During this and next autumn, SYL and eight student unions of Finnish universities are having a project called “Sustainability holds us up, uphold sustainability”, which carries out themes of sustainable consumption.
What comes to consumption, actually, we often seek for a change rather than just new material stuff. If new purchases made us happy, we would never throw anything out and would rather just treasure what we already have. In the same way, cleaning our closets and getting rid of old stuff brings us joy.
Lately, one discussed alternative for buying new clothes has been using clothing rental services. Still, cleaning and preparing the clothes for a new customer is not emission-free either, although avoiding buying new things is always a good idea. Patching and mending can be appealing for those who fancy boheme aesthetics, but a normatively neat and well-groomed appearance is still seen as mandatory on many occasions. Normatively neat outlooks can be a sign of reliability, professionality, and life management – although maybe just on the surface level. As an alternative, repairing clothes can be very student budget friendly as well as communal activity when done together.
You probably still recall how top brands cancelled their orders when the pandemic started, causing huge loss of income to those who were already in the weakest positions of the industrial chain. While for example Bangladesh is very dependent on the clothing industry, it is very crucial that the brands ensure a living wage for their industrial workers. Companies might try to justify their opacity by saying that they need to maintain competitiveness. However, ensuring sustainability can not be just a question of the consumers’ purchasing power, the industry needs to take responsibility for the whole supply chain.
Another thing is electronic products that are designed to fall apart. When remote working has become the new normal for many people, electronic devices are used more than ever. Considering that ethical electronics are almost impossible to produce, it would be very important to keep using the devices we already have as long as possible. At the same time, it is necessary to put pressure on the policy makers, in order to get supply chains under better surveillance. According to Eetti ry, electronics supply chains are often linked to forced and child labor, as well as insufficient protective equipment. Mining minerals, especially cobalt, also cause severe human rights and environmental violations.
Sustainable consumption cares not only for the environment but also for people – the same goes for sustainable development. Even if the companies mention they are using recycled materials or solar power, that solely does not make the product responsible. It is crucial what kind of social effects the product produces – for example, how are the safety at work, working conditions and wage taken into consideration also counts. The future can not be sustainable if human rights are violated and the well-being of people is not taken seriously.
Education can bring better opportunities for people coming from different backgrounds to promote their own rights and have an impact on society. Development cooperation plays an important role in this, and that is also why one of SYL’s activities is supporting it.
Because consumerism plays a big role in our society, we would like to challenge you to reconsider your consumer habits in terms of sustainability. After all, the most responsible clothes are the ones you already have in your closet.
Saara Pirhonen ja Viola Luokkala
SYL’s Development Cooperation Advisory Board