Humanity’s impact on the planet is difficult to understate.  For centuries we’ve been moulding this earth to suit our interests and support our ever-expanding societies with very little consideration for the longer-term impacts that our choices have on the overall health of the ecosystems that we inhabit.  We’ve acted as if resources are infinite, our natural world will never change, and we can do whatever we want without consequence.” Chuks Collins

This, of course, is not true.  And over the past few years, we’ve got the climate change advocates to thank for bringing this into the global conversation.  We have to start understanding and appreciating how much damage we are doing, so that we can change the way we do things and become more sustainable.  “Sustainability needs to be at the core of everything that we do.  We owe it to our future selves and the generations that follow us.” Chuks Collins

All that being said, it can seem like an overwhelming situation.  It’s tempting to ask:

What can I actually do as an individual?’. 

Surely, I can’t make a difference when the problem is so vast?

But this nihilism isn’t warranted.  Things can change drastically if everyone does their part and that’s how the seeds of social change are born – from the actions of individuals.  People who make better decisions within the circle of their control can nudge society in a new direction.  Instead of surrendering to the massive scale of the problem, we need to identify the small steps that we can take and execute on those.  At the end of the day, it’s up to all of us – there is no one solution.  It’s going to take a mindset shift in the heads of consumers everywhere.

One of the key areas that we can take control of is our purchasing decisions when it comes to the clothing that we wear.  It’s an underappreciated fact that the fashion industry is mostly unsustainable, and its practices result in a significant negative impact on the environment, that is mostly hidden from view. 

We can choose another way.  And it’s designers like Chuk Collins, an entrepreneur and creative from New York, who give us a peek at this new potential future.  Collins recently launched a brand of clothing called ‘The Athletic Side of Us’ that is designed and produced from the ground up to be fully sustainable with recycled materials, fair trade working conditions, animal cruelty-free practices, and a genuine desire to fight against the fast fashion industry that has become so prevalent.  When you listen to him speak, you can hear the passion in his voice as he advocates for the change that we can be in the world.  It’s clear that he has a deep concern for the direction in which we’re heading and he’s using his hard-fought skills – fashion design and entrepreneurship – to turn the ship around.

Watching Collins’ vision unfold over the last few months has been invigorating because it represents a beacon of hope for what the fashion industry can be, if it chooses to.  As an emerging brand, he’s faced a mountain of challenges because he refuses to cut corners in the way that other brands do.  He feels that tug-of-war between the investment focused entrepreneur who does everything they can to improve profitability, and that morally conscious entrepreneur who wants to do things right.  It’s impossible not to.  But it’s his conviction that by doing his part, he can make a change – that drives him, and others like him.  The fact that he’s going this way, and standing by the values that he believes in, shows that it can be done.  The fashion industry can care deeply about the environment on which it depends.  It can be more thoughtful and intentional than the current clothes of today.  Collins and his peers are showing the path to a new future.

They need our help, of course. 

The way that we contribute towards this movement is through our individual, day-to-day choices.  Our dollars speak volumes here because they pull the levers of our economies and shift the demand for more socially and environmentally conscious clothing.  By choosing to support creators like Collins and other brands that follow in his footsteps, you are putting your money where your mouth is.  You are voting with your dollars.  This is the sort of social pressure that can change the direction that we are going in.  For designers like Collins, your clothes mean much more than what they look like.  They are a tangible decision that you can make to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future.

When you wear something from ‘The Athletic Side of Us, rather than a traditional mass-market brand – you become that advocate for sustainable choices.  It sets an example to those around you that you care about your impact on the world and are willing to act accordingly.  But even more than that, you prove to yourself that it’s not just lip service.  It’s actually a decision that impacts your life – it’s something that becomes a part of your identity.  Human psychology is tricky in this way – but by changing your purchasing decisions in this way, you reinforce the type of behaviour you want to encourage in yourself.  It’s so simple, but it’s so powerful – and not enough of us use this as an opportunity to make a stand.

If you have been awakened to the environmental crisis that knocks at our door and have been looking for a way to contribute – then it starts at home.  It starts with the clothing that you buy and wear.  When you start there, it’s tangible, it makes a difference, and it represents an opportunity to get your hands dirty and join the fight.  Don’t miss it.