Swedish Blogger Emma Elwin’s Guide To Being A Sustainable As A New Mother
It wasn’t something that happened overnight but everything that was excessive and not beneficial to the environment slowly found itself being jettisoned out of ex-fashion editor and stylist Emma Elwin’s home. Elwin had always been drawn to items that came with a sustainability/organic/ethical stamp but pregnancy made her pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle with the same vigour that to-be mothers crave certain food items. She began her journey into sustainability by switching to vegetarianism and cutting down on dairy and gradually progressed to consuming and buying only locally-produced organic food. Her two-year-old son Dylan developed a vegetarian palate since the day he was born — something that his mother is very proud of.
Today, Elwin, who is the founder of Make It Last, a blog that inspires its audience to make greener choices, believes that her lifestyle changes have truly enriched her life and she is making a conscious effort to impart this knowledge to like-minded individuals. Accordingly, the fashion section of Make It Last will inform you about the newest plant-based pair of jeans, the life section will lead you to discover a chair made from ocean plastic and finally, the beauty section will educate you about a zero-plastic bath and beauty regime. Elwin believes motherhood has made her more cognizant of the planet since she feels responsible for birthing another human who will contribute to the existing carbon footprint. She even has an explanation for why she believes one should grow their own food if they have the means to do so. And although she is yet to cultivate her own little backyard farm, she is confident it’s on the cards. Her reasoning is simple: “If you plant tomato seeds yourself, you will be aware of the hard work you put into growing the plant and you’ll make sure you eat it before it goes bad.”
We chatted with Elwin about the benefits and challenges of switching to a sustainable lifestyle and how the term has taken on a new meaning for her since she became a mother…
What are some of the first simpler steps one can take when they decide to switch to a sustainable lifestyle?
Opting for secondhand products has made it simpler for me to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. I love sites like The Real Real where you can update your wardrobe with gorgeous pre-owned clothes instead of buying newly produced fashion. Some of my best wardrobe investments have been vintage and secondhand hauls from brands like Céline and Balenciaga that I got for half the price. When we moved to our new home, we chose to buy secondhand furniture and invested in classic designs as opposed to buying customised fixtures that would be harder to sell if we ever grew tired of them.
Did you face any challenges on your journey to becoming sustainable?
The certifications for organic beauty products was a bit of a slippery slope initially because their laws were not as rigid as the ones that had been laid down for organic food. Brands can pretty much add just one organic ingredient and call the product organic. Some of the ingredients listed on the packaging alarmed me; there was mercury in mascaras, lead in lipsticks and a yellow pigment called cadmium in eyeshadows and powders. These are ingredients that destroy our ecosystems, permanently alter our hormones and are even carcinogenic, in some cases. Now, I only buy brands that I am confident use natural ingredients like RMS Beauty and Estelle & Thild.
What is one misconception that people have with regard to going completely sustainable?
I think people make lifestyle changes overnight which can be overwhelming and stressful. Lead in with just one thing that you are passionate about and that will spark off other changes. Reform is not as hard as you think and every adjustment I’ve made has actually lead to something better in my life.
Did you make any changes to how you were living once you found out you were pregnant?
Absolutely. I began researching chemicals that were used in furniture which scared me. A sofa would have been treated with flame retardants, anti-molds and other hormone-altering chemicals before it reached you and these were all items I didn’t want my unborn child to be exposed to. I decided to invest in a secondhand sofa from a Swedish company called Norrgavel that only works with untreated natural materials. I exchanged our beds for organic and chemical-free versions from Prolana, a German company that produces ecological mattresses and purchased a toxin-free baby buggy from Naturkind, an Austrian brand that makes 100% pollutant-free strollers.
What are a few simple ways that new mothers can be sustainable?
In the beginning, I bought way too many clothes for my son Dylan even though most of them were pre-owned. In some cases, he outgrew outfits that he hadn’t even had the chance to wear once. I should’ve known that less is more in this case since he was growing so fast. So I’d advise new parents to create a secondhand wardrobe for their babies or borrow from friends and family. Besides being easier on the pocket, these clothes are also less likely to contain chemicals since they’ve been washed so many times. I also make it a point to buy clothes in sizes that are larger than Dylan’s actual size and just make tiny alterations to them so that he can wear them for a longer time. I would recommend that new mothers read and educate themselves about leading a sustainable life before adopting one. Becoming a mother is an overwhelming experience in itself without the pressure of having to reexamine your lifestyle choices.
Are you raising Dylan to be a sustainable adult?
Dylan has been vegetarian since day 1 and he is witness to the informed choices my husband and I make on a daily basis. When it’s time to choose, I hope he is able to make a decision that reconciles his own conscience with what’s best for the environment.
What are some of the sustainable brands that you swear by?
I make a conscious effort to buy all of our stuff secondhand but when I do buy newly-produced items, I make sure they are of the highest quality. I like the heavy t-shirts from Arket, an ethical brand that was founded in London’s Regent Street, because I know I won’t have to discard them for years. I’m also a fan of Swedish kidswear brand Blaou‘s gender-neutral philosophy.
Has switching to sustainability impacted your mind?
Definitely. I’ve realised that I’m actually leading a spiritually richer life where I’ve learnt to appreciate the small things. Who knew that having less stuff would actually create more room for me to live in?