This piece is by Hanna Baror-Padilla of Sotela.

I remember the day I decided to stop ignoring what was happening around me and start living a more intentional life.

It was a slow progression that began minutes after publishing an outfit post on my life and style blog, Gold Polka Dots. My outfit post was almost entirely comprised of products from fast fashion stores (i.e. Old Navy, Forever 21 and H&M). I wrote about how much I loved them because they were trendy and budget friendly. But instead of feeling accomplished for finishing a post, I felt oddly disgusted and materialistic. It was at that moment that my blog, and my idea of what happiness meant, had changed.

Ever since I started reading blogs in 2011, I thought the marker for success was a large following. I continued believing that when I started my own blog in 2013 and tried emulating everything I saw other blogs do. I went to the mall weekly and bought similar outfits that matched my style and price range. It wasn’t easy sticking to my budget because I always felt like what I bought wasn’t enough - so I kept buying. The vicious cycle of buying and not feeling satisfied continued for several months until I hit a wall.

I remember telling my husband I dreaded writing new posts. The allure of my fashion blog and being “successful” dissipated because I wasn’t really bringing anything new or helpful to my small audience. Instead of continuing with new posts, I took a break to reassess my values.

On a piece of paper, I wrote out what I liked about my blog, what I wanted to change, and how to incorporate sustainability. Ever since college, I had volunteered and worked for organizations that focused on sustainability, and that always made me happy. So, why not continue doing things that made me happy, right?

What I came up with was a weekly series highlighting sustainable organizations and companies that were doing good. After searching sustainability and fashion, I found a whole world that I didn’t know existed. I read article after article about the negative impacts of the fashion industry. I had been blissfully unaware of what was really happening around me because I wasn’t ready to change. There was a part of me that knew the fashion industry had exploited women and children in sweatshops, but I had chosen to never open my eyes to it.

The realization that my shopping habits were causing so much pain to people and the environment was unbearable. Instead of shying away from my newfound knowledge, I plunged in head first by pledging to give up fast fashion on my blog. I didn’t really think about what that meant for my following as a fashion blogger, because this felt more important. The excitement of getting back on track by supporting something good and sustainable was invigorating. My blog now had meaning through promoting thoughtfulness and conscious consumerism.

I wrote weekly posts highlighting ethical brands that were manufacturing quality goods in America. I found a community of ethical bloggers who were just as passionate as I was about promoting sustainable companies. My meaning of success had shifted from acquiring a large following to finding a new purpose for my blog.

Transforming my blog into a space for ethical and eco-conscious living has changed my life. I’m not only conscious about the clothes I purchase, but also the things I eat and put on my body. However, the biggest change of all has been my career shift - I now design women's clothing for my ethical fashion company, Sotela. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t started a fashion blog, questioned its values, and found sustainability as a new meaning for success.