In the depths of eco activist burn out

I have been quite silent of late and I am sure a few of my dedicated readers will have noticed. This last month I have broken my publishing record. In almost 4 years I have published an article each Monday without fail. It was dedication to the work of eco activism, and my dedication to this community that I made this commitment without fail. Until recently that is. So I wanted to write to you my readers and explain my silence of late.

There is no sugar coating it. I have been in the depth of eco activist burn out, and I had to step away from this work for a short time. It is perhaps fitting that the last article I published here was a guest post from a meditation centre, explaining the benefits of mindfulness for eco activists. I certainly needed to take some of that advice and take care of myself this last month.

My burn out was precipitated by my first experience of trolling of my blog. (I have been trolled before for my feminist activism, but never before for my writing with tortoise & lady grey) It all started when Alden Wicker, who writes a very popular sustainable fashion blog Ecocult, linked to my article on modal in her recent coverage of viscose and related fibres. She echoed my concerns about modal being a potential contributor to deforestation.

After this article was published, a someone using a false name started attacking my article, criticising Alden for not checking the validity of my article, and calling me a click-bait blogger who is only interested in making money. Alden & I have worked together through the Ethical Writers Coalition, and she trusted my work, but she contacted me to ask for more detail about my sources.

Now in the background I had actually been doing further research on modal, because a designer had asked for my sources on modal, and I found that some of my sources had disappeared from the web since I had written the original post two years ago. This is not uncommon as websites are regularly updated and restructured. I told this designer that I couldn’t find my original sources, but I was investigating the issue.

This particular ‘sustainable fashion designer’ had wanted to ‘collaborate’ with me, even though she questioned my article on modal. It was only when I sent her the rates I charge for writing about brands, that she went cold on our relationship. I can understand that many small brands don’t have much budget for marketing, but it is also true that I don’t have time to cover brands that contact me out of the blue. If I did this I would be working 50 hours a week on a blog that only managed to pay me for about half a days work each month!

If I am going to do unpaid writing work it will be articles that I feel driven to write, rather than spend all my time on unpaid marketing for brands that don’t respect my time or skills. Sadly, instead of respecting me and the work that I do, this particular designer decided to attack my character and integrity under a false name.

This trolling forced me to drop the other work on my plate to resolve my research on modal. I contact the Rainforest Action Network  and Canopy, two very respected environmental NGOs whose mission is to fight against deforestation and other threats against global forests. They both confirmed is that modal is a serious concern, and despite the commonly held premise that modal is only made from beech trees, modal can also be made from rainforest pulp. RAN told me “Destructive plantations in Indonesia produce dissolving pulp, which is manufactured into all wood -based fabrics, including modal. Your piece mentions that only beechwood is used to produce modal — this is not accurate — rainforest pulp is also used. It’s impossible to separate modal from rayon and viscose when discussing it’s environmental and social impacts. ”

My original research on modal had been vindicated, and the only correction was that we need to be more concerned about modal than I originally thought.

The upside of this experience, is that I now have more clarity around this textile. I am actually more likely to avoid modal completely, and to recommend to my readers to do that same. I am sure this is the opposite of what my troll (who uses modal in her ‘sustainable fashion’ collections) was hoping to achieve.

This experience, and that fact that someone would jump straight to character assassination has left me burnt out and wearied by my long years as an advocate for sustainability in fashion and in our lifestyle choices. The fact that someone promoting their brand as ethical and sustainable would behave so unethically left me with little energy for writing about this sector.

It is only temporary however. I am going to take a break for the rest of this month, and begin writing again in August.

Just last week I connected with a beautiful soul- the owner of sustainable fashion boutique Amberoot who has the utmost respect for my writing and wants to pay me to write for her boutique’s blog. This was an important reminder that there are many talented, passionate and kindhearted people in this movement, and I should not let one bad experience overcome me!

So here is where I ask for your help. If you respect what I do, and want to help me restore my energy for this work, I would love you to assist in any small way you can.

  • Leave a comment below to remind me that you are hear and that you care about my voice and the work that I am doing with tortoise & lady grey
  • If you haven’t already, consider buying 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe so that I can receive a very small return for all the years of advocacy work I have put in, and to help sustain on this path for the long term
  • Much of my writing time is fuelled by coffee at a local cafe. Would you consider becoming a Patron of my work and buying me just one coffee a month? Even a pledge as little at $1 a month shows your appreciation for the many hours of detailed research that goes into my writing. Your pledge, no matter how small, will help re-energise me for this work. I support other writers and creators that I care about for the same reason. Become a patron here.
  • If you are looking for a beautiful new garment for your wardrobe, pop over to Amberoot. The owner’s appreciation for my work has been so important in restoring my faith in the sustainable fashion sector!


