It is well known that the fashion industry is less than perfect when it comes to ethics and the environment, but has that started to change? Charlotte Reid looks at the world of sustainable fashion.
Clothing is worth £500 billion globally and, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), around 2m tonnes of clothing is bought every year in the UK alone.
However, one fifth of the UK’s clothing market is the fast and discount clothing sector, clothes that are cheap, low quality and have a short lifetime.
So even though it is well known that parts of the fashion industry are exploiting their workers and using sweatshops, this behaviour doesn’t seem to be deterring customers.
However, there has been a growing trend in the idea of sustainable fashion, which has less impact on the environment using organic fibres, reusing unwanted clothing and then recycling it.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the public found out about the existence of sweatshops being used to make clothing.
Since then, there have been revelations that Primark has been linked numerous times to poor conditions for workers, in developing countries as well as in the UK, as well as many other high street names.
Cost vs ethics
According to a 2010 Barclays report into the current trends in the fashion industry, 57% of the population regularly use value clothing retailers, compared to 27% in 2000.
Even Blue & Green Tomorrow has previously pointed out that sustainable fashion isn’t cheap.
The report says that the trend used to be that shoppers would choose value clothes shops because they were saving money. But now, as retailers have become more fashion conscious, and there is less snobbery about where clothing is purchased from, even affluent shoppers are attracted to the cheap clothes retailers because it is a fashion savvy choice.
‘Cool and desirable’
Although the idea of sustainable and recycled clothing may sound odd, it does have a great scope for creativity.
Chinti and Parker, the creators of the seaweed dress said, “It appears that more and more brands are creating organic or ethical garments so it’s only a matter of time before barriers are broken down and the reputation of organic and ethical is redefined as something cool and desirable”.
However, it is best to be wary as the market of recyclable clothing grows. Franz Koch, boss of sports company Puma, told the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche that he is “confident that in the near future we will be able to bring the first shoes, T-shirts and bags that are either compostable or recyclable to the market”.
However, you have to take the whole package into consideration, and although Puma might be making recycled trainers they are still associated with unethical behaviour, like sweatshops.
The recent trend is to go trawling through charity shops finding treasure in amongst someone else’s trash.
Sarah Farquhar, Oxfam’s head of retail brand, says “A charity shop plays a very different role to a high street retailer. It becomes part of the fabric of the local community and in fact can only be successful when welcomed and embraced by the neighbourhood in which it operates”.
To encourage people into recycling their clothes more Oxfam hosted a one off special event. The One Day Wardrobe Clearout, which took place in September 2011, called on Marks and Spencer customers to all clear out their wardrobes one weekend and give what they didn’t want any more to Oxfam.
Farquhar explains the positives of using charities as offering “the public a way to change countless lives around the world by converting their unwanted goods into cash, so we have to be accountable to the people who support us.
“Our core goal at all times is to raise as much money as possible for our work fighting desperate poverty around the world, something we simply couldn’t do without the support of Britain’s local communities.”
Fashion role models
But the fashion industry’s impact on the environment goes further than creating eco-friendly clothing. Recently Dame Vivienne Westwood, the British fashion designer best known for making punk and new wave fashion mainstream, pledged £1 million to help tackle climate change.
Speaking before climate change talks started in Durban, South Africa, the designer told The Times that she was prompted into acting because “Governments … are so slow that we can’t wait for them anymore. We have to get this thing moving and hope that they’ll join in”..
Although politicians’ other halves may not be inspiring environmental behaviour at the COP17 talks, or the government itself living up to the dream to be the “greenest ever Government”, some of the UK’s politicians wives have created their own influence over eco-fashion.
But the industry needs to be thinking about the future.
Hannah Jones, vice president sustainable business and innovation at Nike, said, in the Fashion Futures report that, “Companies need to be seeding innovation and new ideas now in order to thrive in a resource-constrained world. We need thought provoking research like Fashion Futures to help us collaborate and advocate for the right future solutions around the most important issues on sustainability”.
A recent study into British Social Attitudes showed that the public’s support for fighting climate change had dropped dramatically.
One of the reasons given was that people are suffering from environmental fatigue and no longer see the battle as something personal to them. But what can be more personal than the shirt on your own back?
If you want to know more shopping ethically in time for Christmas then check out our in-depth report into having an ethical Christmas. Or have a look at our guide to ethical shopping to give you further detail and inspiration.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.