What does ‘sustainable’ even mean?

It’s rare that a term becomes such a key part of common lexicon in such a short space of time as sustainability. The term itself is derived from the Latin ‘sustinere‘, meaning ‘to maintain’, ‘to hold’ or ‘to support’. The word can now be found used widely in policy, commerce and economics, usually in a way that pertains strictly to environmental sustainability

It’s become widely used in the last 30 years in spite of (or perhaps because of) its multitude of potential definitions. For example, this catch-all term can be found explaining why you should buy a new dress, why a city council should build new properties or why a brand’s coffee is better than other coffees. But what does it actually mean?

Around 30 years ago, the World Commission on Environment and Development published Our Common Future, charting a path for development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is essentially our current definition of environmental sustainability. However, the term has since come under fire for lacking any unified, definitive or quantifiable meaning – basically, it means nothing.

There is no doubt that the fashion industry requires movement in a direction that manages its demands on the environment without compromising what’s available for future generations. No one would argue that the fashion industry, responsible for 10% of global emissions, doesn’t require more investment in ‘sustainability’, but without any quantifiable definition of the term, what does this look like?

Various other terms within many industries are verified using third-party certifications and accreditations, meaning that a brand or business has to prove it is doing something to be able to use the term. The Soil Association, for example, is a UK-based charity that regularly reviews manufacturing processes throughout the supply chain to ensure a business is producing organic products. You cannot use the term ‘organic’ without being certified. The Global Organic Textile Exchange (GOTS), does the same for textiles, showing the buyer that the products throughout the supply chain have been verified by an external body as organic.

One issue with sustainability within the fashion industry is that almost all accreditations are voluntary. Rather than having regulatory standards, similar to those within the food industry and mandatory energy labels on EU white goods, accreditations are seen as ‘optional extras’, often used as a marketing tool rather than a baseline standard.

Because of this erosion of state power, brands and organisations within the fashion industry looking to become more ‘sustainable’ are left in a state of ‘choice paralysis’; there are a multitude of private-sector accreditations which all claim to provide certification of ‘sustainability’ in marginally different ways. And of course, because they’re private sector, all claim to be slightly better than their variants, yet none are government regulated. This isn’t to say they don’t all provide some benefit – many do in considerable ways – it’s just that the whole industry is open to confusion and lack of regulation, to the point that the consumer has a very hard time understanding what they’re buying into. 

Various voluntary initiatives available to the textiles industry – but by no means all of them

So what can we do?

With WOVN’s 2020 consumer report showing an 84% increase in the use of terms such as sustainable, ethical, Fair Trade and eco-friendly and an increased desire to shop from brands seen as ‘sustainable’, it’s important now, more than ever, to understand what this term really means. As brands cotton on to this fact, there’s an increasingly opaque arms-race to appear more sustainable, where being truly environmentally conscious is almost secondary to appearing as such.

There have been calls to incorporate ‘Carbon Labelling‘ on clothing, but of course being sustainable isn’t about simply releasing as little carbon as possible (in the same way that the health of a food item isn’t about being as low calorie as possible), but also things like wastewater reduction, ceasing the use of harmful chemicals, improving labour standards, using renewable materials, reducing waste textiles and so much more. While innovative, labelling like this would only solve a proportion of the problem, and potentially just become another method of greenwashing.

Accreditations will play an important role in the fashion industry’s road towards becoming more in balance with the environment, but there are serious changes that need to happen, including regulation of the regulators. Consolidating numerous similar accreditations into larger, stronger and more rigorous ones would be a powerful first step. 

Secondly, as a globalised industry, fashion requires international regulation. The majority of the textile industry has outsourced its negative environmental and social impacts to the Global South, affecting the people and habitats that can least afford to protect themselves, all the while making masses of money for the corporations residing in the Global North. This inequality simultaneously exacerbates the issues and hides them from view of the consumer. This means that it’s hard to know how what you’re buying is impacting the people who made the clothes, for better or worse. Because of this, we need international regulations throughout the supply chain, protecting both the environment in the world’s most biodiverse areas and those most affected by the industry’s indiscretions. 

