In this blogger spot we are shining a bright light on Elizabeth Stilwell, writer and founder of The Note Passer
. Elizabeth is passionate about sustainability in all things and The Note Passer is an incredible resource for anyone hoping to increase their conscious consumerism. After Elizabeth reviewed our Cora in Silver
we found ourselves reading through all of her thoughtful and informative posts. We wanted more. Read on to learn about Elizabeth’s journey to sustainability and maybe you too will be encouraged to start your own!
JORD: You write about sustainability as it relates to everyday purchases, the items we need and want to consume. Looking at just clothing and accessories, what are the issues with fast fashion and why should consumers be concerned?
ELIZABETH: Fast fashion is to clothing what fast food is to diet. Neither of these industries value the resources used, the quality of materials, or the workers involved in production.
The low cost of fast fashion items doesn't include their environmental impact. Since fast fashion is following a trend and isn't meant to be worn for a long time, the materials and construction of the garments are often poor. Materials are likely manmade or not organic, which both involve petroleum and other toxic chemicals. After their short life, these materials will probably end up in a landfill, further polluting the earth. The incredibly low cost of the item simply does not take into account the depletion of resources and environmental damage caused by its production.
Many employees of the garment industry work under notoriously poor conditions. They may have to work long hours for little pay, be exposed to chemicals, or endure harassment and dangerous environments. The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 proved that many brands are either uninterested or complicit in the unethical treatment of their workers.
Consumers should be concerned because trends are not more important than lives. Rana Plaza was a turning point for me personally, and I decided I couldn't be complicit in that system any longer. While I don't believe the blame lies with consumers, I think that we can force the industry to be more accountable. I think the solutions to these problems are regulation of industry and education of consumers.
JORD: You have a greatinfographic for shopping ethically. Are there times when that level of mindfulness is maddening? What tip or tool would you recommend to those who are dipping their toes in to the idea of conscious consumerism?
ELIZABETH: Shopping consciously was (and still is) labor-intensive, but it’s gotten easier. And honestly, I’m a lot happier because being mindful about my purchases has slowed down my shopping process to where I only buy things that add value to my life. If I have to research and find a secondhand or ethical option, it’s definitely going to be something I really want and will keep for a long time.
If you are just starting this process, I recommend assessing your values before you purchase anything else. Otherwise, it will be maddening! Do you buy organic or the local one? The secondhand of the handcrafted one? If you have maybe three qualities you really value, it will be easier to navigate your choices. Secondhand is always great because you circumvent those difficult choices by choosing from the pool of existing goods. If you don’t want to go that route, check out conscious shopping sites like Rodales, Helpsy, and Zady that do all of the research for you so you can easily shop according to your values.
JORD: What do you wish you hadn’t bought or spent money on, in the past? Do you still have the item? If not, where is it now?
ELIZABETH: Oh man! If I could go back I would be a minimalist from the beginning because I’ve gotten rid of so many things recently. I try not to think about the aggregate cost of all of those items that I didn’t keep! I definitely attempt to find my things good homes with friends or sell them secondhand. I do have a green chair in my living room that I wish I hadn’t bought. It’s too big and I don’t like the color anymore. I still have it, but I plan on selling it on AptDeco soon.
The chair in question, hopefully it will find a more suitable home soon!
JORD: What product category are you finding it difficult to find ethical, non-harmful, well made products in?
ELIZABETH: I think shoes are the most difficult. I don’t buy new leather, so my options are secondhand and vegan for most styles. Secondhand is tricky because they might not fit or be comfortable. “Vegan leather” has its own environmental issues and is usually not as durable as real leather. I hope some of these issues will soon be solved with advances in materials. The shoes I’ve added since I started shopping ethically have been secondhand and I’ve had pretty good luck. I usually ask the seller for more specific measurements and compare then with my existing shoes to get a better sense of the fit. Brands I would definitely buy new from include BHAVA and Blackspot Shoes.
JORD: Aside from your career as a designer and writer, you are also a founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition. Can you tell us about that? Your mission, your hopes, your wildest dreams for what this group could accomplish?
ELIZABETH: Put simply, my mission is to mainstream sustainability. I’d love to see the day when sustainable isn’t an “alternative lifestyle”, but the norm because it’s what’s best for people, animals, and the environment. My hope is that as a collective force, the Ethical Writers can help make that happen. In my wildest dreams, we would be a trusted group of experts who help brands, consumers, and industries become sustainable and then share their stories.
JORD: What do you waste your time doing?
ELIZABETH: Pinning on Pinterest while watching television. I just finished the second season of BBC's The Fall and it was fantastic!
JORD: What do you wish you had more time for?
ELIZABETH: Traveling. I'd like to visit Australia, more of Europe, and any island anywhere.
JORD: What should humanity – as a whole – spend more time doing?
ELIZABETH: Loving each other.
JORD: This person inspires you – who is the first person that’s popped into your head?
ELIZABETH: My husband, Nathan. We've been together almost half our lives now! We are complete opposites, but it works because he helps me go places that I don't have the courage to go alone. And he helps me get out of my head and have a fresh perspective on life.
JORD: If you were rich enough for just one luxury – the rest of your life would remain the same – what would it be?
ELIZABETH: A personal chef! Because I love to eat healthy meals, but I don't always have the time that it takes to shop, prepare, and cook that way. It would be awesome if someone else took care of all of that and I just got to eat!
Thank you again to Elizabeth for her time! The entire JORD team are now loyal readers of The Note Passer – and we encourage you to become one too. We can all be a part of making sustainability mainstream; Elizabeth has a lot of great tips to help us start.
Are you a conscious consumer? Let us know in the comments below.
Till next time!
LOVE - The JORD Team