Karen Maurice is the fast fashion buyer turned sustainable living blogger over on n4mummy. Changing your lifestyle to be more eco-friendly and kinder to your body and the planet is not always easy, and it can come with added challenges if you have a family.
At Starseeds, we want to support everyone to make positive and more sustainable lifestyle choices, so we spoke to Karen about her journey into green living. From her experience in the fashion industry, to her favourite every-day products, we got the low down on Karen's tips and advice on creating a sustainable home.
Can you tell us what your relationship was to fashion before you began this journey with sustainability?
I've always loved fashion, in fact as a child I used to make shoes out of cardboard and leotards out of plastic bags! So it was probably only natural that as an adult I became a fashion buyer. I worked for several fast fashion stores and travelled the world shopping and visiting factories where production was made. In some ways it was a wonderful job, in others it was really tough. Working for a company where profit always triumphs over people and planet is soul destroying. I became dissatisfied with creating cheaper and cheaper clothing and compromising on quality, fabrics and durability all in the name of trend & ££. I was also uncomfortable with some of the business practices I was involved in.
What was the inspiration that caused you to reevaluate how and where you shopped?
To be honest it was a very gradual thing, in theory I've always wanted to shop ethically and sustainably but for years there just weren't the brands to buy from. I think though as I found more brands whose ethos I agreed with and clothes I loved, I was able to make the transition. Also learning more about the industry through reading and watching films like The True Cost helped to confirm what I suspected was true about the industry.
How did you start making changes to your lifestyle in order to live
It started with clothes and is slowly making its way into other areas of my life. For both the kids and myself I made the decision only to buy from ethical and sustainable shops (where possible). For me that wasn't too much of a drama as I already own far too many clothes, but children are always growing! So the majority of their clothes are preloved and odd piece is bought new from ethical and sustainable stores.
What’s the most challenging part of living sustainably with a young family? How do you deal with these challenges?
Time, it takes a lot of time to research and find ethical and sustainable alternatives. However, I now know where to look and have built up a community of friends / bloggers all trying to live this way and we share tips and ideas. There are still areas that I know I need to change, but with kids are just really challenging. Ideally I'd love to by all my fruit and veg from a local organic market, the reality is that if I manage to do an online shop each week and there's food in the fridge then I'm doing well! So I try to make sure I'm buying real food and not items with a ridiculous amount of packaging. Though one day I think I might send back all the packaging to the supermarket, it's ridiculous the amount they use.
Money is another challenge! Things can be much more expensive, so I'm always first online when there's a sale on!
How has this new lifestyle changed your life for the better?
I really appreciate my clothes now, and as I have to consider which items to buy have definitely bought less fashion disasters! Also it's made me think more about my style rather than what the latest trend is, which has got to be a good thing. Having preloved clothes for the kids, means I let them really be kids. They can let their clothes get muddy, covered in play dough, run around and climb trees without anyone worrying and my eldest loves knowing who the item used to belong to. Plus when a garment is worn by child number six, you really start to learn which shops create clothing designed to last.
You tend to use more natural and organic body care and beauty products, why is this important to you?
I really like to know what is in the products I am putting on my skin. Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies, so what we put on it matters. I like to be able to look at an ingredients list and know exactly what's in something. Personally I feel the skincare and beauty industry currently makes lots of false claims, about making you look younger, and things being scientifically tested or proven in a trial that is subjective and only tested by 100 women. To me it just seams like pseudoscience. And we have no idea what these wonder ingredients are and why we are paying so much for them. Personally, I feel it is an industry that needs to be a lot more transparent.
What advice would you give to families looking to live more sustainably? How could they get started?
Start really simply.
Recycle - make the effort! You probably think you do, but if you're anything like me the upstairs bin can end up going straight into the trash and it was full of used paper and card.
Reusable cups - buy a reusable coffee cup and/or water bottle and make sure you have it in the bottom of your buggy / in your handbag. If you buy a coffee every day this small action will make a difference.
New clothes - do you really need that new item? Have a good rummage around in your wardrobe first. You may be surprised by what you find there! If you do need to buy something new, then think about where you are buying from. Have a look at the About Us section on a companies website. If they are trying to produce clothing in an ethical and sustainable way, I promise they will tell you about it.
Read blogs - I should probably plug n4mummy.com here! But seriously there are lots of bloggers and vloggers like me who are all talking about sustainability and offering tips and ideas so check them out.
What are your favourite, affordable brands that are essentials in your family home?andkeep.com - is a great place for everyday essentials, we buy our bamboo toothbrushes there that are 96% biodegradable and BPA free. I also buy my Abeego wrap there, which is a great alternative to using
cling film or foil.
Keep Cup - for reusable coffee cups, these can be bought at John Lewis or sometimes your local coffee shop.
Who Gives A Crap - produce eco-friendly toilet paper that even comes in really fun recyclable packaging.Method & Ecover - for cleaning products.
Green People - for my skincare (an essential surely!) They also have an excellent nappy cream for the kids. I'm currently experimenting with different haircare, soap and deodorant as I have very sensitive skin, so I'll get back to you on those.
Interview by Jessica Duffin