Megan is a recent college graduate who started her blog Tunes and Tunics in 2012. As Megan says in her about page, she has changed along with Tunes and Tunics over the years to become more aware of the issue of fast fashion. Now her blog is a hub for ethical/sustainable fashion advice and discussion.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 21 and I go to the University of Southern California. I’m originally from New York, but love living in LA. I taught myself to play guitar in high school, went to a girl’s sleep-away camp for nine summers, and did tap and jazz dance from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I’ve always been into fashion but only got interested in sustainable and ethical fashion once I got to college.
What are you studying and what do you hope to do with your degree?
I’m a Senior getting my undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a minor in Culture, Media and Entertainment. I also began graduate school a year early, and by Spring of 2020 I will graduate with a Master’s of Science in Global Supply Chain Management. I want to work in fashion after I graduate, hopefully for a sustainable or ethical brand that is doing something to change the norms of the industry. Ultimately, I want to be in a senior leadership position, or even start my own small brand one day. Until then I’m interested in doing something related to supply chain (forecasting or planning) or something related to marketing and communicating a company’s supply chain or sustainability initiatives to consumer
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is gender equality. Not just equality for men and women, but equality for women of color, disabled women, indigenous women, trans women, and immigrant women – all women.
How do you show your feminism on a daily basis?
I feel strongly that a daily display of feminism doesn’t need to be overt. There are a lot of little things that I do every day that show my feminism, but are also just a reflection of who I am as a person. As a business major and a woman in a graduate program for a traditionally male-dominated field, just showing up to my classes everyday can be considered an act of feminism. I also would just consider myself a go-getter, so just because something has traditionally been done by men is not a good enough reason for me to not do something I want to do. I also have surrounded myself with strong, motivated and diverse women throughout my life. I was a girl scout, I went to a girl’s sleepaway camp, I went to an all-girls high school, I joined a sorority in college, I’m part of a graduate women in business club, I helped organize a women’s leadership summit at USC, etc. I really devote myself to being a part of these communities of women so that I can be part of places and organizations that foster supportive, not competitive, spaces for women to come together and root for each other.
Who are your icons?
Elaine Welteroth has always been a huge inspiration for me. I actually met her when she was a beauty editor at Teen Vogue when I won a prom makeover contest. Little did I know she’d go on to become the youngest editor-in-chief of a Conde Nast publication, and the second African-American to hold such a title. I have learned a lot from her about intersectional feminism, and inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry. I also have long been inspired by Emma Watson. I love that she has used her platform as a famous actress to speak about important issues such as feminism and climate change. I’ve also been incredibly inspired by Lizzo lately. She’s such a fierce advocate for self-love and it’s infectious.
In your opinion, how do white allies check their privilege?
By far the most important thing for white allies to do is listen. There is so much that I do not and cannot understand as a straight white woman, so this year I have really made an effort to listen when someone else speaks about their experience. In terms of checking your privilege, reflecting on your privilege is a powerful exercise. I really did not know all of the ways in which I was privileged until I sat down and wrote an entire blog post called “I Live A Low-Waste Lifestyle And I Am Privileged.” It is really easy to go through everyday just living life without thinking about it, but taking time to consciously think about the ways you benefit from being white (or straight, or affluent, or educated etc.) will allow you to be a better listener and a better ally.
How do you ensure that you don’t overlook social injustice in your environmental activism?
A lot of what I’m doing now to ensure I don’t overlook social justice in environmental activism is learning and learning and learning. I first heard about environmental justice in one of my environmental studies classes a few years ago, and it changed everything about the way I look at the environmental movement. I live a sustainable lifestyle because I want the world to be a better place for everyone, so having an understanding of how climate change and pollution disproportionately impacts communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities is absolutely necessary. I try to call attention to environmental justice and the privilege that often comes along with being able to live a sustainable lifestyle on my blog and through my social media in hopes that I can serve as a starting point for others to learn more about the connection between social injustice and the environmental movement.
What are tips to eliminate use of single use plastics?
The best way to eliminate the use of single use plastics is to start small, and work reusables into your routine. Don’t feel like you need to become completely plastic-free overnight. Start with things you do every day and see if there’s a reusable alternative you can use. Do you get coffee or tea every day (like me)? Buy a reusable metal or glass cup and bring it with you as you leave. Do you have a go-to individually wrapped snack? See if you can make it yourself or buy the ingredients in bulk. Try to make using reusables convenient for you. I always keep reusable straws, cutlery, a water bottle and a reusable tote in my backpack so I’m prepared when I’m off campus. This is especially great because I don’t have to think about it – my reusables are always there. Once you’ve worked these things into your routine see what you can do next. Try buying produce from the loose section instead of packaged in plastic. Try shopping locally and in stores instead of online to reduce packaging waste. Try bar soaps and shampoo bars instead of bottled options. The list goes on and on. The most important thing is to start small. Once small changes become a part of your routine, then move onto something else. There’s no pressure to be perfect overnight.
How do you approach fashion in a sustainable way?
