Second-hand Sustainability

Recently there has been a movement or an understanding that if you buy something second-hand, that it is inherently sustainable or ethical. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I am here to shed a little more light onto this complex topic.
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I think one of the most crucial things I would love everyone to understand is that we need to limit the amount of clothing and accessories that we purchase. Just because there is a sale or an opportunity to go and buy things, does not mean that we need to be buying things. We need to decrease the number of things we buy and stop chasing after trendy items. Instead, we need to invest in high-quality timeless items that will remain stylish and intact for decades to come. When it comes to shopping, it needs to be done in moderation and it needs to be well thought out. We need to stop our over-consumptive lifestyles and adhere to a more responsible and environmentally-friendly approach.

Last year I decided to make a pact with myself to never purchase another item of clothing that was composed from synthetic fibres. Included in this pact were these rules: think about the item before I choose to buy it – this includes thinking about if it goes with a lot of other things I already own, if it truly fits well, and if I would actually wear it a lot. This resulted in me being able to cut down on unnecessary purchases, and to build a wardrobe consisting mostly of natural fibres and high-quality garments. Now, in no way am I claiming to be perfect either. I still have garments that are composed from synthetic materials which I had purchased years ago – I am slowly replacing them with more sustainable options, which will be discussed later on in this post.

There is no doubt that buying items second-hand or thrifting is more sustainable than buying new. Thrifting or buying something second-hand is a better option because additional resources are not being used to produce the item, as it has already been created. Giving an item a second life is important. It is also important to know that you can shop at thrift or consignment stores, however shopping at local vintage shops or participating in local clothing swaps is also incredibly important.

However, let’s examine the meaning behind sustainability. Sustainability is the process in which the exploitation of resources, among many other things, is in harmony with and enhances the current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainability operates on the precept that we need to meet present demands without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The only way in which sustainability can occur, is through healthy ecosystems and environments. Healthy ecosystems and environments can only endure, develop or recover with reduced negative human impact.

Let’s break this down: if a thrifted item is truly sustainable, it must be made of natural materials, it must be high-quality and it must be able to be machine washed/hand washed.


Natural Materials
Whenever clothing that is made from man-made materials or synthetic materials is washed, they release plastic microfibres into the waterways. These synthetic materials include polyester, nylon, elastane, lycra, polyamide, viscose, spandex and acrylic, to name a few. These plastic microfibres pass through filters and sewage treatment plants, and pollute rivers, lakes and oceans. These synthetic or plastic fibres will never decompose.

Now, plastic pollution is not just an aesthetic issue; plastic has the ability to negatively change ecosystems. Also, over 60% of plastic pollution is from plastic microfibres from clothing, and microfibres are responsible for over 85% of shoreline pollution. Plastic microfibres, alongside other plastic waste, is composed of chemicals that significantly increase concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment (I discussed a little about endocrine disrupting chemicals here). Plastics also have the ability to attract and absorb harmful chemicals, bacteria and persistent pollutants, and when plastic pollution is smaller, the surface area increases and allows it to absorb even more chemicals and bacteria – making plastic microfibres an incredibly devastating pollutant.

Ingestion of microfibre plastic by humans and animals is now virtually unavoidable. What has to be understood about plastic microfibres is because of their size, they are able to enter into the food chain in very early stages and in every stage thereafter. Zooplankton are ingesting plastic microfibres as they mistake them for food, so plastics are continuing to maintain their presence throughout the entire food chain. Sea creatures do not even have to eat chunks of plastic to be affected, as they are continually processing ocean water containing toxic leachates through their gills, stomachs and other membranes. Higher trophic level organisms are exposed to highly enriched concentrations of contaminants due to bioaccumulation. You might be thinking “well I don’t consume sea food, so I don’t have to worry about this”, and this is problematic thinking for multiple reasons. First, you need to consume water to live. Most water that we drink is contaminated with plastic microfibres that are invisible to the naked eye – and no, drinking bottled water is not any safer. Also, more than 3.5 billion other people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food, therefore consuming toxic waste through the consumption of sea creatures. If you aren’t swayed or dismayed enough by the harmful effect on humans, plastic pollution annually kills more than 100,000 marine mammals plus millions of birds and fish.
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It is time we take responsibility for our actions and accept that man-made materials are devastating and harmful. Plastic contamination does not only harm ecosystems and animals, but it also directly harms those who are responsible for it, create it and consume the products made from it.

