Watch this! TED with Vigga Svensson

Oh hi! Here’s a little video we watched in class which I think you might like! I think it’s a really important contribution to the ethical fashion conversation, because it talks about making a difference by challenging the underlying model of consumption (rather than just by buying organic bamboo t-shirts or whatever).

I won’t spoil the video’s plot twist for you, but let me just say I’m really excited to see how Vigga’s sort-of-new way of consuming can be applied to other areas in the fashion industry and other industries altogether. There’s so much potential here to really shake things up and change the way we consume, and I for one am ready for it!

The luxury of not caring

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I’d really like to talk about something that happened to me a few days ago.

It was at a family dinner for my nana’s birthday. Over large helpings of delicious plum pie and ice cream, my family began to talk about climate change. It wasn’t a particularly heated discussion. My great-aunt and grandparents (late 80s) and my mum and aunts and uncles (early 60s) passed around the usual arguments: the climate has always changed in cycles, how do we know it was us anyway, oh, news is so biased, anyone can select the truth to suit them, why should we believe the media, etc etc etc. It was all very mild and non-committal, and then someone said something along the lines of, well, it’s not something we can really worry about, is it? And I thought – fantastic. Don’t worry about it. It’s hardly going to affect you anyway. But me? I’m 22. Maybe climate change is rooted in human activities and maybe it isn’t (for the record, I think it is). Maybe it’s going to change the way we live and displace thousands of people. Maybe it isn’t. The point is – when you’re my age, you don’t have that luxury. The luxury of not caring. The luxury of ‘healthy debate’ over whether it’s happening and how fast and why. That’s what the policy-makers in this country (and the world) don’t seem to get. We can’t wait and see. We need to accept – right now – that climate change could be a threat (to put it mildly) and that we need to do something in case it is. Our lives – my generation’s lives – will be directly impacted and changed irrevocably if governments and businesses keep  putting profit before the planet purely because it’s worked for two centuries and why change something that works, right?

I can’t understand it, honestly. The corporate environment is all about risk management. I’ve worked in an organisation where you’re literally not allowed to not hold on to the handrail when you’re going down the stairs. We have so many strategies in place to protect people from all sorts of potential threats. Well – here’s a potential threat. It might not impact you directly, but it will impact your people and your supply chain and your way of business. Why aren’t you doing something about it?

After that the climate change discussion was lightly brushed off. Ferrero Rochers were passed around. Someone segued off into their general distrust of the media, which set my grandpa off about the shame of having a such a left-leaning national broadcaster (sigh). Everyone moved on, someone spilt a glass of wine, I left to go to my bedroom and cry about being raised in a conservative family.

No need to keep talking about climate change. After all, we don’t have to worry about it, do we?

The Eco Audit: Making good (small) choices

book and cup of tea

When it comes to reducing our environmental impact and creating a sustainable society, I firmly believe that true change will only happen when we work together, en-masse, to slowly but surely alter the way we do things. The way we produce things, buy things, and dispose of things. The way business is run. The way we think about consumption, satisfaction, and achievement and their relationship to each other. Basically, we need a radical shift in social and economic ways of thinking.

Certain eco-peeps argue that the small choices we make individually (like not using plastic bags) aren’t really going to change anything, and that we need to ditch this ‘what can I do?’ rugged-individualism mindset and replace it with ‘what can we do?’. We need to think and work as a group – a community and an organisation and a country, even, to get this shift happening. I agree 100%. Yep. Great idea. Unfortunately, we’re kind of unlikely to reach this ideal state of unity overnight – which is why I still think it’s important to make your small choices positive ones as well. Maybe bringing your KeepCup to the cafe everyday isn’t going to immediately resolve the plastic wastage problem, but it’s not going to hurt, is it?

flowers in a vase

With that in mind, I’ve made a checklist of small actions that can make a small change and applied it to my own life. A little eco-audit, if you will. Feel free to use this list yourself to see how you’re travelling and where you can make changes. I’ve focused on physical waste around the use of disposable items here, but obviously there’s a lot more to consider.

Plastic bags: EXCELLENT. I avoid plastic bags at all costs. I’m pretty good at remembering to bring my fabric totes (and if I forget I just have to carry my shopping as penance). I get my fruit’n’veg loose and try to avoid products with plastic packaging in general.

