Sustainable for Who?

Through our work with Lady Farmer, we have learned that a regenerative world means opting for something other than cheap labor and environmental degradation for the sake of convenience and low prices. This can mean many things, from living completely off-grid, to making the smallest, everyday decisions that support sustainable farmers and makers and a responsible supply chain.

Lady Farmer exists to meet you where you are and present many different paths and alternatives. One of our favorite places to do this is at our annual Slow Living Retreat, where we offer workshops on everything from mending to cooking to DIY natural skincare, to re-framing the environmental movement as an intersectional one that does not leave out issues of race, gender, and social equality. All of these workshops will equip you with skills to circumvent the system with things you already have on hand.

We are also thrilled to welcome thought leaders and industry change makers to the weekend, such as Natalie Chanin, who will be joining us for a live interview recording of The Good Dirt podcast. Natalie and her company, Alabama Chanin, have spearheaded the sustainability movement in the fashion industry. Her brand is one you will see on the runways at New York Fashion Week, but it is produced ethically and sustainably (meaning fair pay for the makers and low environmental impact) in her hometown of Florence, Alabama.

Products that are manufactured outside of the industrialized fashion industry often come with a higher price tag, especially when compared to what we’re used to paying as consumers of fast fashion. “Sticker shock” is a common experience for conscious consumers who genuinely want to make purchasing decisions that are better for other humans, the planet and our personal health.  As we progress along the road to a more sustainable lifestyle, we are increasingly challenged to make decisions that are based on more than the lowest price of an item. When considering just how much more we can pay for something that is supposedly produced more responsibly, or is manufactured by a company that is committed to sustainable practices, one might find themselves asking, “So, this expensive item is sustainable for… who?”

Here are some thoughts on this very fair question. As an example, for a company such as Alabama Chanin built on these principles, these products are sustainable for not only each person involved along the supply chain (growers, harvesters, manufacturers, designers, artisans and producers) being assured fair compensation and safety in the workplace, it is also sustainable for the environment – particularly the soil – which is nurtured and preserved by the avoidance of chemical inputs that degrade the Earth and human health. For the many consumers to whom such a price point is inaccessible, this company offers the option of purchasing the patterns, meaning anyone anywhere can make their clothing for themselves at home. Natalie’s “The School of Making” Book Series open sources all of their techniques and materials, allowing them to make living arts accessible to all consumers.

Alabama Chanin’s visibility means visibility for the movement, thus a push for more domestic manufacturing, fair labor practices, and preservation of the craft traditions that is desperately needed at this time.

Pricing and accessibility are major conversations in the sustainability world, and at Lady Farmer we believe that as consumers (and non-consumers!) we truly hold the power to shift the paradigm. A sustainable lifestyle isn’t about purchasing this or that thing. In fact, it often means making a decision not to buy anything at all. Creating a sustainable wardrobe includes keeping what you have, extending the life of things by altering and mending, shopping thrift, swapping, and adjusting to having less clothes in general.

Cultivating a sustainable lifestyle is about understanding our own consumer patterns, and being informed about the impact of our personal actions. Each of us gets to make our own purchasing decisions based on what aspects of sustainability and circular economy are most appropriate for our own circumstances.

How we choose to spend or not spend our money affects industries at a macro level, and it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and each other as much as possible so that we can make the best possible decisions for ourselves and our communities, creating a more sustainable world for all.