CAN YOU PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF?I am Marieke Eyskoot, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle expert from the Netherlands and I've been working in this field for about 15 years. I've worked for an organization called the Clean Clothes Campaign to improve working conditions in the global garment industry for quite a long a time. I've been very lucky to be able to travel to many of the countries where our clothes are produced, for example Bangladesh and Thailand, Eastern Europe and Turkey, and to work with the workers overthere to improve their conditions.
In that time that I got to meet many of the brands which try to do it in a different way. They had a certain brand DNA and wanted to produce a good garment with a good story. At the same time, I also met a lot of people who had many questions. They wanted to change, they just didn't know where to start.
HOW DID THAT INFLUENCE YOUR CAREER IN THE FOLLOWING TIME?After my work for the Clean Clothes Campaign I decided to bring both things together: To put those amazing brands and initiatives on the map for people who are looking for them. I started working as an independent sustainable fashion expert and co-founded the tradeshow MINT for sustainable brands to get them into discourse. We wanted to show, that it's at the same level in terms of style and aesthetics – and the brands have a great story on top.
I realized, that people started asking more and more questions. When you start taking a closer look in how your clothes are produced then quite quickly you will also start wondering, where does my lipstick come or what is it exactly I put in my mouth every day. That was when I started moving more into lifestyle. I wanted to produce a comprehensive guide because the informations are so scattered everywhere.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH IN YOUR NEW BOOK, "THIS IS A GOOD GUIDE – FOR A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE"? WHAT DOES IT CONTAIN?In the first place, I want to give people possibilities, choices and options. There can be quite negative preconceptions about sustainability, that it's maybe too expensive or not stylish enough. And this is my attempt, to show that you can live a very good life and still do good at the same time. But there is not necessarily only one right way. Of course, it's very different for everyone: What suits your style, what suits your life? Also, I wanted to try not to make people feel that they need to be perfect. Because many people think, if you can't do it perfectly, then don't start at all – that is such a waste!I try to give people options, things they can do, maybe things they can stop doing, places you can go, shops you can visit, tips and tricks, do's and don'ts. There are different chapters: Fashion, Beauty, Food, Home, Work, Travel. There's something for everyone!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PART IN THOSE 280 PAGES?I think of one of the examples that I use often because it gives people a different perspective on their personal lives and always having to get the maximum out of every given situation: When you go shopping for food, and you are in front of the aisle with milk cartons, something immediately kicks in and tells us that we need to have the freshest – the maximum. A carton of milk is going to last for four weeks. Of course, no one uses a carton of milk for four weeks. If you have a family, make is two days. If you are on your own, maybe four days. But still, it feels like a score if you go through all of them and find the freshest carton. But what will happen with the carton, that is in the front and only has a couple of shelve days left? It will be thrown away. And that happens to a third of the food worldwide. That is a horrible bunch of food!
I then ask people, next time, why don't you take the one in the front? You will get the same quality, it's the same price, it's even easier if you don't need to search through all the milks just to get your carton – and you have done a sustainable thing. Easy things like this are my favorite, because it shows people their own possibilities to contribute every single day!
DO PEOPLE SOMETIMES TRY TO FIND MISTAKES YOU MAKE AND BLAME YOU FOR DOING WRONG?Like people asking on Social Media: "Does she really wear leather shoes?" when my shoes are second hand, actually? Sure! But I'm not a cynical person and I don't respond to negativism at all. It's just not helping! I think it's better to keep asking questions instead of blaming immediately! I mean, if people try to curb the amount of the travelling they do but they keep eating meat every now and again, that doesn’t take away from the other things they are doing. Of course, it would be better to do everything right but it's important to start somewhere.
WHAT IS THE MAJOR SHIFT YOU HAVE SEEN IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS?There is a lot more offer out there – that is the biggest change. I couldn’t have made this book five years ago. It’s a lot easier to find sustainable stores, alternatives and useful websites now. When I first started working for the Clean Coast Campaign people were thinking I was working for dry cleaners or something like that. But now, the environmental issues are very common. When I tell people what I’m doing, they’ll have their own conversation about it, they don’t even need me to be part of it. The awareness is different now. We are at an interesting point. Everyone out there has heard something about these issues. It’s more about moving from knowing to doing now.
WHAT DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO HAPPED TO GET PEOPLE TO THE STEP FROM KNOWING TO DOING?I would like people to realize that there have never been more messages to us from every angle, all day long. The majority of those messages seem to tell you that you are not ok. I mean, we are all beautiful in our own way. There is nothing we can buy that takes our self-esteem and our self-love to a higher level. But the industries – whether it’s fashion, beauty. Diet, sports, food – they all beg to differ. For them it’s important to tell you that you are not good enough and that you lack in a way. They offer you a solution for a problem you didn’t even have before. Of course, these solutions don’t work and we should know that. But we keep buying. The commercialization of our body image in such a bad way lies in the heart of our trouble with making a change. We want to behave differently but it’s quite hard, because we are kept in this negative feeling. We need to resist this to save ourselves and the planet. That is an important key-message: We need to take back our own body image and accept that there are many ways to beauty.
THAT'S INTERRESTING. IT'S A STEP FURTHER THAN JUST TALKING ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY?Absolutely! If we talk about building a positive, solid future, that includes freedom. Freedom from not being exploited or being abused, but also freedom to be yourself and from being oppressed into this consumerist lifestyle. For me, it's a big part of sustainability. If you look at the last chapter of my book, it’s not about either fashion or beauty. It’s about knowledge and things that have to do with feminism, white privileges, diversity, accessibility, community, friendship, role models – the basic ideas of how we see each other and how society treats us. How we deal with these things plays a big role in change.
IS THERE ONE BRAND YOU WOULD RECOMMEND TO US, WHERE YOU BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT?I could never pick one from all of these in my book! I would always applaud the brands that are trying to incorporate all kinds of values in their communication. Brands who dare to break away from the norms. I love brands who use their connection with their customers to break taboos. Whether it’s about your period or armpit hair, and all these things that are very natural and we are supposed to be ashamed of – I would always applaud the brands which take their position in this society seriously and see the opportunity to be a vehicle for real change.
AND WHAT CAN EACH INDIVIDUAL DO TO MAKE THE GREATEST POSSIBLE CHANGE?My three top tips for a sustainable life that can be implemented quickly are:
These are simple things that anyone can take to heart.
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