Another thing about man-made materials or synthetic materials is that they were created through an industrial manufacturing process which uses fossil fuels (a non-renewable resource). I have been very troubled whenever I see a product that is made from recycled plastic, or manmade materials, and is labeled as a sustainable product… this is what is referred to as “greenwashing” a product. Clothing made from recycled plastic releases even more plastic microfibres than non-recycled materials. As you read above, there is absolutely nothing sustainable about man-made fibres or materials, especially when they have to be washed. Therefore, in reflecting upon the definition of sustainability, garments composed of synthetic fibres do not even come close to passing as a sustainable purchase.

So, what are safe materials that are made from natural sources and will not release plastic microfibres? Here are a few of them. I must add that each material in this list is more sustainable than synthetics, but there is no material that is completely sustainable, either in the way it is grown or raised or in the way it is produced into a fibre. Choosing natural materials is a decision that will have less negative impacts on ourselves and on the environment both when it is being worn and when it will eventually have to be disposed of (after having being carefully cared for and donated of course). So, here are some natural plant and animal derived fibres – please note that many of the animal derived fibres listed here can be attained, either by brushing or shaving, with no harm to the animal. The leather options are sustainable if the leather is a byproduct of the food industry and is dyed using vegetable dyes instead of the traditional toxic dye process.
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Better Quality
One of the most important things to understand when thrifting or buying something second-hand is that if it is not high-quality, it is not worth it. Also, if you cannot repair it, restore it, or reimagine it, it probably isn’t worth it either. Focusing on the quality of the item is the most important aspect when shopping. This leads me to fast fashion brands or cheap big label brands. Most clothing produced as a by-product of fast fashion is cheap – both in material and make. Therefore if you purchase a fast fashion brand second hand, it will probably not last as long as a better quality garment would. This will probably lead to the garment having a shorter lifespan, requiring you to replace it relatively soon after purchasing. Therefore this second-hand purchase may end up in the trash quicker and result in even more consumption – which is quite unsustainable.

Also, some big label brands produce poor-quality garments and then slap their logo on it, and in the end you’re basically just paying to wear the logo. Always pay attention to the material the garment is made out of and the quality of the item before purchasing. Don’t let brand names sway you.
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Also, another troublesome factor about buying fast fashion brands or unsustainable big label brands second-hand is if someone likes what you are wearing and sees or asks for the brand name, it no longer matters that you purchased it second hand, as you are basically advertising for the brand and giving it positive exposure. This usually leads to the person who asked, believing that you support that brand, going to the store themselves and purchasing that unsustainable brand, brand new. I think the most important thing here is to take a moment while thrifting, pull out your phone and quickly search “is this brand sustainable” and give yourself the time to find out if your second-hand clothing is sustainable & guilt-free. Just because something is being purchased second-hand, does not magically erase or revert the unsustainable or unethical practices used to make it.

Another critical factor to consider is that many of the most unsustainable and unethical practices of fast fashion brands is that they use slave labour to manufacture the items. A way around this tricky situation is to avoid fast fashion brands as they will probably not last, the quality will be poor and it will encourage the purchasing of new fast fashion garments. Also, very importantly, avoiding the purchase of these items will decrease the demand for them which will certainly decrease the need for the slave labour that is required to manufacture these items for the cheap price they are retailed for.


Machine washable / hand washable Garments
First of all, dry cleaning is expensive. You spend money on the actual garment itself, then you have to pay to have it cleaned as well. Second, dry cleaning involves chemicals which are dangerous to our health and the health of the environment. The chemicals used in dry cleaning have even been classified as carcinogenic, and severely toxic to fish, marine life and plants. Some cities may have “green” dry cleaners, but it might be best to avoid purchasing items that need to be dry cleaned, if possible.
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This being said, it is actually quite possible to hand wash some garments that have “dry clean only” on their label, just ensure that you do your research on the proper technique before thrifting so you can save yourself money and the environment in the long run. Usually only wool, silk, cotton and linen can be washed at home and garments composed of suede, leather, or fur should be taken to a dry cleaner. Washing at home usually includes placing your garment into a laundry bag (use a cotton pillow case if you do not have one), and washing with a mild natural detergent and cold water.


Proper Washing Techniques
I am sure that even if you stop purchasing all clothing that is made from synthetic fibres right now, you will still have some items in your closet made from synthetics. Until you can afford to replace those items with more high-quality & sustainable items, here are some tips and tricks about proper washing techniques.

