If We Can’t Make the Fashion Industry More Sustainable, We May End Up Eating Our Clothes

This article originally appeared on Fashionista.com, a trusted source of fashion news, criticism and career advice with a monthly readership of more than 2.5 million. This articles explains the need to go eco in fashion and why you should avoid polyester at all costs. A real eye opener! 

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No one wants to eat a meal laced with plastic, but if something doesn’t change in our current textile economy, that could soon be a reality. Plastic microfibers, which are like tiny pieces of plastic lint that come off synthetic clothing in the washing machine, are now entering the oceans at a rate of about half a million tons every year — that’s equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. Once in the water, these microfibers are ingested by aquatic wildlife and travel up the food chain where they end up being consumed by humans.

This problem is just one of many highlighted in a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Entitled “A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future,” the 150-page report has garnered support from brands like Stella McCartneyNike and H&M in addition to the United Nations and nonprofits like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the C&A Foundation.

“This report is an important step in signaling the type of systemic innovation and collaboration required to unlock a future that protects… the planet while also powering sustainable business growth,” says Nike vice president of sustainable business and innovation Cyrus Wadia in the report’s introduction.

According to the report, Wadia is right to note the connection between business growth and planet care. While the detriment to the earth is staggering in and of itself, the fact that over “$500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and the lack of recycling” should be enough to make other businesses take note of the report’s findings.

Besides overviewing the microfiber issue, the report also touches on a range of other matters that need to be addressed if the fashion industry is to avoid “catastrophic outcomes.” Among these issues are the reduction of carbon emissions in the textile sector, which currently equals that of all international flights and shipping combined. At its current rate, fashion is projected to be using 26 percent of the planet’s carbon budget by 2050.

Another problem is related to clothing’s growing disposability. The report notes that the steady increase in global fashion production is linked to a decreased use of individual pieces, with some garments being thrown out after only seven to 10 wears. Considering that less than one percent of clothing is recycled, that’s a huge problem — and has led to a scenario in which “one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burnt every second.” If this trajectory continues, the weight of our discarded clothing would be more than ten times that of the world’s current population by 2050.

It looks pretty bleak if the textile industry continues with business as usual, but the report doesn’t end in pessimism. Instead, it offers a vision of change that could lead to systemic shifts that go beyond the individualized good deeds of a few ethical brands here or there.

The solution offered by the report can be broken down into four steps. First, it involves phasing out hazardous substances, and reducing microfiber release through new technologies and better production processes. Second, the report suggests transforming how clothing is designed, sold and used so that disposability is reduced. This might involve placing a bigger emphasis on clothing rental programs or designing and better marketing more durable garments.

The third part of the solution involves recycling: encouraging brands to design garments that are easy to recycle, setting up large-scale clothing collection and pursuing technological advancements that will make recycling more possible. Lastly, the report suggests that any non-recycled material that enters the fashion cycle should come from renewable sources (like algae or bamboo) rather than nonrenewable ones (like fossil fuels).

Reforming the fashion industry so thoroughly will be a difficult task, but the report makes clear that it’s the only option for human and environmental flourishing — and maybe even survival.

“It is obvious that the current fashion system is failing both the environment and us,” writes member of Denmark’s Parliament Ida Auken in the introduction to the report. “This report sets out a compelling vision of an industry that is not only creative and innovative, but also circular… Whilst this may not be straightforward, the way is now clear.”

Read the full report here.

Some #ZeroWaste Switch-Ups

Since I’ve been home from London, I’ve had some free time on my hands (FYI it is NOT easy to find an office job during the holiday season!!). I’ve been reading a lot, books of course but also blogs. I love a good blog. Fashion and lifestyle are my favorite categories and soon I’ll do a post about the ones I’ve been following for a few years.

