Alden Wicker er journalist, bæredygtig blogger og redaktør på EcoCult.com. Her skriver hun om rejser, mad og mode – alt sammen med et bæredygtigt fokus. Alden er fra USA, men rejser lige nu verden rundt sammen med sin mand for at finde lige præcis det sted, hvor de har lyst til at bosætte sig. På sin vej kom hun forbi København og deltog i Copenhagen Fashion Summit, hvor hun mødte My Fair Shops ejer og stifter, Charline Skovgaard.
Med udgangspunkt i Aldens blog, fik vi en snak med hende om, hvordan vi nudger folk til at leve et bæredygtigt liv, og hvordan man som forbruger faktisk gør det.
Alden og Holly (@leotielovely) på Copenhagen Fashion Summit
My Fair Shop: What is the best sustainable experience you’ve had in Copenhagen?
Alden: Bikes! It's been beautiful here, and I've enjoyed riding a bike everywhere. If it was cold maybe I would have felt differently though. It's the fastest way to get anywhere. Definitely a great bike city!
MFS: Is there something that we’re missing that you’ve seen in other cities?
A: Urgh, I’m wracking my brain… Can’t think of anything actually. You have a ton of good sustainable fashion, and a highly developed waste and disposable system. Maybe solar power? But maybe that doesn’t make sense since you don’t have a lot of sunlight. Maybe you could do like France and ban disposable cutlery and England with single-use straws.
MFS: Because of your upbringing at the “hippie summer camp and hippie grade school”, you say that living sustainably just makes sense to you. For a lot of people, living sustainably doesn’t make that much sense – they are just trying to get by. What do you think is needed to change that mindset?
A: There's always going to be a majority that won’t sacrifice something to benefit the world. It’s human nature. The mindset will change if the political well changes. Don’t make the products more expensive and harder to get. We have to make it easy for people. Copenhagen a good example. But we can’t expect people to overhaul their whole life (like zero waste shopping, where you live, having a small house or a big house, how many kids you have, pets, travel etc. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend travelling around the world.
(Paragraf omkring Aldens rejsen. Hun fløj rundt i Sydamerika, fordi deres togsystem er så dårligt. Infrastruktur har altså en del at sige.)
MFS: You talk about “the dichotomy between enjoying what life has to offer and doing good for the world”. A lot of that has to do with fashion and travelling, as you write about on your blog. How do you think we as consumers can affect the big brands into making more sustainable products?
A: Consumers can have an effect. There’s definitely a better way. It’s not effective for a consumer to tell a big brand "I hate you, I’ll never shop here." You need to say "I really like your product, but I’m concerned about these things, and I’ll continue to shop if you change the things…" Can you fix this so I can keep shopping here?
MFS: I know you have been travelling around the world with your husband this past year. How do you travel sustainably, and what advice can you give to us dealing with “travellers guilt”?
A: It depends on where I’m going. Research is always key. What is the transportation system like? Can I find an eco-friendly hotel? Instagram is a good way of researching those. Always find local experiences and products. There’s so much to experience locally that people don’t realize.
MFS: Do we need to stop travelling?
A: I would say that there's no excuse to travel as much as we've been travelling. Honestly, the people who say "I wanna visit every country" - that's dumb. Most cities have the exact same things just with a different flavour. Like the botanical gardens, modern art museum, gourmet food, street food etc. Some people think that they need to fly around the world in order to have "an experience", but there are remarkably similar experiences all over the world. You know, I was talking with someone about Northern Scandinavia, and they were telling me about it, and they were saying "I really want to go to Patagonia!", and I'm like "Why would you want to go to Patagonia?" They're very similar - different animals, but the scenery is the same! You don't need to go to the opposite end of the world. And it's the same thing with tropical locations. Any tropical location is the same. Zip-lining, snorkelling... It's the same thing, so choose a location close to you.
And don't feel like you have to check the one that's on the other side of the world off your list because you saw it on Instagram. The things you see on Instagram are the worst when you get there because they are popular on Instagram. They are very crowded, but you don't see that on Instagram because they erase people from their photos so it doesn't look crowded...
