Although I’ve never considered myself to be materialistic, my previous life was quite different to the one I’ve been living for the last few years. I had a home and the ‘normal’ amount of stuff that comes with that but then something happened. My life took a bit of a drastic turn and I found myself packing my suitcase, buying a ticket to nowhere and taking some time out to process what had brought me to that point, to ‘find myself’ and explore what really mattered most in this world.
I eventually returned but was in no hurry to give up my new found freedom and the peace that came with it. I downsized my life and possessions to a few boxes, took up house-sitting and travelled for months at a time. One thing I began to realize more and more, through my travels and experiences with other people and cultures, was that we live in such a consumer obsessed society. There are those that do not question the impact a product has had on the environment or if it was made ethically, without the suffering of people or animals.
Something has to give. Something has to fundamentally shift in the consumption world that reduces the pressure on the raw materials, which reduces pressure on the planet and reduces the pressure on the people who make all this stuff all over the world. Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s director of environmental strategy
However there is definitely a positive shift that is starting to occur around the world. Good companies and brands are producing products that consumers can feel happy about because the consumer understands the products are made in sustainable, ethical ways. And in many cases there is a social aspect to them where individuals lives and their communities are being turned around in significant ways through the creation of these goods.
Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe
These words have resonated with me for a long time and I find that I’m rarely able to spend money without thinking about it first and considering the impact of my purchase. I now have just a few precious possessions left and the reason I have held onto some of them is because they often carry with them a story. They are either thoughtful gifts from loved ones or purchases I have made in the knowledge that the creation of that item had a minimum impact on the environment and sometimes played a part in changing lives and creating sustainable opportunities.
A few examples include my beautifully, handmade leather satchel – made by Loyal Workshop with the name of the woman who made it engraved into the inside pocket. All these women from Kolkata, who make these leather goods, have been brought out of sex slavery and given an opportunity at a brighter future. My unique africa beads – bought in Uganda, made by recycled magazine papers and the money from these necklaces support women who are the sole providers for themselves and their families. My lovely winter beanie – made by a local girl in the area I was living in at the time. I had seen a beanie in a magazine that I loved and posted the picture on the local facebook page asking if anyone could make one like it for me. Within days I had my new beanie and that girl had a few more much needed dollars in her pocket. When I was last in Uganda I also bought a gorgeous little stuffed elephant from a local woman in one of the villages, who had started her own production of all these little animals, and I brought it back home for my niece. And the list goes on.
Over time I have become more and more disillusioned by big retail stores and supermarkets and I’m definitely not alone! You are far more likely to find me buying fresh food and other goods from markets, almost all my clothes are from Op Shops, gifts from stores like Trade Aid etc. As much as possible I try to support smaller local business or individuals, social enterprises or companies that are creating more GOOD in the world and are driven by a vision for change over profit margins. Also when I’m travelling I like to know my money is being spent in positive and responsible ways and I believe it is a responsibility all travellers should take seriously where ever they go.
Claire and I are so excited to tell you that we will soon be introducing an online catalogue of GOOD brands or services for everything imaginable here. There are just so many out there that are doing incredible and inspiring work and or creating beautiful, keepsake products that you will love and want to share with others!