“Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself,” John Muir wrote, “we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
This should be our first commandment: we are connected to all that is.
In other words, whether you realize it or not, we are all creators. If anything I do is hitched to everything else in the universe, then every thought, every action of mine has global implications.
We are powerful. And we are powerfully interconnected.
It is our responsibility, then, to consciously participate in the world.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Natalie Kay Smith, the creator of Sustainably Chic, a blog, boutique, and community for the conscious consumer. “We all can make a difference by what we decide to purchase (& NOT purchase),” she writes. “Shop positive, shop small, and shop sustainably.” Natalie knows the law of interconnection—and she’s determined to live by it.
Here’s what she had to say about the ways the every day choices we make as consumers can impact the world. We have the power to experience a new planet. All we have to do is change our perspective.
Q: When you talk about sustainable or ethical production, what do you mean?
A: Sustainable production is where quality, economics and the environment play a large role. You want to create a product that lasts, sustains your business financially, and has little impact on the earth. Ethical production is how the immediate environment is treated during the process. People must be paid a fair wage, and there must be respect for the planet and its inhabitants.
Q: Can you give us some examples of harmful practices in the mainstream fashion industry?
A: Wow . . . where to begin?! Fast fashion (which includes places like Forever 21, and, yes, GAP/JCrew/Etc are part of it) is responsible for mistreatment of employees, waste and destruction of the environment and people. Workers in third world countries make extremely low wages in terrible working conditions where they are constantly struggling to feed their children and put them in school. Cotton farmers are taken advantage of, and tons of towns are affected with disease because of cleaning processes and its chemicals. Clothes we discard (because let’s face it, the stuff is cheap and unwearable after 7 wears—that’s the point of it all) are thrown by the waste side back into these countries where they sit and discard harmful chemicals back into the atmosphere. T-shirts aren’t meant to be $5. If it is $5, then something is obviously wrong, and someone is being taken advantage of.
Q: On your blog, you describe the unethical, unsustainable side of fashion as “fast fashion.” Instead, you call on each of us to “shop small,” essentially to choose companies that are part of the slow fashion landscape, companies that are mindful of human rights, wellness, and earth’s longevity. How can such small, local actions on our part as consumers create such a big, universal impact?
A: I blog a lot about how strongly I believe in the community and change beginning on a personal level. So many people are quick to wanting to change things at the top by getting rid of these bad guys, but I don’t believe things work well this way. We put a lot of our power into something big, and it takes away from what we can do in our own environment. Why spend time fighting greed, when you can spread compassion and awareness so easily around you? Our voice is heard so much better in a small area.
Q: In my work as an entrepreneur, creating consciously—in tune with the earth and the health of all humans and creatures that walk the planet—feels like an expression of gratitude to the cosmos for this land I live on and this body I have. What has embarking on this mission to create sustainably and create a community around ethical production taught you about your own connection to the earth, the cosmos, your body?
A: Creating this community has taught me a lot about individual impact. This earth has over 7 billion people, and I never thought my existence would ever mean anything. The more I dive into the subject of sustainability, the more I feel connected to the people and environment around me. It would be difficult to be an advocate for a sustainable society, and not feel a great connection to yourself, the earth, and the cosmos. Sustainability is about the future, and we have to understand the present in order to pave a brighter path for generations to come.
Q: You’ve intentionally created Sustainably Chic as not just a blog, but a community. Why does joining together with others on a similar mission matter?
A: There is so much power in the community. When it is strong and passionate, it can accomplish anything. Especially, when sustainability has a small voice, we need a few others to help make it a little louder!
Q: Alice Walker believes activism is her rent for living on the planet. Do you, too, feel a responsibility to be an advocate—to leave a legacy of peace by raising awareness about our daily choices? In other words, do you feel a responsibility or call to do what you’re doing?
A: Of course! I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Nothing else fulfills me. Once you know the horrors of the fashion & beauty industry, I don’t know how you couldn’t stop talking about it. The conversation won’t end until things change.
Please, finish the sentence:
Sustainable production is peaceful production because . . . it shows compassion for people and the planet.
When I wake up in the morning and think about my work, I feel . . . excited. I have never been so happy about having to ‘work’. I can’t wait to wake up every morning (makes me an early riser!).
I am grateful for . . . being able to eat, sleep and work in a comfortable environment. Being in this business, you really see how fortunate you are to have those everyday things.
When I think about the future, I . . . see a conscious planet.