Alden i Kapaa, Hawaii
Look, travel is going to keep going up, and I don't know what the answer is. One time someone said to me "Oh, it's only people who have money that say that it doesn't buy happiness", and I feel like that's the same thing with travel. So, when I'm saying "You don't need to visit every place", and I've been to a lot of places... But I think there is so much pleasure to be had at home that people don't take advantage of, because they think that far-away places are the best. And we have so much in our backyard. I mean, even the States. It's so vast, and there are so many beautiful places that I haven't been to yet. And Canada! And yet, I'm over here in Europe or down in South America... I don't regret it, because I've wanted to get to know it because the reason we are going to all these places is that my husband and I are thinking about where we want to move permanently. So, when this trip is over, we're going to choose a place, and we're not going to keep travelling. I don't want to keep travelling like this. So that's why we're moving so fast and going to all of these different places. We're trying to figure out where our next home is.
MFS: For instance, in the States or here in Europe, the infrastructure is quite good. Simply put, would you recommend that people always take the train if it's possible? Some people here are arguing that filling a car up and car-pooling is a better option than public transportation for example.
A: That's stupid. There's no evidence of that. It's scientifically proven that the train is the winner. It's also more fun to take the train.
MFS: So, at the Summit I’m sure you heard a lot talk about why we need to live sustainably and why we need to go green. It's all focused on the “why” – “why” do we need to live like this, “why” is it important… How do you think we can move into the “how” – “how” do we live sustainably for example… Is it politics, do you think?
A: Well, I do believe in the power of legislation, and I think if anyone is going to start it'll be Europe, but things are difficult right now in politics, and people are a bit distracted [by Trump, by wars, political tension in general]... So, I think the "how" is making it really uncomfortable for CEOs of a brand that knows they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. I think that's a "how" right now. It's not going to solve all the problems. There are always going to be tiny little no-name brands, where the owners don't care, but I think that for a large brand, we as consumers just have to make it really uncomfortable for them and start asking them why they haven't done these things yet.
MFS: But what about the things we can't buy? What about the things we can do? Waste disposal, riding a bike... It's not really possible to ride a bike in the States, I guess because the distances are so vast...
A: It is, in theory. Ideally, in cities, we’d have what you've got going on in Europe, which is train systems connecting cities and you bring your bike on the train. We don't really have that. But we're working on it. Are you talking more overall or just in fashion?
MFS: Well, both, but mostly overall. How do we combat the big environmental crises? How do we stop the poles melting and so on?
A: Legislation and infrastructure investment. That's the "how". It's not to do with the consumer yet. I don't think that conscious consumerism works. The fashion industry is different because there is no legislation on the table, it's a brand-new topic. But the idea of conscious consumerism doesn't really work, and if it did work, the amount of plastic that goes into making water bottles wouldn't be going up. And it is. It has been going up solidly for 20 years, except for in the great recession in 2008. Everybody knows that water bottles are bad for the environment. Nobody is debating that. They're even more expensive than the alternative which is tap water, and yet, it's not working. And if it's not working with something simple as a water bottle, it's not going to work for all the other super complicated things. We can't convince people out of this problem. It's all down to legislation and infrastructure.
MFS: Finally, what simple piece of advice would you give to someone who thinks sustainable living is a bit of a jungle, and who doesn’t know where to start?
A: I would tell them not to worry about the specifics, and to just live their lives in a slow and healthy way. And usually, the slow and healthy way is the sustainable way.
Alden på vej til Machu Picchu, Peru - med tog, naturligvis
Selvom Alden rejser meget, er hun alligevel indbegrebet af en bevidst forbruger. Hun rejser altid på den mest bæredygtige måde, nemlig med toget, når det er muligt. Selvom Alden mener, at vi ikke kan redde verden ved at være bevidste forbrugere, så kan vi påvirke den politiske agenda, der i høj grad styres af vores økonomi. Modebranchen tilføjer hvert år mange milliarder til den globale økonomiske velstand, så ved at være bevidste forbrugere og kun købe hos virksomheder, der fører bæredygtig produktion, kan vi som forbrugere påvirke politikerne til at gå en grønnere vej. Vi kan altså ikke alle sammen gøre alt, men vi kan alle gøre noget.
Copyright: all pictures belong to Alden Wicker / www.ecocult.com / @ecocult