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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.

Moment of Radicalization

I was quite sheltered towards the injustices that enable the production  of our everyday products because I was never taught about these social issues and my family was unfamiliar about the topic as well. As I grew older and gained online freedom through access to my  own phone, I learned through social media of the exploitation within the diamond mining industry. After I watched the movie Blood Diamond (2006), I was shocked by how inhumane the industry was. This revelation inspired me to work for macroscale societal change, in order to improve human living conditions.  

Even at that age, I wanted to positively contribute to society. I was a preteen back then, and I knew that I had no significant influence on the world but I was still proud that I knew about and worked against the harms of the diamond industry . However, I had a feeling that the diamond industry would not be the only sector to use exploitative practices and I was right. I did some digging and found out that I have directly contributed to a lot of these industries.


In particular, I was most appalled by the fast fashion industry and vowed to change my life to avoid contributing towards this injustice. Up to this day, I do not know exactly why I focus on fast fashion but I chalk it up to me having bought all of my clothes in fast fashion companies and my interest in fashion. I  learned about the environmental impact the fast fashion industry had, particularly when I had learned about the massive untreated water pollution issue that is still occurring. As someone who has gone through days without accessible water from pollution, this really struck a nerve. Combining this with all the human rights violations, it was not hard to persuade myself to do something.

I was so determined to make  a change by boycotting fast fashion companies that were accused of exploitation (which was basically all of them). I started to almost exclusively thrift all my clothes, but that was honestly the most that I did. Like I said before, I became almost fixated on the fast fashion industry for some reason and had unknowingly out all my efforts towards it. Unbeknownst to me, the complexity of sustainability had yet to set in my head.


Now, I have adopted a pragmatic approach because I have realized that no industry is clean. Bigger companies own many other companies, so even if there is a company that claims to be sustainable, its parent company might not abide by those rules and then the debate  of whether buying from the first company is genuinely sustainable arises. That is a whole other separate topic to uncover for another time, but it is a genuine question various consumers have. Instead, I try to be more mindful of what I purchase and to make sure that Ionly buy things that I truly need. If anything, I have learned that the best way to be sustainable is to limit your consumption to what you need.

I still buy from fast fashion and online dropship stores when I need something. I am more aware of sustainable stores than I was before but I am still (unfortunately) not able to afford them. I have started to buy from local small businesses though.

It is no surprise that I do not always follow this rule but I do try to make sure that I limit my overall consumption. The notion of treating yourself is not necessarily out of the picture because retail therapy has an absolute chokehold on me and my motivation.

What Comes Next?

Ideally, I would be able to afford sustainably and ethically made products from small businesses, but that is not a reality for many people including myself. Ethically and environmentally conscious products are incredibly pricey and the possibility of being able to afford everything like that is slim. In this economy, being financially stable seems like a farfetched idea but one can always hope for the best. That is not synonymous with giving up though, as no consumption is better than any form of consumption at all. I intend to practice buying less of what I want and to use the things that I have well.

I believe that working on individual efforts while acknowledging their limitations is one step towards sustainability. Yes, one person’s efforts (especially an ‘average Joe’) does not drastically change the world in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, having the mindset of not being able to do anything at all can harbor a victim mentality that will not help society, the environment, and yourself. I think that the best way to go about things is to be more conscious of your purchasing decisions and to always use what you buy.Showing awareness towards the social and environmental consequences multiple sectors are inflicting is also vital, but I think that there is a line between increasing the public’s awareness and being a social justice warrior. Often enough, I have realized that being so high up in your views – no matter your intentions – can give others a bad feeling and can sometimes deter them from the movement itself. For example, two men wearing anti-oil slogan t-shirts glued themselves near Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) in the Netherlands. Before gluing themselves onto the glass overtop and wall next to the painting, one of the men poured a tin of tomatoes onto the other. I understand the message the activists were trying to send about wanting the general public to value the environment like theyvalue theirartworks, but I think their methods were a bit too far-fetched. Not only were they wasteful but their environmental message might not be seen throughout social media. Navigating the choices of determining  the right time to speak up and the language you use is as crucial as the content itself. I am still learning this skill, and will hopefully be able to effortlessly utilize this skill to get my points across in the near future.

Daphne Chen

UWindsor '23

Daphne is majoring in International Relations and Development Studies with an Economics minor in UWindsor. Her hobbies include painting, reading, writing, and learning about niche topics among other things. She hopes to one day be able to make a small difference in this world, but she doesn’t know when, what, and how.