Sustainability is not a trend

By Andrea Byrne

The life-cycle of a trend in itself is intended to be short, which is why the push for sustainability should not be seen as a trend, but a lifestyle. Viewing sustainability as a trend is hindering its potential success as when reflecting on similar product-based trends in Ireland the push for sustainability looks to be following a very familiar path.

Pat Kane, an advocate for sustainability and winner of the Inspiration in Environmental Change 2019, has shown the public there are simple ways to be sustainable, through her shop Reuzi.

When setting up Reuzi, Kane had one driving factor: “My two little boys, Thomas and Conor. Every day, I’d read the papers, watch the news and then think to myself, I need to find a way to contribute to a better world for my kids, I had to do something about it… and so, Reuzi was born.”

Reuzi in Foxrock Village. Credit: Andrea Byrne

Pat said: “Sustainable living can be affordable. As I like to say, we all have lunch boxes, tupperware, bottles and cutlery – that’s a start. Carry a little minimal waste living set around everywhere you go, you will be surprised by how much waste you will avoid. Carry a shopper bag – I am sure by now we all have at least one sitting at home – and avoid extra bags.”

“Learn how to say no and only buy what you need. Start small, set yourself three to five goals and master them. You don’t have to spend money to live a more sustainable life. Use your own cutlery on-the-go, carry a water bottle and a mug, items you most likely already have at home, to avoid single-use products,” she said.

Kane’s motto is “sustainable living made simple”, which she tries to reflect in Reuzi. The store stocks over 500 products and tools to help “get your eco on”. Customers can try products before bringing them home, and are encouraged to ask questions and find solutions to the sustainability issues they are facing. Kane also tries to help customers find ways to influence others that might not be quite there yet when it comes to sustainability.

“On top of that, we have partnered with Minimal Waste Grocery to introduce customers to refill stations, which offer anything from snacks to cleaning products. Bring your own containers and have fun,” she said.

“Each detail has been carefully put together, from our store scent, to the plants we have used around the store. Everything is there to create a balanced, welcoming ambience. Customers are invited to join our free talks and workshops, as we go through subjects such as food waste and recycling, all the way to DIY Body Butter or Nappy Creams.”

Reuzi also offers lunch and learn sessions to businesses and schools, as well as sustainability audits. “We run House Parties where small groups of friends and family members can come together and learn about sustainability and also purchase products they may have heard of but have never had the chance to see,” Kane added.

Saoirse McHugh, member of the Green Party, spoke to about her views on sustainability and fast fashion.

Saoirse McHugh

Agreeing that trends in Ireland, Europe and the US are short-lived, McHugh said: “According to the World Resources Institute, the increasing speed of trend turnover is quite shocking. It used to be two or three seasons of fashion, but now shops can have up to 50 micro-seasons a year. Without a doubt, trends are short lived and becoming increasingly shorter.”

The idea of sustainability may seem unachievable to some people, but it’s not as daunting as it appears. McHugh said: “It’s hard to be sustainable while maintaining the pattern of fast fashion. Nobody needs to buy as much as we do. A lot of it is superficial want, to sometimes make ourselves feel better. I think there’s definitely a totally affordable way, in terms of your fashion purchasing.”

With sustainability in mind to decrease fast fashion, the capsule wardrobe is an idea where people choose quality clothing that will last instead of buying clothes for a one use purpose. Commenting on this trend, McHugh said: “Ideas like this will have to become normalised for people. It won’t be just a switch from synthetic fibres to natural, or non-organic cotton to organic.

“It will have to be an entire switch in how we interact with fashion. Even shared wardrobes for professionals will become far more widespread.”

The world is changing, and as a society when buying, we can’t only think of now, we need to be thinking with longevity in mind. As shoppers, we need to learn to be mindful. Our choices need to outlive not just a season, but last for a lifetime.

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