The Goal: Sustainability

***25% off discount code for Threads 4 Thought included***

I think there are three main categories of van lifers. Everyone falls somewhere along the spectrum, but the primary categories are:

1.)  Those who are running. Either towards or away from something. It might have been a bad relationship they just got out of. It might be missions to find themselves.

2.)  Those who are looking for adventure. These people are chronically seeking freedom. They live for the moments. Excitement makes them happy. They love meeting new people in new places and trying new things.

3.)  Those who wish to simplify. This category can be a bit more complicated, but the root source is the same. Some people realize they have too much stuff or feel unfulfilled by a life chasing material possessions. Others steadily realize that they want to minimize the extent of their consumer impact.

I fall mostly into the third category (with a mild sprinkling of the second). While I’ve never really had a whole lot of “stuff,” I slowly began waking up to the impact of my casual, daily routine of life had on a global scale. The more I learned and reflected, the more I realized that I could no longer continue to support the standard consumer lifestyle we’ve deemed acceptable in the West.  

Sometimes, it is fairly obvious that our standard life practices need to change. Other times, it's easier to turn a blind eye. Photo: Chris Jordan (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters) 

Sometimes, it is fairly obvious that our standard life practices need to change. Other times, it's easier to turn a blind eye. Photo: Chris Jordan (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters) 

So I started making changes. They started with the most direct and straightforward method of consumption – eating and drinking. I found that I didn’t agree with the practices of the meat and dairy industries, so I stopped buying their stuff. I realized that single use plastic water bottles are generally unnecessary (barring extreme situations like contamination – which there are still ways around with filtrations systems like GRAYL), so I switched to larger metal bottles (like these ones) that I can refill again and again. Plastic straws? Not needed. Plus, drinking a smoothie out of a glass one like Simply Straws is much more satisfying. These are just a handful of examples.

Want to know something funny? Eggs from these chickens are marketed and labeled as "Cage Free." They might even be labeled "Free Range" since technically the chickens have access to the outdoors even though the openings are too high. I do eat eggs, but I will only buy them from local farms where the chickens are free range pets. Photo: Larry Rana, USDA

Want to know something funny? Eggs from these chickens are marketed and labeled as "Cage Free." They might even be labeled "Free Range" since technically the chickens have access to the outdoors even though the openings are too high. I do eat eggs, but I will only buy them from local farms where the chickens are free range pets. Photo: Larry Rana, USDA

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still moving in this direction. Especially when traveling, there are times where convenience is absolutely necessary. Sometimes I forget to bring a to-go container or forget to ask a waiter to leave the straw behind.  I’ll even break down for the occasional bottled smoothie if I’m going to be driving a long distance and won’t get a chance to stop and cook a vegetable. Nobody’s perfect, and we need to accept and acknowledge that in ourselves as well as others. What’s most important is that we are consistently taking steps to move in that direction. 

After literal consumption, the next tier was physical consumption… aka clothing. I had a breaking point over fast-fashion while I was looking for a shirt to wear to an interview at Forever 21 last year. As I walked through the endless racks of clothing-like products (I call them this because 90% of them are already falling apart and the other 10% won’t fit any human body) I started contemplating what these products actually were: how they got here, where they came from, what types of dyes were used, by whom they were assembled, and how they were sourced.

Where do you think your clothes came from? Here, a factory in China at Yangtze River. One of many. Photo: Wikipedia Commons user High Contrast

Where do you think your clothes came from? Here, a factory in China at Yangtze River. One of many. Photo: Wikipedia Commons user High Contrast

Currently, the textile industry is one of the most hazardous industries in the world for both people and pollution. I realized that this $7 shirt definitely did not go through the hands of someone being paid a fair wage. I’m sure the cotton used in it was also slathered in pesticides. The dyes used to turn it navy blue probably contaminated the water source of an entire village. (These statements sound like an absurd exaggeration, but it is a sad reality of the fast-fashion industry.) Looking at the shirt more closely, I realized that it would probably shrink/fall apart/fade/become unwearable before I had the chance to pull it over my head 5 times. I realized that the amount of happiness I would experience from the shirt during its short life was far outweighed by the environmental and social costs that took place to get the shirt to my hands. So I put the shirt back on the rack and left Forever 21 forever.

Now, I understand that we are financially stressed, every dollar we spend stabs into a deep part of our souls. Indeed sometimes a “good deal” can’t – and shouldn’t – be passed up. But what I realized about clothing is this: I could get 3 $7 shirts that I kind of like, but fit poorly and fall apart in a matter of months, or I can take some extra time to get one $21 shirt that I love, fits great, and I can wear for years to come. I’m paying the same amount in the end, but the real costs of the purchase are much lower. (Besides, in the van, the less clothing I have the better.)

We're not doomed. There are alternatives. (Keep reading)

We're not doomed. There are alternatives. (Keep reading)

There are a handful of companies out there who agree. One of my favorites is Threads for Thought. This company was founded on the premise that the fashion industry needed to be more sustainable. They are also a certified B Corporation – meaning that they leverage the power that comes from their business practices as a force for good. On top of that, they align themselves with foundations that support sustainable and humanitarian initiatives. Their materials consist of organically grown cotton, recycled polyester made 100% from plastic bottles, and lenzing modal made from beech tree pulp. (In other words, their clothes are unreasonably soft.)

Photo: Threads 4 Thought Lookbook

Photo: Threads 4 Thought Lookbook

Threads for thought holds a slew of international accreditations and certifications to support the fact that their workers are well taken care of and their manufacturing facilities operate sustainably. On their website, you can even see what types of garments are assembled at which facility, what materials are used there, what certifications the facility has, what sustainable practices it uses, and what other local initiatives that facility supports. Not a lot of companies will show you that.

They have a men's collection, too. Photo: Threads for Thought lookbook

They have a men's collection, too. Photo: Threads for Thought lookbook

My all time favorites are the Half Lotus Crop and the Madina Tee. I wear them all the time. While I do wish they had a few more graphic t-shirt selections like the Madina, I’m a huge fan of their massive selection of active/yoga wear.

This is my dad and I at the Galveston Island Brewery before I started traveling. This is my go-to all-time favorite shirt, the Madina T. (I made all the jewelry I'm wearing here... Etsy store coming someday, maybe.)

This is my dad and I at the Galveston Island Brewery before I started traveling. This is my go-to all-time favorite shirt, the Madina T. (I made all the jewelry I'm wearing here... Etsy store coming someday, maybe.)

If you are a category 3 van lifer – or just somebody looking to reduce your consumer impact on the world – I would highly recommend checking out Threads 4 Thought. Since you found out about them here, you can use discount code TINYVAN25 to get 25% off the entire online store. Here’s to moving towards a more sustainable world!

Madina T and Half Lotus Crop

Madina T and Half Lotus Crop