In the meantime, companies must be more transparent about their supply chains, allowing the consumer to make their own decisions about what is ‘sustainable’ and what is not. After all, no brand is going to be perfect in all regards, certainly not while industry accreditations are such a minefield. It should be possible for the consumer to decide what matters most to them, and be able to accurately measure up brands to this standard. It is important that this doesn’t automatically disadvantage those choosing to become more transparent; while transparency may highlight areas requiring improvement, brands that choose to avoid transparency for fear of what it may show up should be penalised beyond those showing up less favourable elements within their supply chain. This is important because transparency is the first step towards accountability. Brands that doesn’t show the former will never have the latter.

Consumers, while requesting greater transparency and action from the worst offenders, should also realise that no amount of sustainable production will counteract buying clothes we don’t need. Buying less overall, buying secondhand, fixing what we already have and finding new homes for clothes we no longer wear will always be better than shopping, even from ‘sustainable’ brands. 

Further up the chain there should be incentives and clear direction for brands wanting to do better. This direction should be passed on to suppliers, with brands using their purchasing power to push suppliers to be better, and workers using unions to effect chain from the ground up. Large brands and conglomerates especially have huge amounts of power to effect change, and it’s time they were forced to do so. 

Over over 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in landfill in the UK each year – no matter how sustainable the brand, this can never be environmentally friendly.

TL;DR

  • There are many steps available to brands looking to become more sustainable, in whichever way they choose to interpret the term.
  • However, without quantifying what sustainability actually means, it’s going to be difficult for the fashion industry to ever reach the goal of being ‘more sustainable’ in any meaningful way.
  • Currently there is a mishmash of private-sector accreditations and certifications all with overlapping goals being regulated with varying degrees of success. Without unifying these standards and consolidating the accreditations that exist, it will be hard for consumers to be able to assess which brands are truly sustainable vs which are using accreditations as a facade.
  • As the fashion industry is a global one, it requires global regulatory bodies, which currently don’t exist. Currently it is beneficial for brands to outsource their labour and environmental harm to the Global South, which doesn’t have the resources to protect itself. International regulation could limit this harm.
  • In the meantime, brands should improve transparency of their supply chains to allow consumers to choose who they want to buy from. Brands should be congratulated for improving transparency, although not at the expense of action which is the obvious end goal (H&M is one of the most transparent brands but also one of fashion’s biggest polluters – transparency can’t come at the expense of action).
  • Consumers have the power to request greater transparency from brands, and also to stop buying from the biggest polluters. Shopping small businesses is a great place to start, but we should only buy what we really need. No amount of sustainability will make up for purchasing a wardrobe of clothes you never wear.
  • Large brands have huge amounts of purchasing power and are in a strong position to effect change. It’s about time they did so.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to read more, there is a great report on palm oil, fishing and textiles, all of which suffer the same lack of unified regulation – you can read it here. If you regularly read and enjoy my articles, please consider making a small contribution to the running of my blog.

Sustainable & Ethical Gift Guide 2020

Buying presents over Christmas time can be an absolute minefield for the average person and even more so if you’re trying to be conscious with your consumerism. The average British adult will spend £512.85 on gifts each Christmas, meaning nearly 27 billion is spent in the UK total at this time of year – imagine the positive impact this could have if it were spent purely ethically and sustainably, supporting small local businesses!

Here are some gift ideas – send this to family and friends if they’re unsure what to get you too. This post was written in collaboration with Hattie @hattie_eco – my research assistant and sustainability expert. Go and check out her Instagram!