  • Caitlin

    Hi Summer, thanks for sharing your journey. I had noticed your absence and am so sorry to hear you’ve had such a negative experience. Your Guide to Sustainable Textiles is one of my go to resources. I’m forever grateful someone else has done such thorough research and I’m able to benefit from it!

    I look forward to reading your next posts but am also glad you have taken the time you need to recover. Caring for people and our planet is hard work!

    • Thanks Caitlin. That is wonderful to hear that my Guide has been a valuable resource for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and support. This has been so important for me regaining my energy and crawling back from burn out

  • cloth scissors thread

    I found your blog while investigating ethical fabrics and its been brilliant to read. I am now aware more about further ethical issues with fabrics as like others thought of modal being ‘ok’. I look forward to your posts and find them really interesting and engaging.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know. I am so glad to hear that you find my articles useful and engaging. It am just so passionate about properly understanding the facts, and it is great to hear that others are finding this research useful

  • Michaela O’Connor

    Hi Summer, I love your blog and always look here first when I need information about sustainable clothing. Thank you for taking the time to research and write more about modal. I hope you are able to rest and recharge over the next couple of weeks.

    • Thanks Michela, I really appreciate your support. It is wonderful to hear from my readers and to know that my writing does matter to you. Thanks for being a part of my community

  • AldenWicker

    Hey Summer, I totally understand why you would feel burnt out on this after your experience. It was so stressful for both of us, but especially you. But I came out of the experience with even more respect for your work, because of the way you handled it. It gave me a window into your methodology and fastidiousness. And your deep research into textiles has always been helpful for me! Looking forward to seeing you back once you’ve had a rest. xo

    • Thanks Alden. I really appreciated your support throughout the whole process. It was indeed stressful for us both, and I am sorry this happened to you too. This much needed break has been wonderful for restoring my energy, and I have returned with the inspiration for my next book. I am excited to get to work on it.

  • Hi Summer, I’m sorry you’ve been going through this terrible experience. You have handled it gracefully and I’m glad you have prioritized your well-being in response. I always appreciate your thoughtful and well-researched work and I look forward to more of it.

    • Thanks Elizabeth, you have been such wonderful support and a such a great ally in my blogging journey. I really appreciate being able to call you a friend, even if we haven’t yet crossed paths in person! The good news is that I have returned from my sabbatical with the idea for my next book. I will be in touch about the cover design in the next couple of months :)

  • So sorry to hear what has happened to you. Taking care of yourself is priority so that you can continue with your work. I learnt that the hard way last year. Looking forward to seeing you and your posts very soon.

    • Thanks Agy, I really appreciate your kind words and support. I have enjoyed watching your own blog evolved over these years too

  • Gintare

    I love your work Summer! It is very well researched, thorough, very logical (always seeing the big picture), analytical and very caring!! Your each and every work enlightens us and is so very much appreciated by many! Hope you’ll come back rested after your time off with full on energy and combining all of your brilliant skills you’ll keep doing what you do so well! X

    • Thanks Gintare. You are really a beautiful human being! I am so glad to have your support and respect

  • S Griffiths

    Some people are just awful sometimes.
    Have a lovey break and we look forward to having your voice back in August. xx

    • Thanks for your support. I really appreciate your kind words.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Thank you for writing this. I have also been struggling with burn out lately (which is not great timing as our biggest event of the year is in about a month)…. partially from the political situation in the US, partially from feeling the energy and time I put into helping sustainable fashion designers is sometimes pointless if they are unable or unwilling to put their own energy and time into their business, particularly from feeling like my work is pointless because there are not enough people who care like I do (especially in my personal friend group). I have also recently had the pain of someone being rude completely unexpectedly when I felt I was being quite professional. All that to say – this made me feel like I am not alone, which is helpful. And I truly appreciate what you do and your voice in this world.

    • Thanks for your kind words Elizabeth. I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with burn out too, and I hope that you have found time to restore your energy in some way. It is so important to take care of ourselves to sustain ourselves for the long haul.

