If you have been following Vilda for a while, you will know that we are great fans of voting for the world you want through your purchases. Uncompromising on vegan ethics and dedicated to ethical shopping (or no shopping at all), we all agree: how and what we buy and use matters. But when it comes to changing the world, there are a series of undeniable truths that make the following hard to ignore: we need collective action to truly make lasting change on a worldwide level.
“Conscious consumerism is a lie“, says ethical fashion blogger and sustainable lifestyle journalist Alden Wicker, who advocates collective action rather than individual efforts (not that the latter are wrong or that you shouldn’t bother with them – Wicker’s theory is simply that collective action makes a much bigger impact on overall change).
Mary Imgrund of Eco Warrior Princess echoes that sentiment:
Focusing so acutely on personal responsibility, we’ve given corporations tacit permission to continue putting the burden of saving the environment on us. Even if you personally never use plastic straws, they are still being made by the trillions, and all of those will eventually be used or, even worse, find their way to landfills or the ocean unused. Large-scale bans of single-use plastic are an excellent step forward, threatening companies with the loss of entire markets and damaging their reputation.
An important point here is that too much emphasis has been placed on the individual’s choices: what we wear, what we eat, what we use. Which is, without a doubt, important – the rise in veganism could never have occurred without the powerful impact of individual actions and choices. But the individual is not the only – or the strongest – force in action. Often, individual efforts are dwarfed by the power of industry actions that will without a doubt have the biggest impact on our climate and planet. Bigger-scale change only occurs when we as a society come together and demand it.
Some of our favourite ways to come together for collective action are simple, quick and actually much less of a lifestyle change than personal actions – although those are certainly also important. But to affect change beyond yourself and what you buy and wear, consider these:
Register to vote – and then actually vote. In the US, less than 60% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2016 election. In the UK, the “unheard third” represents 34% of the population who are eligible voters, but are not voting. If we want to create meaningful change, we have to show up and elect people who can help us do so.
Contact your favourite brands. Write to companies and ask them “who made my clothes?”. Find out about where, how, and by whom their clothing is made – and what their environmental and animal welfare policies are.
Vilda’s Fashion Editor Sica Schmitz, owner of ethical fashion boutique Bead & Reel, says:
“As a small business owner myself, when I consistently see certain questions being asked or things being requested, it’s much easier for me to prioritise them knowing there is a high need or want from the consumers. This works with large corporations as well.”
Educate yourself. Understanding the issues and solutions is a key part of helping communicate them to others. We recommend reading Magnifeco or Overdressed, as well as watching The True Cost and River Blue, and finding bloggers and media outlets that can provide continuing resources (not to brag, but Vilda is a great place to start).
Join movements. There are a lot of people already doing amazing things to change the fashion industry, and they could use your support. The Story of Us is tackling microplastics, Fashion Revolution is addressing human rights in supply chains. Sharing their content, volunteering your time, donating you money, or even just signing up to follow along all really do help.
Engage in discussion. You not buying palm oil anymore is great – but what would be even greater would be if palm oil stopped showing up in most products we eat and buy. Iceland finally became the first UK supermarket to cut palm oil from its own-brand products, and that sets a great example for other supermarkets. But it won’t work unless consumers engage in discussion, support groups that work to get palm oil out of our supermarket shelves, and make their voices heard. Together.
Ask your favourite establishments to cut down on plastic. Write to the supermarket where you do your shopping and ask them to consider plastic pollution and cut down on packaging. Get in touch with restaurants you frequently visit and ask them to switch to recycled/recyclable/reusable cutlery instead of single-use plastic (it can be argued that any victory in this department is much more effective than giving up single-use plastics yourself).
Contact local political office. Get in touch with your local political offers and ask what they are doing about environmental and social issues. Donate to and support politicians that have concrete plans in place for the environment, humans and animals in your area.
Volunteer. Whether it’s animal shelters or beach clean-ups, volunteering is a great way to come together with like-minded people to create change. There is nothing quite like joining together with fellow activists and working together to create the world you want.
Taking action – together – to achieve larger-scale change is one of the most powerful actions that any of us can take, and it’s an empowering way to realise that as individuals, there is a lot that we can do if we come together.
Compiled by Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sascha Camilli and Fashion Editor Sica Schmitz
Photo by Heather Mount via Unsplash