Organic basics produces ethical and sustainable underwear and activewear

Clothes/Fashion/Accessories

  • Organic Basics – This underwear and activewear brand produces beautiful eco-friendly and ethically produced clothes in Europe. They use recycled and organic fabrics and regenerative agriculture to minimise environmental impact.
  • Lucy & Yak – Everyone’s favourite dungaree brand Lucy & Yak places supply chain transparency at the forefront of their production values. They publicly share information about their factories and commitment to people and planet. Oh, and their dungarees are awesome.
  • Made My Wardrobe – One of the most sustainable ways to have new clothes is to make them yourself. Gifting a pattern to sew your own dungarees costs only £12.50, or with fabric included it’s £63 and provides hours of meditative entertainment too.
  • Endless Wardrobe (second hand purchases) – The most sustainable item of clothing is the one you already have. This is the ethos of Endless Wardrobe, which loans out outfits for a fraction of the price they would cost new, to be worn and sent back – don’t worry, dry cleaning is included in the price! They also offer second-hand ex-rental clothes if you fall in love with something you’ve rented.
  • Amma Ski Lanka – This kickstarter provides employment and training for mothers through flexible, part time, fairly paid jobs within the textile industry. They also produce zero-waste ethical and sustainably manufactured garments. By pledging to this kickstarter you’ll be funding women in Sri Lanka to receive training, and you will be gifted various accessories in return, dependent on your donation.
  • Yala Jewellery – Black-owned B Corp accredited jewellery brand Yala produces stunning jewellery. A lot of gold jewellery is neither ethical nor sustainable, so Yala opts for brass and they are transparent about production methods.
  • We Are Meg – For the active but eco-conscious giftee, We Are Meg produces exercise accessories such as foam rollers and yoga blocks made from sustainably-sourced cork. They’re about about conscious recovery that’s good for both you and the environment.

Skincare/toiletries

  • Evolve Beauty UK – UK based organic skincare made in small batches. Their production studio is wind-powered and all their packaging is eco-friendly. All products are vegan and cruelty free.
  • Upcircle Beauty – Upcircle is a cruelty free and vegan skincare brand that upcycles waste such as coffee grounds into skincare. They were also winner of the 2020 Circular Economy Award, so you know you’re buying from a market-leading brand tackling some of the biggest issues facing the planet.
  • Narloa – Black-owned startup Narloa has been featured in the Evening Standard, Buzzfeed and Women’s Health, among others. Known for their beautiful face oils, as well as bath products, these are all, of course, vegan, nature-based and cruelty-free.
  • Bramblewood Soap – Homemade in Dorset, these soaps are the epitome of handmade luxury. And, as everyone is using a lot of soap at the moment, why not buy a few for friends and family?
  • Wild deodorant (subscription also available)  – Wild is an innovative deodorant brand fighting against our culture of waste. They provide refillable aluminium applicators and compostable packaging with a product that not only smells great, but actually works too! You can get 20% off from 3rd -5th December with the code FLORA.
  • With Love, Nature – If you’re looking for a beautifully packaged gift box, With Love, Nature is a great place to look. They offer luxury vegan and cruelty free products in eco-friendly packaging.
  • Shmood Candles – I wrote this post about my favourite vegan soy-based candles, but Schmood was launched more recently during lockdown. These sustainable candles smell delicious, and come with a spotify code for a playlist designed to match the scent. I recommend Chill Pill.

Online shops/marketplaces

  • Mosaik Education – Mosaic’s Christmas shop helps provide funding for refugees to access higher education. Just 3% of refugees access university, compared to 37% of global youth, and this NGO is looking to change that.
  • South Coast Makers Market – This Dorchester-based outdoor market provides a platform for independent businesses on the high street and handmade products. For anyone Dorset or Hampshire-based, they are hosting a 2 day market on 5-6th Dec and loyalty cards to provide discounts to local cafes, shops and restaurants, all of which are struggling in the current times.
  • Jamii – Jamii is a marketplace and discount card for Black-owned British brands, allowing shoppers to support a variety of small businesses, from face masks, to skincare, to art prints. They’ve been featured in Metro, Forbes and the BBC and are making quite the impression.
  • Know The Origin – This collective of ethical brands promotes transparency, sustainability and ethics, partnering only with brands that embody this ethos. You can buy a range of products here, in the knowledge that they are well made and ethically sourced.
  • Wearth London – Wearth is a great place to discover new sustainable products and brands, whether you’re looking for homeware, zero-waste accessories or even furniture. They really have something for everyone!

Make yourself

  • Bath bombs – self care is so important, especially at Christmas and especially this year. Bath bombs are easy to make, and homemade gifts show a little more care and thought has gone into them.
  • Vegan gingerbread men – Gingerbread lasts a surprisingly long time, and is perfect to gift at Christmas. It’s easy to make vegan – I have a recipe here!
  • Jam – Making jam at home allows you to get exactly the taste and texture you’re looking for. I personally find shop-bought too sweet, so love making my own. It’s also very relaxing.
  • Sloe/damson gin/whisky – not one for this year, but creating your own sloe or damson alcohol is both easy and charming – and who doesn’t love a bit of alcohol for Christmas! There are plenty of recipes online. Warning: they take time and by the time you’re done, you’ll probably want to keep a couple of bottles for yourself.

