Melissa Cruz On Fast Fashion & Living A Sustainable Lifestyle
Fast fashion is one of the most prevalent issues in today’s world. Despite all its widely known impacts, like massive CO2 emissions and horrific working conditions, fast fashion is still very mainstream and hard to avoid. However, Melissa Cruz, a sustainability guru and the face behind Practicing Sustainability, has managed to work her way around the toxic cycle of fast fashion. Read to learn about everything Melissa is doing and what you can do to cut down your carbon emissions while dressing in style!
*Interview responses have been edited for length and grammar
It is no secret that fast fashion has disastrous environmental impacts, but it remains a mainstream practice. Sadly, shopping at sustainable retailers and buying second hand is not as popular. Given all of this, what advice would you give to someone wanting to transition to a more ethical wardrobe but not knowing where to start?
I feel like it's harder for people to jump onto the “sustainability train” because, like a lot of things, it’s so much easier to think and research about sustainability rather than implementing what you learn into your everyday life and routines. Another barrier for lots of people is the fact that sustainable shopping can be expensive, which makes it harder to access–especially if you are low income. At the same time, we need to realize that there are a lot of easy and affordable ways to live sustainably. Sustainability does not mean you only buy sustainably made, often expensive clothes; sustainability can be as simple as swapping clothes you already own with your friends. This is completely free and allows you to experiment with different styles without spending a single dollar. Another thing I like to do is to go to my parent's house and raid their closets. I love vintage stuff, and it’s completely free. Thrifting is another amazing way to buy something second-hand, and it doesn't break the bank. Those are the three things that I like to do that anyone can start right away.
A huge part of Voyagers' goals and mission is working alongside companies to advise them on improving their practices and transitioning towards more sustainable practices. That being said, what advice would you offer fast fashion companies looking to be more sustainable?
I think the most important thing to do is to consult their customers because they are the ones who are making the company what they are, by giving them the profit and everything like that. Most fast fashion companies are multinational so it's not like they don’t have the budget to make things more sustainable.
From a consumer standpoint, what do you think the biggest obstacles are when it comes to shopping sustainably and how would you recommend overcoming them?
When it comes to living sustainably and specifically concerning fashion the biggest obstacle, at least based on my experience is starting. Once you start, you usually develop a general idea of what you're doing. But, when you are just reading about it and have implemented nothing into your own lifestyle, it can seem really daunting.
A large part of what you do is educating your audience about climate change and how to live a sustainable lifestyle. What inspired you to pursue this way of life? What advice would you give to anyone looking to do the same?
I feel like I became more sustainable when I became a mom because, for the first time, I wasn't just thinking about myself was thinking about my child. I realized that if I kept buying all these plastic things and not being or thinking eco-conscious about what I'm doing and buying, then it's going to have horrible impacts on the future–on my daughter's future. I'm not only doing this for myself, but I'm also doing it for our descendants and kids in the future, and I feel like that is what motivates me. Another huge thing is nature, it gives us so much us and I feel like we need to do something in return. Every time I look outside and I see that, like an animal's habitat being destroyed or broken down, I’m saddened and reminded of the importance of pursuing sustainability.
A huge reason why many people opt for fast fashion alternatives is that they’re more affordable. Although they are very eco-conscious, a significant part of our audience are students who may not have huge budgets to spend on clothes. As you may know yourself, shopping sustainably can often be quite expensive. How would you recommend those of us who maybe don’t have the biggest budget to still make sustainable decisions when it comes to what we wear?
Other than the three things I mentioned earlier, repurposing your clothes would be another thing that is great to do. For example, if you have an oversized t-shirt and if you want a crop top, you can cut it, and voila, you have a crop top. If you want ripped jeans and you have normal jeans, you cut holes in them and try to destress them yourself. That is definitely a way to save money and simultaneously take care of the planet.
Do you think a sustainable fashion industry is in the near future?
I'm a very optimistic person, so I'd like to think it is. To be optimistic about something is to manifest something that you want in the future so the more you think about it, the more likely it is that it's going to happen. I feel like for me I consider a sustainable fashion industry a possibility because at some point the companies and people that are a huge contributor to the demise of our planet are going to realize that it's not something that they can continue in the long run.