As you can probably tell – I consider myself to be a bit of an environmentalist and recently found two really great blogs that have inspired me to make some changes:

  • Model4GreenLiving.com – Model Renee Peters uses her platform as a model to reshape the way people think about the environment and their role in protecting it. She launched Model4GreenLiving to provide practical tips and everyday actions that encourage mindful, sustainable living.
  • TrashisforTossers.com – Lauren Singer blog documents her Zero Waste journey and shows that leading a Zero Waste lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, timely, fun, & entirely possible for everyone and anyone.

Both of these ladies show that there are so many ways to lessen your impact on the environment by making small changes that add up in a big way. Both blogs really focus on reducing the amount of plastic waste utilized in our everyday lives. Every single piece of plastic every produced is still around today and causing major problems. In fact, if you drink tap water (which most bottled water is made up of anyway), then you are drinking tiny plastic fibers every time you take a sip.

So I’ve decided to take some tips from both Renee and Lauren and focus on lessening the amount of plastic I use. Some of the biggest culprits of plastic waste are personal hygiene products – toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, razors, body wash etc. There is no need for any of these things to be made out of or stored in plastic, and we tend to go through these items the quickest.

Below is what I’m switching up in my bathroom in an effort to lessen my environmental impact!

  • Floss Dental floss creates a huge amount of waste. The packages are plastic and so is the actual floss itself. Dental Lace was born in Maine when a librarian named Jodi set out to create a stylish, eco-friendly refillable container. Ridding your bathroom cabinets of plastic and non-refillable dental floss, Dental Lace offers compostable packaging and a more sustainable container for your floss. It also happens to be some of the best floss I have ever used!
  • Toothbrush – Over 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that will never biodegrade are dumped in landfills and oceans every year worldwide. Brush with Bamboo is the world’s first plant-based toothbrush. Every component of their awesome product is plant-based: bristles, handle, wrapper, and box.
  • Body soap Why use a body wash that comes in plastic bottles when name brand bar soap in paper packaging is available in every single drugstore? For example, I bought this bar soap at Target. Of course I could have grabbed a Dove bar, but Alaffia works to help empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.
  • Deodorant – The switch to natural deodorant has been a long time coming. For years I knew the health risks of conventional deodorant but no matter how many I tried (and I tried a LOT), I could not get any natural deodorants to work for me. BUT THEN I DISCOVERED SCHMIDT’S. Hands down the best natural deodorant by far and you can find them at Whole Foods and Target! I am currently working my way through a conventional plasic packaging version of their Bergamot & Lime scent (my favorite, but I am also keen to try the Charcoal & Magnesium), but I’ve just purchased it in glass jar form. Cannot recommend enough.
  • Shampoo – This is new for me and I’ll admit I haven’t used this cool shampoo bar from Lush yet as I’m finishing up a bottle, but I’m really excited to give this a go! This is a true #zerowaste product as there is absolutely no packaging involved. I decided to buy an aluminum tin so I can bring it with me when I travel, but that’s a one-time purchase that I will be able to keep using forever. They have shampoo bars for every single hair need. I’m going to be trying New which  stimulates the scalp and gets the blood pumping to aid hair growth. According to Lush all you need to do to use is rub the bar between your hands to create a lather, or directly onto your hair hair. Massage into the hair and scalp then rinse clean. Easy!
  • Razor –  I had been wanting to make this switch for a while and last month I finally did it. I safely say that I am never going back to a conventional plastic razor ever again. Plastic razors are AWFUL. My skin hates to be shaved and the cheap plastic ones left little bumps all over my legs and underarms. The blades never last longer than a week and they are EXPENSIVE. Safety razors on the other hand are great! It’s a one-time investment for the actual stainless steel razor (I got this one on Amazon for $23) and a pack of double-edge razor blades can be purchased with each blade coming out to be less than $.10 cents each! The blades can last for 2-3 months with proper care so you are saving SO MUCH MONEY when you switch. The blades (and razor) come in cardboard, are wrapped individually in paper, and can be recycled when you need to switch it out.