Coffee cups: AVERAGE. I would say I remember my KeepCup about 50% of the time. Must try harder.

Tea: POOR. Ideally I’d like to make a permanent shift over to tea leaves to reduce my waste in this area – and don’t you think there’s something so nice and traditional about brewing a big pot of tea with tea leaves? Alternatively, I could use teabags from a brand like Madame Flavour, which are made from corn and break down in ‘a year to five, depending on heat and humidity’ (as opposed to the hundreds of years that nylon bags take).

Food waste: GOOD. We are avid composters. Need to work on not letting things go off in the fridge though.

Disposable food containers/utensils: AVERAGE. I’ve been trying to put a knife and fork in my bag in the morning, but eating at food courts or whatever isn’t something I actually plan to do. It just happens. Potential solutions: carry knife, fork, and plastic take away container with me at all times, or choose food that doesn’t require a container (like a wrap). (The simple solution here is to just PACK YA LUNCH! Why can’t I remember to do this? Oh, that’s right, it’s because I get up 5 minutes before I need to leave the house.)

Disposable beauty products (face wipes, cotton buds, etc): POOR. I’m still trying to think of a solution to this one. Small cloth or crocheted face wipes? I could make something like that (and it looks like there’s plenty on Etsy too).

Tissues: POOR. Are handkerchiefs really the answer? I don’t want to carry my snot around with me all day, thanks.

Period supplies: AVERAGE. I’ve recently got onto Thinx period-proof undies which I am LOVING (review/explanation here). They’re definitely an investment but they’re a wonder for a worry-free, forget-that-it’s-happening period (and the company itself is very socially-conscious as well). Still not brave enough to try a cup. One day.

Clothes: An update on my year of ethical fashion is a post for another day, but I’ll have you know I’m doing well at resisting the urge to shop.

So now that I know what I need to work on, I’ll see what I can do and check back in in a couple of months. What do you think you could change to reduce waste in your everyday life?


Don’t forget it’s Earth Hour today! Turn off those globes and light those scented candles at 8.30pm local time! (It’s a good excuse for a relaxing, candlelit bath, right? I think so!)

My year of ethical fashion

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Ever since I heard about the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, I’ve found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fast fashion movement and the fashion industry in general. It’s an industry that depends on sweatshops, child labour, and all manner of questionable working conditions that range from unfair and exploitative to plain dangerous. Aside from the human element, there are also a bunch of environmentally damaging and unsustainable practices going on too.

Over the past few years I have been making slow and steady progress towards refashioning my wardrobe into something a bit more people- and earth-friendly. It is, unfortunately, something that’s easy to (wilfully) forget about. It’s easy to get carried away by a beautiful piece that you *must* have, or to buy something because it’s convenient, or to think that, well, you don’t buy that much in the whole scheme of things so one little cheap, mass-produced top here and there isn’t going to make any difference, really.

The thing is – it does, and it will. So this year I am throwing out the excuses and the intentional ignorance and committing myself to an ethical wardrobe. My rules are as follows:

  1. Buy less in general. Be more critical in separating wants from needs.
  2. Think about restyling, re-purposing and customising things I already own instead of buying something new. Consider making things from scratch (let’s be real, this probably won’t happen as my sewing skills are regrettably sub-par).
  3. When I do decide to buy something, it must be either ethical or secondhand, sourced from op shops or sellers on Depop or Facebook (and these sellers must be located within Australia).

So, what actually constitutes ‘ethical’ clothing? For the sake of my own decision-making, I’m classifying it as anything from a brand that ranks ‘good’ or higher on the ethical ratings app Good On You.

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Realistically, ethical clothing is expensive and I’ve often struggled to find pieces that are fun, youthful and interesting (not to mention fitted – is there some unwritten rule out there in the eco-fashion industry that anyone interested in ethical clothes must also love looking like a walking duvet?) so my prediction is that it’s going to be a year of op-shopping. Bring it on, I say.

Before I go, here are some resources that might be helpful if you’re looking at buying ethically (or just want to know more about the state of the industry):

Behind the Barcode

Ethical Clothing Australia

Choice report (a little out of date but still useful)

Good On You