It is actually unnecessary to wash some of your clothing after only one wear. Items like jeans, cardigans, sweaters, and more, can be worn 2-5 times before being washed. When it is finally time to wash items composed of synthetic fibres, fill up your washing machine to ensure there is less friction between clothing. Make sure to only wash them for a short duration, on a low rev cycle, on a cold water setting. Another factor that helps to cut down on unwanted friction is to make the switch to liquid laundry soap – my favourite is being able to bring a reusable container to bulk stores and fill up with liquid laundry soap (to cut that plastic pollution even more)! Also, always throw dryer lint into the trash and never down the drain. There are even new products emerging to help control the amount of microfibres being lost into the waterways like GuppyFriend! I am going to purchase one and let you all know what I think, either in an upcoming blog or Instagram post. Of course, the takeaway should always be to avoid cheaply-made fast fashion clothes altogether and opt for natural fibres, as plastic fibres will never biodegrade, breakdown, or go away.
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So the next time you are purchasing clothing, keep in mind that a single purchase can have a worldwide impact, and it is up to you if it is a negative or positive impact. We all need to change in order to sustain the only world we have to live in. Consumers have the greatest impact and whether we choose to spend our money on sustainable second-hand goodies, or on new brands that are working hard to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, we will be able to get the message across that we are over the age of plastic pollution and that action is needed now!

Tiara

Sustainability & Wildlife

With being an environmentalist and striving to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I wondered if there were any organizations that exist in Saskatoon which focus on sustainability or the environment. I just completed my fourth year in Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan and I am working towards completing a soil science minor and a certificate in sustainability. Being aware of some local organizations that support these values is important to me. Luckily, I was able to meet with two women that run very different, but important charities here in Saskatoon.

Since I started my blog in September of 2013, I have given myself the freedom to present my interests and passions creatively and freely. One of my initial passions was sustainability and caring for the environment. Each year, I researched more, I learned more and challenged the modern way of life, which led to changing my way of life based on what I was learning about sustainability. I have changed multiple ways that I live my life and I keep making changes each month. Slowly but surely, I am working towards living a sustainable life.
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Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Allyson from the Saskatchewan Environmental Society. The Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is a non-profit, registered charity located in Saskatoon. They work on projects all across Saskatchewan. The SES concentrates on sustainable energy and climate solutions, water protection, resource conservation, biodiversity preservation and the reduction of toxic substances. Pretty badass, am I right? The goals that this society is working towards are vitally important and their focus on education is crucial. They even have a helpful page called Stuff I Can Do, which outlines some options of how to live more sustainably at home and at work. Their site is packed with useful information and can help aid you in your own personal research, as they provide many scientific publications for you to read. I was very excited to learn about the SES and I am very interested in the work they do.

I also had time to visit with Jan from the Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Center here in Saskatoon. Animals take precedence over people here, that’s for sure. They provide treatment services that are needed to rehabilitate small birds and mammals. This includes providing a safe place for the injured or orphaned animals to mend until they are returned to their natural habitat (if possible).
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Both of these organizations are charities, which rely mostly on volunteer work. If you want to support either of these charities, they would greatly appreciate it. One of my favourite quotes is by Anna Lappe: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

– Tiara

Don’t Get Left in the Dark

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I love many things, and reading happens to be one of them. During the school year I am busy reading research papers, class slides and textbooks and in the summer I try to make a dent in my “to read” book stack under my nightstand. The more I read, the more I develop a particular interest towards certain topics. Right now I am reading The Hidden Life of Trees, Silent Spring & Beren and Luthien. Admittedly, I am really bad at making time to read a book, however these current books have me hooked. I usually only find time to read before bed and reading with a light that is soft and that has adjustable brightness is something I never knew how much I would like! This AUKEY lamp is the perfect reading buddy with touch-controlled adjustable brightness and the option of coloured lighting. This lamp is rechargeable, so it can be moved and carried to just about anywhere! It’s minimal design helps this lamp to fit into any space & help you tackle that stack of books in the perfect ambient setting. AUKEY_2
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– light received from AUKEY, all thoughts and opinions are my own –

– Tiara

Monthly Listen – February 2016

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I present to you, my favourite album of the month! I know what you’re thinking, I listen to other artists besides Fleetwood Mac and Meat Loaf? What? However here I am with this months favourite: The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys. I recently dusted off this record and while it was playing I couldn’t help but dance around and be filled with pure joy. Since then I think I’ve almost worn it out with the amount I’ve played it! The Beach Boys have that irresistible upbeat summer vibe that I can’t get enough of. Songs like “It’s Gettin’ Late” encompass a sound that breathes life into my soul.

