By Kristina Ang
Photo by Bermix Studio
Look up the term “sustainability” in any capacity, and you’re sure to be met with images of people recycling, trees being planted, and even an array of diverse wildlife surrounding a flourishing planet earth. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of something based on how it is portrayed in the media and on sources we deem reliable, but the reality is often much more convoluted than you realize. Sustainability is, no doubt, a complex subject and it’s to be expected that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion surrounding the matter. We, here, at Hyer Goods, have broken down the most popular sustainability myths that exist in the world and give you the inside scoop on what’s fact and what’s fiction. Take a look:
Sustainable living is too expensive and only reserved for the wealthy.
At the top of our list is the common misconception that sustainability is too expensive. And although this myth may not be entirely untrue, understanding what makes sustainable products and commodities more expensive than their alternatives is essential in making better-informed purchasing decisions. While there are many reasons that attribute to a higher price tag, some common ones include the fact that sustainable materials and ethical labor costs more, the demand for sustainable products is not as high as their counterparts, and even the process of procuring a reputable third-party certification can contribute to the growing costs. The good news is that sustainable living doesn’t have to be expensive. In recent years, many people have opened up to the idea of shopping second-hand because it's more affordable and environmentally-conscious than buying new.
Sustainability is only about the environment.
While a large part of sustainability is about preserving the environment and maintaining our biosphere for the well being of future generations, the term itself encompasses so much more than you think. But what if I told you that the original definition of sustainability actually had to do more with a focus on human needs and potential than it had to do with the environment? That’s right! The earliest case whereby the term “sustainability” was officially used was in The Limits to Growth (1972) by Donella H. Meadows. Meadows along with her co-authors had described the term as “the state of global equilibrium [that] could be designed so that the basic material needs of each person on earth are satisfied and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his individual human potential”. I’m sure not many today would define sustainability in such a way that Meadows had, but of course, like most words, the meaning of “sustainability” changed drastically over time and evolved to fit specific needs. Today, the term has expanded to include four distinct areas of impact: human, social, economic, and environmental. These four are known as the four pillars of sustainability.
Sustainability means a lower standard of living.
A lot of people associate a sustainable lifestyle with one that is dirty, disheveled, and unpleasant, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. A sustainable lifestyle involves a behavioral change in learning how to do more with less, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lower your standards of living or utilize lower quality products. In fact, sustainable patterns of living are actually focused on improving the quality of life while also reducing the impact on our environment.
Luxury fashion is more sustainable than fast fashion.
A higher standard of quality and a higher price tag does not always equate to a product being more sustainable than its counterparts. On the surface, luxury fashion brands might appear more sustainable due to the exclusivity and scarcity of the products that are produced. But while it is true that fewer products are being produced, the realities of the luxury fashion industry are much worse than people think. In the past couple of years, luxury fashion has started to resemble those of the fast fashion sector, which has people questioning if luxury fashion really is more sustainable. Designers like Karl Lagerfield, Stella McCartney, Balmain and Versace have held big collaborations with fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara to expand their reach to the masses. Not to mention that brands like Prada, Chanel, and Gucci, just to name a few, still partake in the utilization of synthetic materials and animal fur and leather that are especially harmful to the environment.
All clothes can be recycled.
Not true! This, mainly, has to do with the fact that most clothing is made from a blend of fabrics and because the process of textile recycling works differently for natural versus synthetic fabrics, this makes recycling clothes all the more difficult. That is why it is so important for brands to be conscious of what materials they are making their products out of in the very beginning stages of the design and production process. If you want to learn more about the process of recycling clothes and some resources that are available to you, check out our last article on recycling apparel, here.
Technology is the answer to all of our sustainability problems.
It’s certainly not the solution to all of our problems, but I would be lying to you if I said technology didn’t play an important role in solving some of the world’s biggest environmental problems. Electric vehicles, smart technology, and environmental monitoring are just some of the innovations in the tech industry that have positively impacted our effect on the environment. But our society’s reliance on technology has gotten to the point where individuals have put a great deal of dependency on the solutions made by technological innovation. But what many fail to recognize is that technology is only part of the solution to our problems. The other part lies heavily on a behavioral change in the way we, as people, consume and go about our daily lives.
Sustainability is a destination.
Most certainly not! Sustainability is an ongoing journey, not a destination. Recognizing that sustainability is a complex subject and that there are many moving parts involved will help reassure you in your journey and allow you to realize that every stride, whether big or small, can make a huge impact.