      The upside of this experiece is that I have now returned with the idea for my next book- a self-care guide for eco-activists, so sustain ourselves for the long haul. This will draw upon the things that I have learned in my childhood of overcoming systemic disadvantage, and my long practice of mindfulness and gratitude, as well as my gender empowerment and leadership work. I have mapped out the content, and I am going on a writing retreat in September to get it well under way. Watch this space :)

  • Frederique Gulcher

    Do not become Winter, Summer!
    You are an inspiration, a journalist, an influencer and a caring person (clearly), so feel joy in the knowledge that when you return it’ll be to great sighs of relief. By the way, jumped on to Amberoot too – wow. nice. And one guide book bought as well. Early birthday present. Thank you.
    Enjoy your recharge time.

    • Thanks Frederique! I have restored my sunny disposition after a wonderful famiy break in Wintery (and snowy) New Zealand. The break was well needed and I am happy to begin writing again this month. I needed that time off

      • Frederique Gulcher

        Good ole NZ will get anyone feel rejuvenated! Glad to hear it!

        • Yes, I will definitely be back again! As a vegetarian coeliac, it was one of the best places for me to travel. It was perhaps even better than my home country Australia for finding food that meets my dietary needs!

  • Sorry to hear this, I really admire and appreciate your work here. I have done your 20 day sustainable wardrobe challenge and bought your book because I know I can trust your research and you approach it in such an accessible way. Thanks for all the work you do. Taking time out to care for yourself is a brilliant thing to do, looking forward to hearing from you again in August.

    • Thank you so much. You have been an active part of my community for so long, and I really value your support. It is so wonderful to hear that you find my work accessible and that you trust in it. Thanks again for being part of this community for so many years

  • Summer this experience sounds so frustrating and trying. More power to you for being honest and open about this trial and I can already tell that you will come through it! Your research and dedication to sustainable fashion is absolutely recognized and appreciated and no number of trolls can change that. Don’t feed the trolls or let them get you down – there will always be naysayers and people who seek to push your buttons. You have support from the EWC and I am sure that your readers are with you as well! Keep doing what you do well and take good care of yourself <3

    • Thanks Faye, I really appreciate your support and recognition of my hard work. I definitely agree that we shouldn’t feed the trolls, but it is hard not to re-experience those feelings of childhood bullying. The rest has done me well, and being open with my community about my experience was exactly the right thing to do. If I hadn’t have made this appeal, I wouldn’t have heard all these kind words that I needed to restore my energy

  • Lily

    Hi Summer, just find your blog and enjoy reading your articles, take care and hope can read your new post very soon

    • thanks for your support Lily, I really appreciate it. Welcome to our community too! I hope that I keep hearing from you on future posts :)

  • Veronika

    Hi Summer , I am so sorry you have had to experience this. Enjoy your break – they are a necessity. I am very grateful for all the research you have done. If I can’t answer the questions I have I tend to avoid it so the work you do helps me a lot. I also discovered the book ‘This Changes Everything’ through you and that has inspired further reading and my feeling so much more confident in understanding some of the global political, environmental and economic issues we are facing today. Take care.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and support Veronika. I am also so glad that you enjoyed the book from our Ethical Activist Book Group, and I hope you enjoy the rest on our list. I must admit that the latest on our list was perfectly timed to restore my hope and energy for the activist path. I hope you enjoy it too

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  • Summer, Activism can be a roller coaster of ups and downs, but please don’t get discouraged. So many of us have been inspired by you and your work, and you have caused change which is what matters. Reading and acting on “6 steps” has been one of the many small steps I have taken on my road to more conscious consumerism (or less, actually) so thank you.

    • Dear Ana, Thank you. That is just so wonderful to hear. Blogging can be really lonely- it is so detached from the readers. So to hear that my work has inspired change in you, it really is the most wonderful feedback I could get! Thank you :)

  • Morgan Stonefelt

    I don’t read blogs often, but yours is one of the only ones I subscribe too because I have a genuine interest in what you have to say. Your Guide to Sustainable Textiles was EYE OPENING! Very concise and perfect for someone just learning about slow fashion. KEEP GOING!

    • Oh Morgan, thank you. That is just so wonderful to hear. Thanks for being a faithful reader. I am so glad to hear that my guide was useful and informative for you. I will definitely keep writing. Stay in touch. I love hearing from my readers, and would love you to share your thoughts in the comments more often :)