One of the things we’ve emphasised previously on this blog is the ways in which living more sustainably and eschewing things like single use plastics can actually save you money. From growing your own veggies, to never having to buy a bottle of water again, there are several crossovers between saving the planet and, well, saving. But there is another side to sustainability, one that is probably too rarely discussed by companies promoting the green agenda: accessibility.
Affluent, upper-middle class people living in London with disposable incomes and gym memberships have far fewer barriers to adopting a sustainable lifestyle than, say, a working-class person with a minimum wage job living in a remote rural area. These barriers include money, geographical location, weight and disability to name just a few - sheer willingness to ditch plastic or fast fashion won’t make those magically disappear.
Where you live
Zero waste shops are springing up all over Glasgow, London and Manchester, which is an incredible thing and a massive step in the right direction. But for anyone living in a town or village or even a smaller city, veg box deliveries or plastic-free refill stations may not be available in the same way. The inhabitants can do their bit in many ways, such as not using plastic bags but they can hardly swap their hour-long commute for a bicycle - it just isn’t practical.
What you weigh
With Fashion Week in full swing, a recent article on the BBC website raised the question of plus-size sustainable fashion. How easy is it for fuller figured men and women to shop ethically both in terms of fair labour and impact on the planet? Not that easy, was the conclusion. Again, the fashion world seems to be waking up to the sustainability cause. Whether they’re a new brand with it woven into their DNA or an established label being pressured by society into taking more responsibility. But several of these don’t cater to plus-size people. Big fast fashion brands do. Again, it becomes less about inclination and more about options.
What you earn
This is a big one. Doing things sustainably often simply costs more. If it didn’t, we would have been doing things that way all along. So, it follows logically that a lot of products made with the planet in mind will be a little more expensive to buy. For some, that is a price they’re willing to pay and one that can often save money in the future. Swapping fast fashion for quality pieces that will last makes economic sense as you won’t have to buy something new nine months later. However, for many, spending that cash up front is impossible.
Who you are
In 2018, the papers were full of the news that the UK government would be banning plastic straws, in addition to drink stirrers and plastic earbuds, by 2020. Definitely a step in the right direction, the news was greeted with optimism by most, except for one overlooked minority. For many people with disabilities, plastic straws are a necessity: the metal or bamboo kind are not flexible enough and paper disintegrates too easily. This was seemingly not taken into account before the ban and has caused many in the disabled community to cite yet another instance of ableism in policy-making. Single-use plastics and other items like wet-wipes may have obvious sustainable alternatives for those of us with the luxury of not having to worry about things like physical accessibility - but the sustainability movement needs to factor in people with disabilities if it is to truly succeed.
What to do?
The first step is acknowledging these realities. The sustainability industry is predicted to be worth $12 Trillion by 2030 - a figure so large that it sounds made up - and while this is a good thing in many ways, sustainability cannot be allowed to become elitist or inaccessible. Much of this lies with governments, whose policies should make the sustainable choice the easiest choice, both geographically and financially. The eco-community itself should make an effort to both understand and include people who want to help but are otherwise not able to. They can do this through education and practical schemes that allow people access to products they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise and advice on how to practice sustainability on a budget.
Discover our brand new sustainable bottles and food flasks here! Looking for more green-living tips and facts about the environment? Follow us on Instagram at @sholeuk for updates and exciting news about our sustainable mission.