Happy Listening,

-Tiara

 

Shania Twain Concert 2015

My dreams came true during Shania Twain’s Rock This Country Concert this past Sunday. I first started listening to Shania Twain on cassette when I was 3 years old, and she has remained one of my favourites to this day. Her music is iconic and timeless. She did not disappoint, her concert was unreal! From fireballs to fireworks, and she is still the hottest woman alive.
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I loved the consistent red and black theme, and all the sparkle on Shania’s outfits!
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Here she is joined by Wes Mack to sing Party For Two.
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If this concert wasn’t already awesome enough, Shania got into a saddle that suspended up over the audience and sang Up!
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The performance of You’re Still the One left me with chills and tears. Shania is still very capable of blowing me away with just her voice and the guitar.
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Shania left us with the song Man! I Feel Like a Woman, while wearing a bodysuit that proves in every sense that she’s still got it.
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Shania did not disappoint, it was a stunning concert full of glam, sparkle and flame. She interacted with the audience and her band members, reminding me how down to earth she remains after all these years. We were kept entertained between costume changes by her band playing cool instrumentals of her songs or videos of her on screen. The backdrops were amazing, and the stage set up was really well organized. Shania left me with a night I will always remember and cherish, it was a concert to remember!

This was the best Sunday night of my life!
– Tiara

Monthly Listen – March 2015

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I decided to start something new and talk about albums that I am currently loving. This Meat Loaf record is my monthly favourite, it never stops playing! This 1983 album is full of all that rock and roll, upbeat and lively music that I crave. I love how whatever encompasses Meat Loaf’s music, it keeps me coming back, 32 years after it was released. This is not one of Meat Loaf’s well known albums and for some obscene reason gets a bad rep. Which is why I want to share it, as I believe that there are so many hidden gems on this album.

My top picks: Fallen Angel & Midnight at the Lost and Found

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happy listening,

– Tiara

The Juice on Aloe Vera

The Juice on Aloe Vera

So even though it is snowing here in Saskatoon, I like to pretend that it is warm like Spring should be so I bought another plant. I got an Aloe Vera plant because they are quite pretty as well as very beneficial to have on hand.

General Care: An Aloe Vera plant should be planted cactus mix soil. It should also be planted in a container with drainage holes. My container did not have a drainage hole so instead I added a variety of rocks at the bottom of the container to help with better drainage. I will have to take special care not to over water it. Make sure to let the soil dry out really well between watering it, letting the soil get crumbly and light in colour. Allow the soil to dry 2 to 3 inches deep to discourage rot. Try watering it every 2 weeks and adjust to what works for you. Make sure your plant gets a lot of sunshine (if the leaves are lying flat they aren’t getting enough light and if the leaves turn brown they are getting too much light).aloevera2

Repotting: I repotted my plant into a prettier container when I got home. Make sure the container allows for a lot of room for the roots to grow. Make sure to do this outside or over an area that is easily cleaned. I added rocks to the bottom, added cactus mix, and gently loosened the roots into the new soil. Be very careful as the roots are not connected very well to the plant, the plant will wobble a bit in its new container. Try not to water it for a couple days after repotting.

Benefits: An Aloe Vera leaf is filled with a gel-like substance. This substance can be applied to burns, cuts, rashes and bug bites to relieve pain, soothe and prevent itching. Aloe Vera can also reduce the pain and swelling of acne and if applied often will help give an even skin tone. You can try replacing your lotion and replacing it with Aloe Vera gel for a great and natural moisturizer.aloevera3

How I Use It: My favourite use for Aloe Vera is using it in homemade hair masks. It deeply hydrates the scalp and hair, in return providing extremely shiny hair and no dandruff! I massage about 3 tablespoons of the gel into my scalp and use the rest on the length of my hair and let it sit for 1 hour. The crazy thing is by the end of the hour my hair is completely dry, it absorbed all the Aloe Vera! Then I shampoo and condition as usual. This can speed up hair growth and promote healthy and strong hair.

There are many different opinions about if consuming Aloe Vera gel is safe, so I choose to only use it externally. I am very impressed about how moisturizing it is and will continue to use it as a lotion and in my hair masks. Tell me what you use it for!

– Tiara