This is part of our ongoing series, Real Talk, where we feature real folks and real convos that are important, inspiring and true to us.
If you think about it, "sustainable" doesn't really mean anything at all. Shouldn't everything technically be "sustainable", in the sense that it is something that can be continued or upheld without harm to the ecosystem? It's kind of nuts that 1.) pretty much nothing actually is sustainable by that definition and 2.) that sustainable became marketing jargon that was commodified over night in order to sell you more stuff.
We have mixed feelings about the word. It has glaring imperfections. The fact that we're selling you stuff at all is inherently not sustainable. To be truly sustainable, you'd never buy anything again and you'd live off the land using exclusively natural sources of water and power, creating virtually no waste. We can think of maybe one or two people we know who have enough privilege to pull off something like that, because that's what it takes to do things like move to a remote but habitable area where one could grow food continuously and have access to clean water and energy and build an off grid dwelling and maintain it— it takes a ton of cash, a ton of privilege, and it's really, really hard. If you're reading this from your sustainable utopia, using clean energy, bravo— though using the internet is actually not sustainable either, because of how much energy all of the servers that power your favorite internet destinations (email, Netflix, YouTube) use up, and using a phone or computer (yes, even your iPhone) means that someone mined for the resources in the battery, almost always in unsafe and unethical conditions that cause pollution and run-off.
In short, "sustainability" is set up to fail in America, unless you have incredible amounts of privilege and are excited about resigning yourself to an ascetic lifestyle, by modern American standards. (This is the tip of the iceberg— we haven't even touched the fact that we've made different and inherently more "sustainable" ways of living, primarily the ways of the First Nations and Indigenous peoples, impossible through genocide and socioeconomic subordination to the remaining segregated communities.) There are plenty of other countries and cultures where "sustainable living" is a lot more achievable, but by global standards, it is actually quite hard to pull off in 2020 in a hell of a lot of places.
So yes, shopping is bad and living off nothing is good. Throwing "sustainable" around in ad copy is at best a little cheeky, and at worst, greenwashing. We don't get excited when we see giant CPG companies selling you laundry detergent in a plastic bottle with a green leaf on the front and telling you it's sustainable because there's a little less chlorine in it.
But we also don't think it's reasonable or realistic to ask you to never buy anything again and to upend your life to save the planet when our government and most of the companies that do the vast majority of the polluting (hello, fossil fuels!) are never held accountable. Yes, you have to wash your clothes with a homemade solvent in a mason jar, but the president doesn't need to pay taxes and Exxon can keep polluting at astronomically high rates and it's up to you, a regular person, to solve climate change— sorry, but how does that make any sense? Isn't that unfair, if not ableist, racist and pretty discriminatory, assuming you have the time, privilege, bandwidth and resources to live that way?
While we agree that there is no magic climate hero coming to save us, and we should all be accountable for the impact we have on the environment (if we know we should bring our own bag to the grocery store, let's do that!), that accountability needs to extend to the big guys. There is a middle ground between living like climate change (let's be real and call it what it is— the climate crisis) isn't happening and everything is fine, and living off the land with no power or carrying around your trash in a mason jar.
Goldune is a sustainable ecommerce company that sells home, lifestyle and personal care goods. Yup, we sell sustainable stuff. We want to make it easier to make incrementally better choices. We want to make it easier for you to be a good person— and that may not always mean doing the extreme things. This year, it might just mean switching to a plastic-free shampoo and voting. That'd be enough for us. We're here to help. That's what we do.
Sustainability is a fraught word, and to be honest, there's no great definition. Here's what we can promise you: we sell stuff that's incrementally better than the conventional products you may have relied upon thus far, and we make a great effort to share products with you that we think are as functional, attractive, and awe-worthy as their less-sustainable counterparts. We try hard to find things that are going to help you throw less in the trash. When we call something sustainable, we aren't greenwashing. We're doing our best to bring you an option that's safe for your bod, your fam, your pets and your planet. You can trust us to source from small businesses, family-run businesses, and BIPOC and women lead businesses.
We'll level with you, we aren't climate experts— we're students of our environment, just like you. Hell, we'll make a few mistakes. But we hope that along the way we can introduce you to something that helps you live a little more in line with your values, or a little kinder to the big blue-green, spinning orb we're all sitting on. If that's what get done, that'd be more than enough for us.