Three things I’ve learned from two years of ethical living

Two years ago today I started this blog as a community for women and girls who wanted to live gracefully. To me, that meant making choices that respected the planet and everyone who lived here- especially the women and children most affected by forced and low-wage labour.

It’s been a windy road since my first post. I moved from Egypt to Canada, started a new job at World Vision Canada, and, most recently, got married! Through it all, I’ve tried my best to ensure that my choices are, as much as possible, conscious ones. Here are three things I’ve learned from that process:

  1. Shopping ethically can be HARD, but patience and saving do pay off.

Sometimes finding that perfect ethical item can be extremely frustrating. But saving up for quality items, hunting for the perfect ethical find, and revisiting thrift shops DO pay off. Here are a couple examples from my Instagram feed of patience and saving in action:

I wanted an item from Everlane for a long time. When fall rolled around last year, I realized I didn’t have a good trench to protect from the elements. So I saved up for this Swing Trench, waited for the colour I wanted to come back in stock, researched what size would be best for me and ordered it. It’s become one of my most-worn items, and I know I’ll have it for years to come.

On the other hand, I had just started thinking about how much I used to love my moccasins, but worried that they were too expensive and unethically made when some women from work and I went on a thrift store shopping trip. I was trying on last-minute finds when my coworker walked over to me, asked, “Are you a size 8?” and handed me these shoes from the exact brand I used to get in college…for $9.99! I have so many stories like that, I’ve learned to be patient when I need or want something- and to value and enjoy what I have in the meantime. In my experience, it always pays off.

2. No one can be 100% ethical all the time.

This one is often a tough pill for me to swallow, but the truth is that finances, necessity, and just a general lack of knowledge contribute so much to not being able to be totally ethical. The hardest area of my life to be ethical in is my diet…and after reading this article on checking our food privilege I realized I am not alone. Eating as a conscious consumer is tough on a budget. Although I try to buy fair trade and local as often as I can, I know that I just don’t have enough information about much of the products I buy to be able to tell what is and isn’t ethical.

And that’s where we need to give ourselves some grace. It sounds terrible to say we need to choose our battles, but for our own sanity and health, we do. However, that doesn’t mean we should just give up. We can each take small actions to limit our impact on the earth and those that live here. For me, that means not eating shrimp anymore due to the reports of forced and child labour in the industry. For many of my friends, I know that means leading a vegan lifestyle to limit their environmental impact. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you know the facts, and then put your whole heart into it. Every small action for people and the planet counts.

3. The conscious consumer movement is amazing…and GROWING

Back when I started this journey, finding the products and information I needed to make “graceful” choices could be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Since then, the sustainable, fair-trade, and conscious consumer movements have exploded. Every day I find a new brand, blogger or group on Instagram dedicated to many of the same principles that drove me to start this site.

That, my friends, is what change is about. Back in 2014, sitting on my bed pouring over the Guardian’s interactive documentary The Shirt on Your Back, I felt appalled and moved to action. But I also felt a sense of helplessness, not knowing how my choices could affect change, or even where to start.

I don’t feel like that anymore. I’ve learned that our actions as consumers, and our interest in ethical products DO make a difference to industry. Our opinion has pushed Cadbury to expand its Fair Trade chocolate options. It’s birthed new ethical companies. It’s protected our natural resources. And I am certain it has made a difference in the lives of the men and women in the fair wage enterprises we support. Maybe those things are small, but they give me hope. The hope that my next two years of (attempting) ethical living will be just as rewarding. The hope that soon ethical living won’t be a special lifestyle choice, but the norm.

So Happy Fashion Revolution Day Graces! Here’s to another year of living gracefully.