Photo by Christina Karst
More and Less is a monthly column that explores sustainability and conscious consumption when planning a wedding and also building a life with someone.
New year, new beginnings. It’s the start of this column, for one thing, and I’m so excited to be here. In this corner of Catalyst, I'm going to be contemplating sustainability and conscious consumption both in the context of planning for a wedding, and also in the context of building a life and home regardless of whether or not marriage is in the picture. I’ll put it out there right from the get-go that I am highly imperfect, and I intend for this to be an explorative — rather than prescriptive — space.
We encounter countless small choices strewn about our day-to-day lives, and they tend to multiply in the significant moments surrounding weddings. We know these choices have big, yet often invisible, ramifications. We know we can choose to sustain our local economy and businesses whose work we respect or that we can feed into systems of inequality, oppression, and environmental destruction.
What I’m interested in is doing better than I have done until now. The complacency I’d cozied up into, clutching a handful of justifications that I was doing enough, was cracked open after November’s election. It seems so obvious but I realized if I see something I want to be different, I need to speak up. If I want something to happen, I need to follow through on my convictions and act to make it happen.
I’ve been contemplating how the same attention and follow-through can be tapped into as a person who purchases goods and services out in the world. We encounter countless small choices strewn about our day-to-day lives, and they tend to multiply in the significant moments surrounding weddings. We know these choices have big, yet often invisible, ramifications. We know we can choose to sustain our local economy and businesses whose work we respect or that we can feed into systems of inequality, oppression, and environmental destruction. Sometimes there is no clear right choice. Or sometimes the right choice isn’t realistic. In my own life, and I’m sure I’m not alone, it’s often a balancing act.
We can take our money to those people and places we really believe in, definitely, and we should strive to do so as much as reasonably possible. One of the themes I’ll return to often here is to buy fewer things, and when you do buy things, make sure they will last, take good care of them so they do, and whenever possible obtain them from a person or place that in balance, is creating good in the world. That goodness can look like all kinds of different things. I’ll acknowledge that the complications for that tenet when it comes to planning for a special event like a wedding are many — but not insurmountable.
When the balance lands us in box stores or online megamarkets or whatever the less-than-ideal situation is (which will inevitably happen), rather than screwing up my eyes as I press buy, I’m trying to remind myself that even in those spaces you can push for improvement. If a website where you shop carries the fashion line of a certain first daughter-to-be, for example, let them know if you’re unhappy about that. If you’re concerned about their workers or the provenance of their products or their environmentally unfriendly packaging, let them know you’re looking for alternatives. Be specific about what you are unhappy with and what you would like to see them do.
Businesses care what you have to say. Small businesses really care, which is another good reason to buy from them: you have a very direct line of communication. I work for a small jewelry and leather goods company, and we listen attentively to our customers. We can’t accommodate everything but it all gets heard, and with the input, we improve. Larger enterprises care too — yes, often for different reason, and they’ll need to hear from a lot more of us to actually implement changes that aren’t convenient. But my point is that if you find yourself opting for a choice you’re not content with, find the nudge in the right direction that you can enact even in those imperfect situations.
We're moving this month toward another daunting beginning as we approach inauguration day. Imperfect situation is an understatement here, but I have faith that we can each find ways to move in the right direction in the midst of it.
Rebecca Perea-Kane is a writer and designer based in Charlottesville, Virginia. She spends her time working on her jewelry line, Thicket, traipsing through the woods with her dog, Arthur, practicing yoga, and writing poetry. She works as the production manager for Mi Ossa, a jewelry and leather goods company.