I try to approach fashion sustainably by being conscious about my purchases. I think through every purchase I make by asking myself these questions: Do I need this? Do I need to buy it new? Does this company support my values (made with the earth & people in mind)? Is this something that will last or is it trend-based? Do I know how or where this item was made? Do I know how this item was made? These questions get me thinking more deeply about fashion, and often change my purchase decisions. After learning so much about the fashion industry and the way it systematically negatively impacts the environment and people involved in fashion production, I no longer feel comfortable buying clothing that does not support my values. It isn’t possible to be a 100% perfect sustainable shopper, but thinking more deeply about my purchases and all of the resources required to create a single item of clothing helps me make more informed, more conscious purchase decisions.
What are your current three favorite items in your closet?
I really cherish clothes for their story. Whether I wore it to an important life event, or whether I know a lot about how it was made, clothes that have a story mean way more to me than the most beautiful things in my closet. My favorite accessory is my Genusee sunglasses. They’re made from recycled plastic bottles in Flint, Michigan. I love that this company has turned the need for plastic use in Flint into not only a cool product, but also into a business opportunity for residents of Flint. I also love my Giving Key necklace that says “bloom”. The Giving Keys is an amazing small business based out of Los Angeles that employs LA residents transitioning out of homelessness. I wore this necklace at an event in Downtown, LA and the security guard working the event asked me what my key said. As I started to explain what The Giving Keys does, he shared that he used to work for The Giving Keys. It was a very full circle moment, and was a perfect reminder that social impact businesses do in fact make a difference. My last favorite item in my closet is something I actually just got. I purchased a printed blazer by a brand YSTR on an online secondhand swap website called Swap Society. YSTR was the first fashion company I ever interned for, and there were only three other full-time employees (who all happened to be women). YSTR was a slow, sustainable, cut-to-order company, and unfortunately suddenly closed down before I had the opportunity to purchase this blazer. It was another full circle moment to find this exact blazer from YSTR on a secondhand site and be able to have it in my life!
How do you keep an environmentally conscious lifestyle in college?
Staying environmentally conscious in college is about two things: getting educated, and making it part of your daily routine. I learned so much about environmental science, climate change, and the impact of pollution in my general education courses at school, and there are distinguished speakers and panel conversations and town hall meetings about these issues happening at my school every week. Try to soak up as much education – in class and out of class – that you can about environmental policy, sustainable infrastructure, communicating corporate social responsibility etc. while you are at an institute of higher education. By learning about the issues at hand, you can better decide which areas you are most passionate about and want to tackle. I am really passionate about sustainable and ethical business, whereas some of my friends are more focused on reducing food waste or recycling infrastructure or the oceans, so get out there and learn, and then do what you can to make little changes in your day to day life.
In terms of actual things I do to live sustainably at college, I walk almost everywhere (I don’t have a car in LA!), I cook my own meals instead of ordering take out or using a delivery service, I teach my roommates how to recycle, I wash my clothing in cold water and line-dry almost everything, I use shampoo bars and make my own toothpaste, and I work consciously to reduce my plastic use and reduce the amount of waste I create. Living sustainably in college isn’t the easiest thing, I will be honest, but it has allowed me to live more consciously and mindfully, and that is something I have really grown to cherish.
Where do you get your news? Or if you don’t keep up with news, tell us why.
I did not really keep up with news much until this year. I would watch the news on TV every once in a while, and always pay attention around election seasons, but did not actively keep up with the general news until this Fall. Every morning I read news-focused newsletters like The Morning Brew (business focused), The Skimm (general news updates), and The Newsette (more fashion focused). I also think it’s important to stay in the loop about what’s happening on your school campus – especially if you’re in college – so I read my school’s newspaper, The Daily Trojan, every day. I have become increasingly aware of the bias in the news that I read, and definitely don’t want to fall subject to confirmation bias, so I have also started discussing general news with my roommates on a regular basis. This allows me to get exposure to other people’s’ points of view and get a more well-rounded idea of what’s going on in the world.
What are your top picks for sustainable/ethical brands?
Always shop secondhand first! If you need something new, though, my favorite brands are Reformation, Everlane, Boody, Girlfriend Collective and Patagonia. I also am trying recently to support smaller companies owned by women and BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color). Some of my favorite companies in this category include Wear Proclaim, Matter Prints, and Ecovibe Apparel.
If you could pick one person to become president in 2020 who would it be?
I have followed Kirsten Gillibrand for a few years, because she is one of my New York state senators, and she has done a lot throughout her years in office to represent my views as her constituent. I would be proud to see her become president in 2020. I would love to pick her brain – along with many of the other candidates – to get an idea of people she has in mind to fill other important positions in the cabinet (like the EPA Administrator, Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Homeland Security to name a few).
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Something I’ve been talking a lot about recently in relation to sustainable fashion and sustainable lifestyle is “progress, not perfection”, and I think this also applies to feminism. I personally don’t think there’s a “perfect” way to be a feminist. There are definitely wrong ways to be a feminist, just as there are wrong ways to practice sustainability, but the focus should be on the progress you’re making and not how you compare to “perfection.” Actively strive to learn more about privilege, about intersectional feminism, about how some of your purchase decisions are impacting women around the world, etc.