Subscriptions

  • Naked Sprout or Bumboo – Who knew loo paper would be such a luxury in 2020?! Getting a subscription service not only allows you to choose ethical and sustainable brands such as these, but also means you’re sorted in the event of another lockdown! These 2 UK brands provide bamboo-based loo paper that gives back – Naked Sprout provides water to school children in Kenya via Just A Drop, and Bumboo plants a tree for each box sold.
  • Leo’s Box – Certified B Corp Leo’s Box is run by 16 year old Lysander, but school studies haven’t stopped him creating a very well regarded eco subscription service that provides full-sized products form sustainable brands. They’re products you’ll undoubtedly need, so nothing is wasted, and it’s a great introduction to new brands at a reduced price.
  • Peirene Press – For the literature lover in your life, Peirene Press provides three books of world-class translated literature from around the world. Not only does this allow access to previously un-translated novels, it also supports various charities and gender equality work. The gift subscription also comes beautifully wrapped!
  • Oddbox – Food waste is a massive issue worldwide, with a third of food being chucked each year. Oddbox provides one solution to the huge amount of fresh produce that doesn’t fit supermarket standards for size or shape, paying farmers fair prices and shipping food across London and South-East England.

Food/consumables

  • Grind coffee compostable pods (also available as a subscription) – If you have a coffee machine, capsules can be problematic to recycle and wasteful. Grind provides Nespresso-compatible pods that can be thrown on your compost heap or out with the food waste. Everything is plastic-free and organic (and the packaging is beautiful).
  • Bird & Wild coffee – Coffee is often unsustainably and unethically produced, and without looking for certain accreditations, it can be hard to know what you’re buying. For the ground coffee lover, Bird & Wild is about as sustainable as you get for coffee.
  • Bax Botanics – For anyone looking to avoid the booze this year, Bax’s eco-friendly, fairtrade, zesty Verbena non-alcoholic spirit is the way to go. For more info on them and other favourites, see this post for the best alcohol-free spirits.
  • Tony’s Chocoloney – Aside from producing delicious, CHUNKY chocolate, Tony’s campaigns for ethically produced chocolate that does not use modern slavery or child labour – which unfortunately is more common than you might think. They have vegan and non-vegan options.
  • Doisy & Dam – Christmas can never have too much chocolate, so here’s another great brand. D&D sources their cocoa from sustainable farms, and as a B Corp, they are serious about transparency. They don’t use palm oil and are 100% vegan.

Charity initiatives/tree planting

  • Secret Santa Action for Children – For the person who has everything, make a gift to someone else in their name. Action for Children provides Secret Santa gifts for some of the 9 million children living in poverty in the UK. This allows them to have a hot meal, a place to sleep or a little gift this Christmas – you choose!
  • Treedom Trees – Gifts don’t have to be visible to make an impact. Treedom allows you to plant and name a tree around the world that will allow smallhold farmers to have an extra source of income or food source, all while soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. All trees are geotagged, so you can check in and see how your tree is doing! Use the code FLORA20 for 20% off whichever tree you buy.
  • Adopt an animal through WWF – This is the perfect present for a child or young relative that keep on giving through regular updates. This provides funding to keep that species safe, and you get a little welcome pack to show thanks.
Treedom supports smallholder farmers across the world and sequesters carbon too

If you enjoyed this post please do share and tag Hattie and me on Instagram! That way we can support more businesses and make more of a change. What are your favourite ethical and sustainable businesses – why not tag them on Instagram or Twitter to support them? Happy shopping!

8 environmental influencers you should follow

Sustainability is the zeitgeist of social media today, with people left and right dropping ‘eco’, ‘green’, ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ into every other sentence. I’m excited about more and more people talking about saving our planet – when I was younger people thought I was crazy for wanting to save water and electricity – but now brands as big as H&M and Primark are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon.

It may appear that everyone on Instagram is an expert on the matter, but there are several true experts we should all be listening to, whether on Instagram, Twitter or long-form blogs. With the rise of misinformation and ill-researched facts thrown about online, it’s important to know where to go for the real facts and figures. Here are some of my favourites!

