Hey thrifters, welcome to another Community Spotlight where we interview pro thrifters, seasoned sellers, sustainababes, and generally awesome people who think #secondhandfirst and inspire us every day. Today, we talk to Kaméa Chayne, the mind behind ConsciousFashion.co and host of Green Dreamer, a podcast where she talks sustainability with industry professionals. Read on and get to know her and her passion for sustainability!
Tell us your name and what you do within the sustainability sphere.
Hi there! I’m Kaméa Chayne, a conscious creative (@KameaChayne), the curator of ConsciousFashion.co, and the podcast and show host of Green Dreamer. Through my multimedia platforms, I explore what it’ll take for us to regenerate and realize a world of ecological diversity and balance, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance and wellness for all.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
I played the violin since I was about five years old, won many trophies from national competitions in Taiwan while growing up, and used to dream of becoming a professional violinist.
What does living sustainably mean to you?
Sustainability, to me, is about humans collectively being able to thrive in balance with nature. While those who are entirely self-sufficient, living off-the-grid and growing or foraging and hunting 100% of their own foods, may already be “living sustainably” in the specific regions they’re in, for the rest of us that participate in the global economy, truly “sustainable living” is a lot more complex than buying organic, eating plant-based, having solar panels, and driving electric cars—it requires the context of how many other people there are; how many others are buying such “sustainable” products and how often; where our “eco” and organic products are being flown in from; what biodiversity of life and food sources our native bioregions can support; and so forth.
So actually, for most of us, who again, exist in and rely on things from this globalized world, “sustainable living” is more of an ideal to strive towards, pointing to the importance for us to contribute to driving systemic change beyond the boundaries of what we do in our personal lives.
When and why did you start thinking/living consciously?
I had always felt an innate love for wildlife and nature growing up, but it wasn’t until my college years when I began to connect the dots. At first, my innocent passion for creative expression through style, my unhealthy reliance on retail therapy to fill personal voids, and the boom of fast fashion enabling cheap prices and new collections every week had me addicted to fast fashion. Buying into the media messages that constantly made me feel like I had to keep up with the latest trends, I frequently felt like I had nothing to wear when my closet was, in reality, already full.
Then, after casually picking up and reading the book, Ecologist’s Guide to Fashion, during my time studying business and fashion abroad in Milan, I had my wakeup call—I knew I could not continue my same consumptive habits with fast fashion after learning its exploitation of human labor and its immense impact on the environment.
That was when my two worlds collided and I began to see my personal direct and indirect impacts on our social and ecological challenges. Once I got started, I just felt the need to keep going and knew I couldn’t turn back.
Who was your most memorable interviewee on Green Dreamer?
I’ve learned so much from every single interviewee, including thredUP’s Erin Wallace on episode 40. More recent ones that really provoked thought in me include Jennifer Grayson, who explored the bold idea of how we’ve overcivilized humanity, and 2020 Independent Presidential Candidate Mark Charles, who unveiled the very roots of our nation’s injustice and also highlighted the differences between how western cultures and indigenous cultures approach conservation.
Share your top 3 sustainable living tips for all the beginners out there.
1. “Put your own mask on before assisting others,” as our airlines would say. Be sure to take good care of yourself first because only when you feel at your best physically, mentally, and emotionally, can you be there fully to support those you love and bring about your best service and work to this world.
2. Be a maximalist: make the most use of everything you already have, make lots of memories with those things to enrich their sentimental value to you, and shop second hand first to bring new lives to things that would otherwise go to waste!
3. To regenerate regional biodiversity to help address both our sixth mass extinction and our climate crisis, plant more native plants and eat a more diverse variety of responsibly grown local foods.
Name your top 3 favorite brands and why.
1. thredUP for how it’s revolutionized the secondhand shopping experience, making the practice of treasure-hunting for pre-loved clothing fun, accessible, and enjoyable, and for how it’s engaged so many more people to participate in the secondhand economy.
2. Mara Hoffman for her use of ecologically conscious textiles and leadership in showing body and ethnic diversity among their models.
