The Great Slow
We live in a disposability culture. A culture of constant sales, planned obsolescence and continuous waste. While that may be good for short term business gains, it’s at a point where it’s terrible for the environment and for humanity overall. To counter this, people around the world have been working in various “slow” movements, attempting to disrupt the fast pace of the modern global economy by encouraging local and more sustainable economics. Here, we will give you the history of the three main slow movements and tips on how you can help support them.
The idea that started this all was the Slow Food Movement. Founded in 1986 by foodies from Italy, it began (of course) as a protest against McDonald’s and quickly spread around Europe from there. The Slow Food Movement aims to promote and preserve locally grown, sustainable, and traditional food products against the wave of industrialization and standardization.
To truly understand the Slow Food Movement you need to look at it as a counter to globalized industrialization overall. The Slow Food Manifesto, signed in 1989, does not open by talking about food but instead talks about how humanity and the modern world have been molded around industrial production. Slow Food then becomes the first step in this counter-process. Environmentalism is a key concern of theirs, as according to them, the global food industry contributes to 1/5th of all greenhouse gases, but they are also heavily invested in preserving a variety of tastes and localized food production. They argue that crop and livestock diversity, diversity of cooking techniques, and artisan production are key to keeping the humanity alive in food as a way to stop depersonalized, alienated production of both our diets and our culture overall.
Unlike many grassroots movements that exist as a loosely affiliated collection of people with similar ideas, the Slow Food Movement is a fully realized organization, complete with membership lists, headquarters, and an internationally recognized logo. Their motto, “Good, Clean, Fair” serves as an organizing principle for their movement as well as the other slow movements that took inspiration from them.
What you can do: Check out Slow Food International’s website to see if there is a local chapter or meet up near you. Buy locally grown, in season food whenever possible, especially if you have local access to farms, farmers markets, or community gardens. When that’s not possible, still see if you can choose whole, unprocessed food and fair trade products. If you have the space for it, try and grow your own food. If you don’t think you have the space for it, maybe you actually do if you get a little creative. Donate to Slow Food projects like The Arc of Taste. And if all this is out of reach for you for whatever reason, even something as simple as sharing family recipes with a neighbor can help.
Slow Fashion is a movement modeled after the ideas of the Slow Food movement, and is built as a counter to the world of fast fashion. It is less centralized than the Slow Food movement but just as wide reaching, with internet groups, fashion brands, and more all working together towards the same goals. Furthermore, groups like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition are working towards building global cooperation on all levels of the fashion industry to promote Slow Fashion ideas. For those outside of environmental movements, Fast Fashion is probably not as well known as fast food, but the idea is very similar. Just as a fast food cheeseburger is cheap and poorly made but meant to satisfy your hunger quicky, fast fashion is cheaply made clothes meant to capture the latest trends quickly but will fall apart just as quickly. This type of clothing production wreaks havoc on the environment and creates monumental amounts of waste materials. In addition, sometimes these factories are prone to human rights abuses, such as unpaid Zara employees sewing help me messages into the clothing.
Like how Slow Food aims to connect people to the farmers who grow their food, Slow Fashion aims to be transparent in their manufacturing. Slow Fashion companies like Tonlé and Rust and Fray keep their manufacturing process fair, working with artisan manufacturers and ensuring fair wages. Slow Fashion is also heavily involved in waste reduction and zero waste initiatives. These brands often are upcycling from scrap materials, sourcing from deadstock, or even inventing new, environmentally friendly materials. Furthermore, these Slow Fashion companies make products that last. Fast Fashion wants you to feel out of trend instantly but slow fashion trends often aim for timeless looks that’ll still be relevant decades from now, and slow fashion design is meant so that item of clothing will last that long too.
What you can do: The first and easiest step to participating in the slow fashion movement is to simply buy less clothes. The second and equally as accessible step is to shop second hand, or swap clothes with friends or family. When you do buy new, buy from one of the sustainable fashion brands such as Tonlé, Rust and Fray, or Everlane. This serves almost as a double participation as you’d be buying from an environmental and ethical brand and you’d be buying a long lasting product that’ll help you buy less clothing. Repair your clothing when they tear instead of simply throwing them out. And finally, when it is time to get rid of them, see if it’s possible to do some DIY upcycling instead.
Pushing the boundaries of the Slow Movement’s possibilities is Cittaslow. Once you understand what the slow movement means, it’s tempting to think of it only in terms of small scale consumable choices, but entire communities can participate in the movement. Born in 1999 and again started in Italy, Cittaslow is an offshoot organization of Slow Food. Cittaslow works directly with Municipalities and Municipal Governments, giving them a criteria list in order to be an officially certified city. These include ensuring the city has enough green spaces, access to public transportation and other environmental infrastructure, and quality of life standards. Just as Slow Food is dedicated to preserving local food traditions, Cittaslow is dedicated to preserving other local traditions. Locally grown food, local cultural spaces, religious freedom, and other community collaboration initiatives are central to the idea.
Cittaslow focuses on small towns and cities for their certification program, but larger cities can still participate with their “Slow Supporter” label. Over 100 cities in Europe, Australia, Asia, North America and South America have participated in this program. Understand though that if you are fond of these ideas but don’t live in a city that qualifies, there are still “slow city” ideas you can participate in. Be local, be connected to your community, and support environmental causes when and where you can . One blogger writing for her website Ethical Unicorn even pointed out how your choice of nightclub can be more sustainably practiced.
How you can help: Obviously seeing if your town qualifies for Cittaslow and petitioning your local government is a main way of helping. If that’s not possible, push for initiatives that support the idea. Push for local arts funding, push for the creation of parks, vote for those enacting environmental policies, and if you’re able to do political demonstrations for them. Remember to act ethically in pushing for these initiatives. For example, support the creation of a local park, but if that park idea involves displacing a low income community than act against it. Supporting public transportation is always good, but make sure that public transportation is wheelchair friendly and accessible to lower income communities.
The phrase ‘slow down and smell the roses’ is incredibly overused and worn out, which is a sign that it’s something many people find themselves needing. The thing is, as stressed out as any one individual is, the truth is our society as a whole needs to slow down as well. Modern life overall needs to slow down, before we burn out our planet, literally.