 #ZeroWaste

I Just Do Not Understand

 

I do not have a lot of fears. I am not afraid of heights, flying, spiders, the dentist, needles, snakes, water, clowns, germs, thunder, or the dark. But lately I have been feeling something that is absolutely fear: fear that within my lifetime the effects of climate change will be so great that life as we know it will cease.

Now, I don’t think the world will end, or that all of the catastrophic things that are coming (and they WILL come) will happen at once, but I do think that we as humans are going to be tested like never before. Natural disasters will continue to get worse and more frequent. They will also start to happen in places that they previous have not. Sea levels will rise – it is not out of the question that Boston, NYC, and London will be underwater within my lifetime. Forget about fighting over the ever-dwindling supply of oil, drinkable water will be the next thing to cause mass panic (look at the recent price gouges during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – taking advantage of people’s panic and the very real chance that access to safe drinking water could be compromised, some stores were charging up to $50 for a case of bottled water).

I am SO afraid that society will just dissolve into chaos, even though the effects and consequences of climate change have been known for decades and we have had YEARS AND YEARS to get our acts together and change our ways.

I try SO hard to lessen my impact of the environment, with my biggest contribution being that I went vegetarian in May 2016. There is so much evidence that finds going veggie to be a key factor in dramatically lowering CO2 emissions. Science Daily states that “If Americans would eat beans instead of beef, the United States would immediately realize approximately 50 to 75 percent of its GHG (harmful greenhouse gases) reduction targets for the year 2020…without imposing any new standards on automobiles or manufacturing.”

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We Need to Keep Talking About Unpaid Internships

I remember learning about internships in high school. During many college campus tours I was constantly touted to about that particular school’s amazing internship program by overeager student tour guides and how 9 out of 10 students completed at least one internship during their time at school. I was always going to do an internship. I knew this. It has long be promoted as the way to try out a career to see if it is the right fit. You could build your resume in short bursts and learn real-world experience while learning in a classroom. However as I began to do research I was shocked to find out how many of them required a full-time commitment yet were unpaid. This struck me as extremely unfair. 

Internships themselves, whether they are unpaid or not, are an issue. Today not only are millennials expected to be college-educated, but we now must also have work experience in our chosen fields before even being handed our degrees. Increasingly paying upwards of $60,000 a year for your higher education is not enough, you must also now devote your free time to an unpaid internship. And we are also meant to be grateful that a company is willing to let us do work for free. Also let us not forget about the internships that actually require previous experience.    

Our parents did not need to work for free. They were not expected to have professional experience before even being handed a diploma. They graduated from school and entered the workforce with an entry-level (usually full-time) position. They could immediately start paying back loans and saving for the future. Maybe they didn’t even have any loans because any free time outside of school was filled with a part-time job and not an unpaid position. Tuition and student loans are now too high and overwhelming for anyone to be working for free.     

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Let’s Talk About PCOS

PHOTOGRAPHED BY MEGAN MADDEN

Let’s start off with the Refinery29 article that spurred this post: Get Pregnant? I Just Want to Get my Period

The author writes: “almost a year and a half without a period, I find myself acutely aware of every complaint of cramps, every impassioned post about Diva Cups in a women’s-only Facebook group, and every pregnancy announcement — reminders of what it’s like to have a “normally functioning” female reproductive system

This is an A+ article that talks about what it’s like to desperately want a period, something that most menstruating people could never fathom. For them a period is just something to deal with that they would rather not have to or perhaps a welcome monthly reminder that you are not about to become a parent. Of course, for some people a menstrual cycle is literal HELL – requiring them to take off work or stay home from school because the pain and the symptoms are so great.

Is it weird that I am still sort of envious?

