Stop shaming people for making a small difference

 By Protima Tiwary, A New Age Creative Entrepreneur & Founder of The Mill

2020 has made us reflect, and how! This year made us take a pause and think about how we lived, how we interacted with people, how we worked, what we ate, and our lifestyle choices in general. This year made us realise the importance of community, and proved how human beings were responsible for the fate of Mother Earth. Many understood the concept of sustainable living and tried their best to be mindful about their way of life.

Here’s the thing with sustainable development- none of the changes that we read about are made overnight. No one adopt a vegan diet in a few hours. It takes months to give up shopping from fast fashion brands. It takes years to perfect upcycling. And it takes years to be it all! It’s one small difference made in a particular moment that adds up to form the larger picture. Then why must we shame someone for making minimal effort?

Let’s take veganism for example. It takes months to prepare yourself to give up all the food habits that you have grown up with. From giving up non-vegetarian food to shifting over to a vegetarian diet, and finally moving on to a vegan diet which is sustainable, requires a lot of effort, and one needs to stay consistent over a long period of time. Today someone might help rescue a helpless animal but might be enjoying dairy products- there is no reason to shame them because even though it’s a small change, they are making a difference to an animal’s life. Their journey to adopting a dairy and meat free life will slowly evolve, the least we could do is support them and inspire them instead of shaming them.

Look at sustainable fashion- how many of us are comfortable re-using our clothes? Thanks to capitalism, we all want to be on trend. A small shift from fast-fashion brands to sustainable brands is enough to make a difference, so why must we shame someone for refusing to repeat their outfits? One report found that addressing environmental problems created by the fashion industry would provide a $192 billion overall benefit to the global economy by 2030. Did you know? It takes 2700lt of water to make one cotton shirt. By reducing demand for these clothes from fast fashion brands, you’re making enough of a difference! 

Almost 2 years ago I made myself a promise that I was going to be mindful about my fashion choices. It was an intimidating thought at first- how do I stop shopping? What about the sales? How can I ignore the urge to buy the latest dresses? I gave myself a 1month challenge- would I be able to go without buying a new piece of clothing for 1 month?
This is also the same time around which Thrifty Ideas India was born: instead of buying new clothes I was purchasing second-hand outfits…& enjoying the shift. So now I hadn’t bought anything for 2 months, my next purchase came from a thrift store, & I slowly found myself getting interested in the world of conscious fashion. I learned about the ugly side of fast fashion, the tricks of capitalism, & how our purchase decisions had an impact on the environment. A trip to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan left me unimpressed. Milan turned out to be that lesson that would stay with me for life- capitalism is ruining our planet

Point being: sustainable fashion need not be complicated or expensive- you start with buying second-hand items, then move on to reusing your outfits, and if absolutely necessary, buying new pieces from sustainable clothing brands only. It’s not always this easy, & you will want to give in to temptation. But that’s all a part of the process. Even a small change is making a difference.

If this year has taught us something, it was that being grateful and empathetic towards our community worked well for everyone. So instead of seeing someone for not being a 100% sustainable, look at the effort they are making to bring about a change. They might start with giving up plastic toothbrushes today, tomorrow this may evolve into them refusing to buy anything but second hand, and probably even turning vegan. Everyone has their own unique journey and they could do with your support.

Let’s not be extreme & too hard on ourselves (or others) : your journey might start with a small step, & will slowly evolve to a level where you understand the grey areas that lie in living the slow life.