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The True Cost: the future of fashion is on sale

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Six months ago, over 1,000 people died when a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Many western brands, whose apparel was manufactured in the factory, were subsequently put on the spot over their apparent lack of oversight. For filmmaker Andrew Morgan, the devastating incident prompted him to embark on a journey to investigate the true cost of fashion.

I was half asleep getting my coffee one morning earlier this year when I saw a photograph on the cover of a newspaper that instantly broke my heart. The image was of two boys walking past a giant wall of missing-persons signs.

Picking it up, I read the story of the clothing factory collapse outside of Daka, Bangladesh, taking the lives of more than 1,000 people and severely injuring thousands more. At the time of the collapse, the factory was making clothes for major western clothing brands. I soon learned that this was not an isolated tragedy.

Growing up in America, I never gave much thought to where my clothes came from. But as I began learning more about the people and places behind the labels in my closet, I was shocked by what I found.

Clothing is the most labour dependent global industry in the world, employing millions of the world’s poorest workers of which more than 80% are women. Many of these women are paid less than a living wage, work in unsafe conditions, and are deprived of basic human rights.

In 1960, 90% of the clothing worn by Americans was made in America. In 1990 that number was down to 50%, and today it is less than 2%. By outsourcing the labour to developing countries, the price we pay for clothes has seen decades of near steady decline.

Because of these low prices, we buy more. A lot more.

The world now consumes more than 80 billion pieces of clothing a year, making it a trillion dollar annual industry.

Europe alone consumes more than four times the amount of clothes today as it did in 1980. This rapid consumption has also dramatically increased environmental damage at an alarming rate. America now generates 11m tonnes of textile waste each year, not to mention the depletion of environmental resources involved in the production of these clothes.

We are outsourcing more, consuming more, using more resources, and paying less than we have at any previous time in history. At the same time, there are record high numbers of worker casualties in factories, and a growing toll on the environment that has been described by experts as fundamentally unsustainable.

The journalist and author Lucy Siegle recently observed, “Almost overnight we have become used to consuming fashion with reckless, addicted abandon, buying more clothes than ever before, reversing centuries of fashion heritage, knowledge and understanding in the process.”

Before you throw your hands up in despair, you must know there is a hopeful side to this story. I have spent the last few months engaging with leaders around the world, brave souls who refuse to believe that this is the best we can do. They have worked for decades to lead us to this critical moment of choice today.

What kind of world will we create now that we can see the cost of our actions? In a time where our impact on people and the world is measured in real time, will we choose to create new systems to alleviate pressure on people and the planet?

These questions, and the grave implications of the answers, have led me to begin work on a new film called The True Cost. This global documentary will explore the world clothing industry, examining where we are, how we got here, and how we can create a better future moving forward.

For too long now, conversation around this topic has suffered from over simplified blame games. Political and economic complexities have allowed us to miss what is unavoidably clear – that this is first and foremost a moral issue.

There are clear violations of the most basic human rights that we must account for. There is irresponsible care of the environment, damaging the world we will leave to our children. But perhaps most importantly, this is something we have the power to change.

The eyes of the world are opening, and I believe history is giving us this moment to choose a better path forward. Now is the time for a new narrative, as fashion pioneer Safia Minney recently said, a world where “creativity, compassion, and consumption learn to go hand in hand.”

To learn how you can be a part of telling this story, click here.

Andrew Morgan is a filmmaker focused on telling stories for a better tomorrow. His experience includes a broad range of work that spans narrative and documentary story telling for both commercial and film projects. Andrew studied cinematography at the Los Angeles Film School. He lives in LA with his wife Emily, their four children, and a pug named Tuna.

Further reading:

We are a long way from achieving stability in supply chains

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

Fashion giants criticised over Bangladesh factory ‘snub’

Eco fashion’s many faces

Compensate Bangladesh factory collapse victims, demand campaigners

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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