Reusable cups, eco-friendly sandwich wraps, second-hand shopping, and growing your own veg are all in vogue for 2019. Slowly but surely, the world is beginning to accept that we simply can't abuse our resources at the rate we're going. We sat down with actress Aoibheann McCann to find out why she's stepping away from fast fashion - watch the interview above.
"I try not to buy new because there are so many products already existing on the one planet we're on. If we can manage to reuse those and re-fashion them, celebrate them, there won't be such a demand for that new product which, in itself, will create its own carbon footprint," she told RTÉ LifeStyle.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is quickly becoming a catch-all term for the fashion industry's waste problem. Essentially, it describes clothes that are produced by mass-market retailers and sold at a low cost.
Often, we see trendy catwalk designs on the high street for under €50 - we buy them, wear them once, and then throw them away for any number of reasons: they're quickly out of fashion, we're already on to the next outfit or, possibly, it's made from poor material that quickly stretches or fades.
Recently, online influencers have shared their experience of "fashion pressure" on Instagram whereby they feel they can't be photographed in the same outfit twice but, thankfully, there seems to be a change of attitude and sustainable fashion is 'in'.
What are the alternatives?
While Aoibheann admits there is a ritualistic and therapeutic side to shopping online or on the high street, she was surprised by how easy it was to give up once she learned how it was affecting the planet.
"The more I've learned about what damage we're doing - beyond fashion, just in general with electricity and oil - I started to realise that I wasn't getting any real pleasure from it."
As an actress, The Great Gatsby star spends a lot of her time dressing up for the stage, presenting herself for events and auditions, and just enjoying fashion as a whole. While avoiding the high street, she began to find some eco-friendly alternatives to her shopping habit.
"It made me fall in love again with a lot of the things I already own. My grandmother was a tailor and as a creative person she was an inspiration in how you can take something and re-jig it."
Online shopping and the ability to buy material objects quickly and easily has possibly distracted us from investing in quality pieces that can be worn time and time again, in multiple and flattering ways.
From re-vamping her own wardrobe to wearing her grandmother's vintage jackets, the Louth woman says she has found a real sense of achievement and appreciation for her clothes.
"I enjoy maintaining things. The kick I'm getting out of the fact that I didn't throw them [the clothes] out, they're not in a landfill somewhere, I'm getting to wear them, and people are complimenting me on the style of them."
Why can't we recycle fast fashion?
While it's always good to recycle your old materials, Aoibheann is quick to point out that - when it comes to clothes - we're simply moving the waste elsewhere, making it somebody else's problem.
"We've reached a certain point where we can't recycle clothes anymore. They're not being disintegrated some magic way, they're being sent to the continent of Africa. There are specific countries there that have their own trades, and our clothes are going in and polluting their trade. That's really sad."
Before you decide to throw something away, take a moment to really look at the item and see what drew you to it in the first place. Maybe there's a few to tailor it or pair it with a different set of accessories.
"Your gut was probably right. Maybe get it altered instead of throwing it out. So many people throw things away or give them to a charity shop. Charity shops are amazing but they are also becoming receiving houses for a lot of people's crap."
Outside of the wardrobe
There are plenty of planet-friendly changes we can make in our lives. If you're looking for a small but powerful stepping stone into sustainable living, try ditching plastic for tin and glass where possible.
"Tin and glass are phenomenal, they can be recycled literally thousands of times. Plastic, three times. Cartons, not so much either. Glass is sand, was sand, will be sand - or more glass! Tin is such a malleable thing, it can be reused so many times."
Can we really make a difference?
The Soulsmith actress is an endless source of inspiration when it comes to sustainable living. She has a reusable cup in tow, she bans plastic from her house parties, and she tailors her wardrobe to perfection. However, she has a much bigger change in mind.
"I'm not actually going to make a huge difference. This message might make a difference to some people but I see it now as a signifier of a much bigger problem, beyond an individual's means. Our government, our legislators, have to - today, right now, this second - do bigger things on our behalf and stop pretending it's not a problem."
Aoibheann would like to see the government celebrate those who have made their businesses eco-friendly, support farmers in becoming more sustainable, move away from carbon, and make plastic-free living more attainable to the everyday person.
"Our government needs to grow up, basically," she says.
Want to find out more?
If you want to make some eco-friendly changes to your lifestyle or simply want to chat with some like-minded folk, Aoibheann suggests joining The Eco-Feminists Coven Collective.
"It's a community of people who want a change. Community being the big word there because a huge amount of what we do is so individualistic, it's for yourself, but you can share the burden."
She continued: "We want to try and support other groups who are trying to make changes like climate case Ireland who brought the government to court on their lack of action."
On the fashion end of things, Sustainable Fashion Dublin host plenty of sociable events where you can take part in 'swap shops' and talks on fast fashion.