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London Fashion Week: ‘fashion and sustainable fashion can be one and the same’

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A range of leading fashion brands are now adopting sustainability. Morwenna Kearns reports on the recent London Fashion Week.

For the first time since its foundation in 2006, the Estethica exhibition at London Fashion Week AW14 escaped from its self-contained room in Somerset House and spread throughout the building. Ethical designers were placed on an equal footing with every other milliner, couturier, jeweller and accessories brand exhibiting in the showrooms.

The recognition of ethical and sustainable fashion is growing, but the British Fashion Council’s decision to have these designers exhibit virtually incognito (a modest Estethica tag was displayed on their stands) demonstrates what campaigners have been saying for years: ethical style can be indistinguishable from everything else, so there’s no excuse for ignoring sustainability.

The new Estethica tag aims to recognise that fashion and sustainable fashion can be one and the same thing. We are proud to acknowledge that so many talented designers are committed to transparency, sustainability and social responsibility and look forward to seeing their collections unveiled here at London Fashion Week“, commented BFC chief executive Caroline Rush in a statement ahead of the show.

Mich Dulce, a milliner working with a social enterprise in the Philippines to create her collection, agrees. “Estethica is normally a novelty, but this year we’re here with everyone else. And that’s how it should be“, she says. Dulce’s designs use sustainable banana fibre and are made by hand by a small community who are experts in the process, and could be seen on any of the most stylish heads at Ascot.

Pachacuti, sharing the millinery room, is reportedly overwhelmed with orders for its collection of Fairtrade fedoras, while Bottletop has just launched its latest collection of recycled ring pull handbags at Harrods.

This newfound equality has the potential to influence other designers’ position on sustainability. Contemporary fashion designer Katrien van Hecke, presenting her collection of silk dresses and separates coloured with ecologically friendly vegetable dyes and Himalayan salt, recognises this power.

As a designer you have to take responsibility“, she says. “You have to consider how clothes are made.” She notes that sustainability “is not high fashion” in her home country of Belgium, while Paris, her next stop on the fashion week trail, is more concerned with design – making it even more important that designers factor in ecological impact from the outset.

Those seeking out the Estethica showroom at Somerset House this February would still find it, but this time it was occupied by five newcomers handpicked by BFC to present their first or second collection.

These “emerging talents” – Cangiari, Devika Dass, Flavia La Rocca, K2TOG and Louise de Testa – will also be mentored by industry experts including Estethica co-curators Anna Orsini, Orsola de Castro and Flippo Ricci. Evidence, perhaps, of BFC putting its money where its mouth is by giving new ethical designers the boost they need while allowing established names that essential equality within the show.

These new talents exemplified the variety of viewpoints on the classification of ethical fashion. Flavia La Rocca uses recycled polyester in her pieces but the emphasis is on hardworking clothes; garments feature zips to enable them to be separated and mixed up to create a multitude of different combinations. La Rocca says she is inspired by “the everyday life of women who are always running around“, necessitating a flexible wardrobe.

The reversible outerwear in Cangiari’s collection also does double duty in this sense. Made by a social co-operative in Italy, Cangiari’s pieces are produced using traditional weaving techniques in organic yarn and colour. Devika Dass, too, supports traditional crafts, working with a knitting circle in Peru to create her collection of barbarian-inspired designs. In her brand’s biography, she says meeting the community of craftswomen, “literally knitting to survive“, brought about the idea for her business.

Closer to home is K2TOG, aka London-based knitter and designer Katie Jones, who is heavily influenced by the ‘make do and mend’ ethos. Using reclaimed and excess yarn from design houses and leather jackets and skirts sourced from charity shops, Jones recognises the potential efficiency savings of upcycling. When the basic materials have already been processed, a craftsperson can spend time on what matters – in Jones’s case, the bright hand embroidery that turns neutral woollen and leather garments into unique, punky couture.

Paris-based Louise de Testa also prioritises efficiency in her zero-waste sportswear. Taking inspiration from her background in Mathematics, de Testa uses roll-ends from French clothing manufacturers to produce her designs, even creating geometric, marquetry-style details from tiny scraps of fabric, some of which double up as pockets. Others incorporate reflective material to make the pieces ideal for cyclists. These are clothes “to help you live your life“, she says – wearable, comfortable, practical and logical.

The overtly environmental aspects of the runway shows were few, save for Vivienne Westwood’s bid to raise awareness of fracking, but events such as Ecoluxe London‘s Luxury Sustainable Fashion show appeared on the off-schedule listings around the city. It may be some time before fashion and sustainable fashion are considered one and the same by all, but AW14 showed the strength of support for progress.

Morwenna Kearns is a freelance writer, online editor and PR and social media manager for businesses and organisations running the sustainability and ethical gamut, from fashion to food to filmmaking. She also works within the visual communications sector. Morwenna can be found tweeting as @morwennakearns, blogging about ethical fashion and beauty at GreenGlitter.co.uk and editing environmental business news at SustainableReview.net.

Further reading:

A manifesto for fashion that truly challenges the status quo

Is a passion for fashion compatible with a concern for the world around us?

The True Cost: the future of fashion is on sale

Sustainable fashion: an oxymoron?

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

Morwenna Kearns is a freelance writer, online editor and PR and social media manager for businesses and organisations running the sustainability and ethical gamut, from fashion to food to filmmaking. She also works within the visual communications sector. Morwenna can be found tweeting as @morwennakearns, blogging about ethical fashion and beauty at GreenGlitter.co.uk and editing environmental business news at SustainableReview.net.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

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

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

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.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

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

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

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.

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