Let’s start from the beginning: I first got my period at the “normal” age of 13 years old. However, that is about the last time anything was normal regarding it. From age 13 to age 21 I would go months without a period and when I did happen to get one it would be extremely light, last a maximum of three days, and not come with any other regular menstrual cycle symptoms. It never occurred to me that this was strange. I had always been told that periods can be irregular when first beginning and that it can take some time for your body to get used to this new process. However, no one ever told me that “irregularity” was only meant to last a year.

The November of my sophomore year of college I got my period. Fine. Great. But two weeks later I got it again. I remember thinking that this was weird so I looked it up online. I found out that two periods in one month is NOT normal and so I made a mental note to stop by health care services to ask some questions that week. At 5AM the next morning I woke up in a pool of my own blood. It felt like I had wet the bed. Sorry for the specifics but my shorts were completely soaked through. I knew something wasn’t right, but I also knew that it had something to do with my menstrual cycle and that no one had actually stabbed me in my sleep. I tried to go back to sleep and skipped my first class to go down to health services. The nurse practitioner told me to undress, put on a paper gown, and sit on the chair so she could examine me. I told her that I was bleeding so much that I was going to need to sit on a towel. I remember her saying that she needed to check to make sure I wasn’t internally bleeding!! There ended up being too much blood for her to properly examine me but as soon as I told her how irregular my menstrual cycle was she immediately said “I think you might have PCOS“.

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5 Ways to Build a More Ethical Closet

 

My friend recently sent me this image (shoutout to Nicole!) and it really got me thinking about my own shopping habits. I think people think that in order to have an ethical wardrobe, you need to spend a lot of money. Luckily, this is rarely the case. In fact, shopping ethically can actually help you save money in the long haul. I really like the simplicity of this graphic so I decided to share and explain my experience going through each of these five steps.

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Eco-friendly Beauty Brand – RMS Beauty

Since doing some research about the toxins and scary chemicals found in makeup and beauty products, I have been looking for some alternatives. I had heard of RMS Beauty before – anyone who is interested in the makeup community has certainly heard of the brand’s cult product the “Living Luminizer“. This past summer I was on the hunt for a moisturizing concealer and decided to try out the “Un Cover-Up” from RMS. I liked it but didn’t really know how to work with it until I read that Emma Watson used it as foundation. I used it all over my face and fell IN LOVE. I have a real issue finding foundations that sit nicely on my very dry skin, but this sat on it like a DREAM. Like most of their products, this RMS concealer is most made up of coconut oil, which my skin really seems to love. I also recently learned that coconut oil does not hold bacteria, which is great because I do not usually like products that come in tiny pots that you need to dip your fingers in.

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How Building A Conscious Closet Became A Feminist Action

I came across this article on The Good Trade. It really struck a cord because this sums up exactly how I feel as a feminist and environmentalist who loves fashion. With the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster coming up, I thought it was a good time to share.  
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By Erin HoutsonBuilding A Conscious Closet

It’s Been 4 Years Since The Rana Plaza Tragedy

Where were you on April 24, 2013? To most people, it was a day like any other, but for me, it was the day that my eyes snapped wide open to the actions of my closet. No, my closet can’t walk or talk, but if it could, it may have given voice to the hidden women and men who made my clothes. On that day and the weeks to follow, those same faces came at me from the pages of the New York Times, the Guardian, and more covering the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse in Bangladesh.

WHY THIS HIT ME SO HARD

For many members of the conscious fashion movement, this was also their wake-up moment. But at the time, I was working for a media company that covered global development issues, from foreign aid flows that support social and economic growth to the role of corporations through their responsibility, citizenship, or emerging markets activities.

Everywhere I turned, large multinational companies were – despite many people’s cynicism – doing amazing things. The most world’s most famous beverage company was innovating delivery of immunizations and medicine to the last miles of the most remote areas of our globe. Banks were investing in local innovators who were changing their communities through making the internet accessible for all. Payment providers were creating new gateways and currencies like mPESA that would come to revolutionize the way people – particularly women – in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond would build savings and make everyday transactions that led to empowerment.

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