The Dilemma of Conscious Reading

Did I start reading about eco-friendly things because I blogged, or did I blog because I was reading eco-friendly things? I can’t recall but now that the question’s been asked, it’s a real chicken-and-egg situation.

Initially I thought that all this conscious-consumerism talk was thanks to Bulk Barn, with its soap and shampoo bars, which led to more online browsing of other plastic-free products, which led to more thoughts and browsing. But now I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve had Maxine Bédat’s book Unraveled sitting on the shelf for a while before I actually read it and I don’t know why I had it on the shelf in the first place.

Published recently enough to include discussion on the effects of the pandemic, Bédat’s work is no surprise to anyone who’s already in the know about the impact of fast fashion (even fashion in general). Most of our (speaking from a middle-class North American over here) donations don’t actually get a second life, are transported in tonnes of bales to countries that have adapted by making a living out of reselling secondhand clothing but that are ultimately drowning in our garbage because they don’t yet have the infrastructure to deal with the trash we bring to their shores.

Really makes shopping fun, doesn’t it?

What surprises me is that Bédat doesn’t double down and say point-blank that we need to stop shopping. Okay, she does, but compared tot he rest of the book, it’s almost a whisper the way she goes about saying so. Of course, she promotes secondhand shopping / thrifting / reusing and whatnot, but there’s a lot to be said for just cutting down on consumerism.

Now Bédat does reference Cline in The Conscious Closet, arguably a less attractive book for its holier-than-thou vibes (I mean, check out that subtitle!). However, Cline does put her foot down and say plainly that cutting purchases and focusing on alterations /etc. are necessary steps to take. She also provides practical suggestions for making clothing alterations. Funny enough, though, if you like to hunt through bibliographies like I do to find the next read, you end up (from left to right):

And that brings us back in a neat circle, from one end of anti-materialism to colourful, colourful purchases. (Kasser’s book, by the way, is a fun preachy read if you want to justify anti-materialism without resorting to any sort of spirituality. I write fun in the same way I imagine having a root canal must be fun.)

I share about these books because I find it a bit horrifying. A couple months of reading takes me too easily through the horrors of Bangledeshi textile work to wondering if I should take the time to curate my closet. I haven’t done that, but neither have I done anything about the horrors of fast fashion, besides not buy anything new. Is it better to read and know and still not sink your life into such pressing matter? Or is it better to just stick to fiction?

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