have seasonal “swaps” where all participants will bring their destined-for-dumpster clothes and trade for others’, and then the remainder will go to Goodwill! We love the idea of sustainability in community.
Cotton production accounts for 25% of the world’s pesticide use and the millworkers often experience lung problems due to the invisible toxic cotton dust that’s ingested on the job

Trusted Clothes is an organization aiming to shed light on not only the cotton industry, but the fast fashion industry as well – check them out for a more in-depth analysis of how fast fashion is thwarting sustainability efforts.
Consider opting for clothing brands that can prove their fair-trade stable working conditions and reduced carbon footprinton the environment, such as People Treeand Kowtow or opt for alternative fabrics to cotton, such as our Seam Siren nettle collection, Conscious Culture’s linen pieces, and Shift to Nature’s hemp and bamboo collections.
Fair trade what?
What’s that got to do with sustainability?
When something is labeled as fair-trade, it essentially guarantees sustainability. The Fairtrade Organization is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to establish guidelines that foster good working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

The principles of Fairtrade include environmental standards that prohibit harmful chemicals and require proper measures taken to protect natural resources, ensuring the planet will be healthy for generations to come. Fair trade goods are ethically sources and generally produced in small batches, assuring quality standards that you simply won’t get from fast-factory goods.

Is fair trade the same as organic? Not always. Generally, companies that operate under Fair Trade principles will believe strongly in the need for organic processes, but it’s not guaranteed. 

Essentially, "organic" sets standards for agricultural methods and the use of natural resources, while "fair trade" sets standards for trade and working with people. Things can be fair trade and not organic, and things can be organic and not fair trade.
Since it’s the start of spring,
what better way to start the month of April
off than with a few of our favorite
sustainable Spring fashion and beauty products…
Flaunt a fresh face
for spring:

 we are loving the palettes and tones of Elate Beauty’s zero-waste products.
This elegant, simple shirt-dress from Cuyanais a timeless piece good for layering or on its own on warm summer days.
We love that it’s
machine washable
(but save the environment
and let it hang dry 😉)
Cuyana partners with craftsmen throughout Europe, South America, China, and the US to source their goods. At checkout with every purchase, they offer participation in their Lean Closet organization: the Lean Closet movement was created to give victims of abuse a fresh start in partnership with H.E.A.R.T. By selecting Lean Closet at checkout, Cuyana will send you a linen bag to fill with the things that are no longer of use to you, including a shipping label to send back. For every donation you make, you will receive a $10 credit towards your next Cuyana purchase!
Put a spring in your step:

Whether paired with the shirt dress above, with jeans, or literally anything else, we are obsessing over these Everlane shoes – perfect for work, play, and everything in between, we love the slight heel that upgrades your standard sandal, yet remains totally comfortable for everyday wear. We want them in every color!
Everlane’s goal is “radical transparency”  - they seek out factories around the world—the same ones that produce many designer labels –and visit them often to audit their compliance with fair trade principles including reasonable hours, fair wages, and good working environments.  If the factories don’t meet the measures, Everlane will not use them.
Ease into comfort and style:

These straight leg crop pants from Kotn are made from ethically and sustainably sourced Egyptian cotton, perfect for pairing with everything from casual t-shirts for sunny days to soft sweaters for cooler nights.

Kotn works directly with cotton farming families in Egypt, aiming to rebuild the industry from the inside. The cotton is bought under fair trade principles directly from farmers at guaranteed prices, then sent to Kotn’s own and only cut-and-sew factory outside Alexandria. The responsibly-run operation employs locals, securing their craft and their livelihood.
Tote sustainably with style:

This nettle tote from our Seam Siren line will keep you from ever using a plastic bag again! It’s great for picnics in the park, days at the beach, trips to the grocery store, and everything in between!
Swab sustainably too!

BIG kudos to this kickstarter company that's aiming to eliminate the pesky cotton swabs:

Single use q-tips are a huge contributor to waste; even cotton swabs with a wood or paper rods impact the environment. As they're single use, 1 person can use 1000s each year. These cotton swabs need to be produced, warehoused, shipped, used, and discarded - LastSwab aims to eliminate this with its completely reusable swab that comes in 2 designs (makeup and standard) that's washed easily with soap and water.
We hope you welcome spring with a new view on sustainability
and how easy it can be to support! 
Sustainability aims to mitigate the effects and prevent future harm to the ecosystem – by contributing to ethical clothing brands and fair-trade goods and making small adjustments in your daily life, you can ensure that Earth has a future for generations to come!

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1 comment

  • sasha

    I never knew exactly what sustainability means, everyone uses it freely but now I understand the environmental implications and why we need to start asking better questions