Updates from Sustainability in Style HQ

It’s been a while since I’ve written a reflective post so I thought it might be about time for an update on the realities of running a sustainability minded blog and the work/life balance that’s involved in keeping it advertising free.

Just a warning- this is not all sunshine and rainbows! I really don’t enjoy bringing the ‘downside’ of sustainability to the e-world when there is so much doom and gloom in our media. However, in the interest of transparency here’s what’s been happening in my world.

IMHO Sustainability can really suck.

Yup, you heard right! Sometimes I really just want to up-and-leave the whole sustainability movement. The complexity and holistic nature of sustainability of social, environmental, and economic change is tough going and the implications of trying to affect sustainable change when sustainability means something different to every person is often put in the ‘too hard’ basket.

Through my academic career the complexity of sustainability has seen two of three of my sustainability based studies cut short. Sustainability isn’t always sustainable!

You might remember a year ago that I had a book that was nearly complete and desperately waiting to be launched into the world. It’s still waiting thanks to sustainability being not-all-that-sustainable. The book, The Closet Scientist, is the main component of my sustainability education masters research and sadly they shut down my research department leaving me supervisor-less. I’ve floundered around trying to work out the best course of action for studies. This floundering around was extended by poor Ged being injured and out of work for six months.

During this incredibly challenging time I contemplated releasing the book and saying ‘to-hell’ with academia. But the desire to make my career one of sustainability research rather than a plant scientist with a full-time blogging hobby, kept me going even though I was getting only 5 hours sleep a night and started losing patches of my hair from the stress (oh-how-glamorous) of juggling two jobs, freelance writing, blogging full time and trying to fund and run a household while Ged was injured. I persistently and stubbornly stuck to my guns because I know 80 year old me will still be happily researching sustainability thinking and futures. My hair is thankfully growing back now Ged’s happily employed and I’ve cut back my hours enough to fit in sleep, exercise and some outdoor weekend activities.

This was not the first time sustainability screwed me over.

In 2007 I moved interstate from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast to study sustainable tourism. Unfortunately this course was discontinued after my enrolment which made course scheduling a nightmare.  Academic advisors suggested my studies were swapped to Environmental Science with a major in Sustainability- a switch that lead me to my current ‘surprise’ career as a plant scientist (as someone who studied art, design and multimedia her whole life science was NEVER on the agenda).

While I love plant science sustainability has always been a driving force and the largest contributing factor as to why I left my career in fashion. So despite the fact sustainability has left me high and dry twice over on the academic front my sheer stupidity grit keeps me moving forward.

What’s happening now.

You might have noticed I’ve been a little quite on here the last week. It’s because I’ve been flat-chat (outside of my two jobs) trying to get my studies sorted and writing content for the Eco Style Insiders membership site.

First up, the study! Despite feeling like I’ve been pushing a moss-covered boulder up a hill for nearly two years, I’ve stubbornly been pursuing my studies. I do want to give up; I’ve shed SO many tears, cursed and even laughed manically from frustration. But something inside me tells me I just have to keep going.

I’ve assessed time and time over and I concluded that it’s not my ego. If it was I would have given up on the idea of academic research two years ago, accepted advertising and promo deals through Sustainability In Style, launched my book and invested my energy into being a ‘face’ of sustainable fashion. The all consuming desire for academic research is that I’ve been give the most amazing opportunities to learn a diverse set of skills. Somehow, somewhere along the way you guys started talking to me!

This e-platform (blog, social media and mailing list) has developed such a significant following that it would seem like a shame not to use it to create studies about the delivery of sustainability messages that could benefit others.

While Sustainability in Style is somewhat focused on fashion, my research goals aren’t. They plan to use Sustainability in Style and look at how e-platforms of any sort can be used to deliver sustainability messages. While some research studies have to work hard to get a hundred participants. This web platform has the opportunity to reach tens of thousands!

It’s this passion for possible ‘big-data’ that’s kept me going. Even when I’ve operated off five hours sleep- a whole day at work- then most of the night blogging- it’s been this desire to use what I have for a bigger cause that’s kept me from commercialising this space (or giving up on it altogether).

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”

Jean Vanier

Why a members site?

As I mentioned above, I’ve been working solidly on a members-only section for Sustainability in Style called ‘Eco Style Insiders’. It’s all about living a stylishly mindful life through fashion, eco living, personal development, yoga, mediation, research and creativity.

I’ve noticed over the time I’ve been writing this content that a few other education packages are being released -many of which are free. This somewhat worried me as my members content will be a charged subscription based deal. When I spent some time in reflection (yep I’m a weirdo who meditates on everything before assessing how I feel) I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what others are charging or not charging. Ultimately sustainability needs to be financially sustainable to be of any use for long term sustainable futures goals. Otherwise it just shuts down!

I’ve spend/accrued debt totalling close to $50,000 to be at a stage where I can confidently create education packages and teach yoga and meditation. I’ve also opted out of financial revenue from adverting in order to give back to research through Sustainability in Style free from financial bias.

This members site is a labour of love and the content is heartfelt and created using the techniques and knowledge I have gained through academia (specifically my masters course work in developing sustainability education programs) and my life and work experiences to date. I will ask people for financial gratitude for this educational online community in hope that it frees me from my self-imposed unethical and unsustainable workloads and hours. With members support Eco Style Insiders will allow me the money and time to commit fully to sustainability research without having to rely on unsustainable one-off academic grants.

This is my goal and career path to sustainable sustainability research because I have been burnt enough times to know that you need to make your own safety harness or risk having an external source put a blunt ending to your hard work

There is no such thing as failure just learning opportunities.

There is a good chance that none of this will work. Perhaps my studies will never eventuate. They may go perfectly just like my masters only to be shut down at the climax yet again. I might just invest month’s worth of time into creating this members site only to have no-one join. Heck, I might get hit by a bus tomorrow! I can’t predict the future but I do know that I define my own success.

While this would kind of suck if no one subscribed to be an Eco Style Insider wouldn’t be a total loss. Creating the platform has been enjoyable, and has taught me so much about technology and myself. To even get this far into the development is a success in my eyes.

The study I plan to conduct with The Closet Scientist will provide useful information regardless of how many people choose to participate in the research. The more participants the more useful the research will be to other people who wish to use web based delivery messages for sustainability communication. However, failure still provides meaningful results others can learn from.

If all that fails then I kick the sustainability career to the curb and embrace a full time career in plant science where I’ve felt nothing but love from my bosses (and many offers of paid post grad studies).

Well there’s my (VERY LONG) update about life. Kudos to you if you bothered reading ALL my blabbering!!!! Truthfully it’s all so long and confusing that I mostly dodge answering the question of ‘what do you do’ because no-one really wants to hear answers that long!  I usually just mumble something about working at a university and cross my fingers they don’t ask anything else. Hopefully once the member site is up and my studies are worked out it will be much easier to explain what I’m doing without the extra 1000+ words of blabber.


Have you ever had issues with unethical or unsustainable sustainability or ethics based ventures? Tell us all about it. Feel free to share any thoughts on this or anything else below.

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