3. All of the brand-less “brands” out there—independent artisans using traditional craftsmanship to make things by hand, using the materials readily available to them in their bioregions. Learning about how such things are made leads us to really appreciate that craft, creativity, and labor of love, and it also encourages us to find fulfillment in the slower pace of handmade that actually respects what the artisans’ local environments are able to naturally provide without added pressures from arbitrary demand.
What inspires you to continue your sustainable journey?
What inspires me most is this beautiful vision of a biodiverse, thriving planet that we can reclaim and regenerate—one where clean air, clean water, and diverse and nutritious foods are accessible to all; one where people find peace in seeing the humanity in one another; and one where people are able to see past the empty promises of our consumerist culture and realize what it really takes to create lives of meaning, joy, wellness, and fulfillment.
I’m excited about the true abundance and enrichment that our future can behold, and this vision of what could be is what motivates me to continue doing what I can to translate it into reality.
What do you love most about being a thought leader in this space?
As the host of an interview show, I actually see myself more as a lifelong student than an expert or leader. What I love most and what I’m most grateful for is definitely the opportunity to learn from so many incredible dreamers and doers who are helping us to realize a better and healthier future for all.
What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far about sustainable living?
The level of nuance and complexity that exists within “sustainable living” has been eye-opening for me and has really encouraged me to take apart generalizations and look beneath the surface to ask more questions.
For example, we know that cotton, even organic cotton, requires a lot of water to grow. However, looking at environmental impact studies that illustrate the water usage of different fibers and making decisions off of that oversimplifies the equation. If cotton were grown in a bioregion where it’s native to, the cotton can pretty much entirely be rain-fed, in which case that high level of water usage can be considered “sustainable” in that circumstance. On the other hand, even if organic cotton were grown in a bioregion that does not rain much, thus needing to rely on artificial irrigation that drains freshwater sources from elsewhere, that may actually not be so sustainable.
Context is key in really understanding sustainability, so I’ve learned!
What’s your top secret tip to cleaning out your closet?
Every month or so, I’ll go in to refold and reorganize my clothes by color and category, which often reminds me of all the pieces I already own and suppress any urges to buy new things that look very similar to what I already have. I’ve also learned a lot from Marie Kondo in terms of how to best organize my closet and storage boxes in a way that allows me to easily visualize everything I have. This has helped me to more easily distinguish the items I wear the most from the ones I rarely wear or no longer feel the desire to wear, thus making any cleanout sessions more of a breeze.
You talk a lot about intersectional sustainability, could you explain what that means?
Intersectional sustainability, to me, really has multiple layers of meaning. First, it’s reflective of how sustainability looks different to every unique person depending on their circumstances and cultures. Second, it illuminates how “sustainability” looks different for every bioregion with their varying terrains, climates, and diversity of life forms. And finally, it stresses the importance of looking at how sustainability applies to all areas of our lives and society, inviting us to step back to broaden our perspectives, connect the dots, and find opportunities to collaborate with others with different backgrounds, skills, and areas of expertise.
Sustainable brands have a reputation for being inaccessible for people with small budgets. What do you think? What are some affordable ways for people to shop/think sustainably?
The most sustainable way to enjoy fashion is simply to make the most of everything we already own. Often, we forget that we own certain things that have been pushed to the backs of our closets and may end up buying things so similar to what we already have. So, start by “shopping” in the backs of our wardrobes or bottoms of our drawers—that’s free!
It is important to buy less and buy better overall, but if people want to enjoy the same variety of clothing with comparable prices to fast fashion, that can actually be done through thrifting and shopping for pre-loved clothes. Fashion trends often repeat themselves, so chances are, with some treasure-hunting (and that process can be fun, too!), we’ll be able to find the exact styles we want within the secondhand market. The added bonus is that we’ll likely get more bang for our buck, as used clothes are often still in like-new or great condition but would be cheaper than if they were bought as new.
Finally, it’s not about spending a larger overall budget on fashion; it’s about allocating our dollars more intentionally to prioritize quality over quantity, investing in impact, which enriches our lives over time, over materialism, from which the fulfillment we get is fleeting.
Can’t get enough of Kaméa’s wisdom? Get more eco gems on her blog, or tune into Green Dreamer! Leave a comment for how you think sustainably.