My council library recently held an author’s talk by local model and confessed greenie Carolyn Donovan. As I once considered myself to be a middle-class hippie (and for the record, I do shave my armpits, wash daily and don’t take drugs – no stereotyping please) and the talk was free, I decided to attend.
Carolyn was promoting her latest book “Greenies in Stilettos – How to Save the World Without Really Trying.” I felt so enthused by her talk and her passion for environmentally friendly fashion that I went home and read her book in one sitting. I now feel so totally elated, inspired, empowered and re-energised to save the world and reinvent my wardrobe that I thought I should share my enthusiasm for this wonderful book with others.
Carolyn’s book is divided into 5 sections – fashion, beauty, being ecologically friendly inside and outside the home and buying based on ethical and social justice criteria. The core message throughout this book is that every individual can make a positive difference with little effort and without making drastic changes to our daily lives. “Recycle, reuse, reclaim, repurpose and reimagine your life. Your actions really do have the power to save the world.”
Carolyn underlines the fact that the developed world produces the highest levels of waste. For instance, every Australian produces one tonne of rubbish every year. Our carbon footprint is excessive and our greenhouse gases are contributing significantly to global warming. We need to do something now to reduce our impact on the environment.
At the talk Carolyn Donovan wore a cream dressing gown with a black belt over a top and black pants. Tall, slim and attractive, she looked glamorous and “absolutely fabulous, darling!” I’m not sure I could pull that off; I think I would just look as if I was wearing a dressing gown. But the point she was making was to rethink your wardrobe. Do a wardrobe audit. What do you have in your wardrobe that you rarely wear? Think of ways to revamp these clothes and make them lovable again- change the buttons; add lace, frills, or patches; cut off sleeves; add a brooch to change the shape or hide a stain; add a panel if a dress becomes too small; make a top into a bag or scarf or wear a belt as a bracelet. Her book is filled with numerous ideas for “upcycling” your wardrobe. And what a wonderful term that is – upcycling. So much better than saying recycling, which sounds grungy.
Donovan also promotes the uses of cold-water washing in earth-friendly detergents, swapping clothes with friends even if only for a month, air drying instead of dry cleaning, buying less but buying better, i.e. buying things you will wear often, that are of high quality and not produced in sweat shops with dangerous chemicals.
Every wardrobe should have these basic garments: black pants and skirt, white tee and sheer black jacket, all suitable to wear for any occasion.
Donovan emphasises the notion that natural products are better for our skin. Bicarbonate of soda, natural oils, and honey are great natural moisturisers and cleansers. If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Drink lots of water to hydrate your skin. Her book is full of natural beauty tips.
Being Ecologically Friendly Inside the Home
– Bringing plants inside your home to reduce pollutants
– Using natural cleaning products like bicarbonate of soda, lemon, vinegar and tea tree oils.
– Recycling and composting household waste.
– Putting on a jumper rather than turning on the heater.
– Buying products with less packaging
– Fixing or restoring old furniture.
Think about the products you bring into your home – are they biodegradable, repairable, over-packaged or made by exploiting foreign labour?
Being Ecologically Friendly Outside the Home
Donovan suggests carpooling or riding a bike, buying produce from local growers or growing it yourself, and driving more fuel efficiently. Designing your garden to naturally cool your home or designing your homes to use grey water and natural lighting.
Donovan advocates buying fair-trade coffee and chocolate. Consider whether the clothes you are buying are made from organic cotton, hemp or bamboo. Is the latest technology we snap up made in sweat shops with poor working conditions and wages? Is child labour being used to make our goods cheaply? Are we recycling the technology that becomes out-dated so quickly? How can we reduce our waste and stop chemicals leaching into our water table?
Donovan’s parting message is that knowledge is power. We can make the world a better place by demanding more ethical and environmentally friendly products and spreading the word to raise the awareness and standards of our manufacturers. We can be more minimalistic, more conscious of the waste we produce, more creative with upcycling and thus reduce our carbon footprint without really trying. As consumers we vote with our dollar to support products that are ethically made and boycott the rest where possible.
Greenies in Stilettos is a very inspiring and passionate book full of interesting ideas, too many to mention here. It’s also easy and enjoyable to read. So come on all you middle-class greenies: do something today to make the world a better place!
Image used with the permission of Carolyn Donovan