Give them a follow, share their posts and show your support – we can all do our bit.

Clare Press

Clare Press aka ‘Mrs Press’ is Australian Vogue’s editor-at-large, and host of the ‘Wardrobe Crisis‘ podcast. In 2018, she was made Global Ambassador for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative.

She talks extensively about circular fashion and how modern fashion needs to catch up with the way the world is changing, especially in regards to supply chain ethics and legislation around clothing production. She is a journalist and author of three books, her latest of which, ‘Rise & Resist, How to change the world‘, was published in 2018.

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Just strolling down the @econylbrand carpet with @hassanpierre from @maisondemode 💚 So… for everyone who asked about my dress. It’s made from many metres of hand-loomed Kota Doria muslin by wonderful @benjamingarg . The cloth was woven in Kethun, India, then pigment-dyed in Melbourne. This colouring process requires less water and lower temperatures. Benjamin made this dress especially for me, moving house & getting flu in the middle of the process. He ended up posting it because it wasn’t quite finished by my last trip to Melbourne – & it got lost! Cue several days of fraught post-office hunting. Can you believe they found the package the day before I flew?! The #slowfashion gods were smiling on us. So pleased & proud to wear this magic dress. Kota Doria is an Indian handloom tradition of translucent muslins once supported by royal patronage and produced in towns and villages in and around Kota city [south eastern Rajasthan]. Kota saris are the lightest cotton saris, and the weaves vary according to yarn gauges, while the different fine check patterns are known as Khats. "These handicrafts are made with blossomed heart and peace of mind, which is equivalent to meditation," says Benjamin. The designer, who hails from a village called Mudki in the Indian state of Punjab, studied fashion in Melbourne and was a standout graduate from RMIT’s fashion Masters program last year. Thank you Ben for dressing me for the @greencarpetfashionawards 💚💚

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Aja Barber

Journalist and fashion consultant Aja Barber writes about intersectionality in feminism and ethical fashion, both of which are closely connected. Follow her on Instagram for knowledgable and honest stories and posts about sustainability and intersectionality.

My only critique would be that she doesn’t have a blog or podcast, but her captions could be described as ‘micro-blogging’ – if you want to learn and want to think, Aja is for you.

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Mean⁣ Bully⁣ Idiot⁣ Evil⁣ Unkind⁣ Bitchy⁣ ⁣ These are words I’ve been called in 48 hours on the internet as a person doing what I do. I’ve been accused of censorship for monitoring my comments (I truly believe in every persons right to do so especially if this person is doing their anti racism work … a person not doing their work often mistakes legit criticism surrounding race for “bullying”).⁣ ⁣ All of these phrases are loaded but especially “bully”. Calling black people bullies is like the oldest, dirtiest trick in the playbook. But I’m not a fan of being called “mean” either. I answer literally every message in my inbox. Upwards of 100 a day and I give as good as I get. If I sense that you’re not being respectful of me, my space or my time (or others in my circle) I’ll say as much and move on to those who are. Surprisingly I don’t have endless hours of the day to argue with folks who make it their mission to misunderstand what I’m saying. If I did, I’d get nothing done. When did this become a crime? Or is it only a crime when you’re a black woman with boundaries?⁣ How am I the bully when it’s you who’s in my inbox? I’ve learned recently on the internet that black women blocking people is censorship but when a white woman accusing her engages in the same behavior, it’s her right. Continued in the comments because this is long. ⁣ (Image description: I chose this photo because it was taken by a @beforeandagain_ and it’s absolute magic … she and @sheflourished_ are true artists … but also it shows me in the softness of the sunlight wearing a purple jumpsuit from Stalf. Women of color are often portrayed as “hard” or “mean” or “tough” on the internet when in actuality we simply have boundaries like the next person. And they’re far higher than the next person because often we are taken for granted).

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Venetia Falconer

A name that keeps appearing on my ‘to follow’ lists, Venetia is a very vocal advocate of slow fashion, sharing hints and tips to reduce waste and live more sustainably. Venetia pulls no punches when taking about the ‘sustainable collections’ of fast fashion brands, so if you’re looking for an honest voice that cuts through a lot of noise, Venetia is your woman.

If you prefer to listen rather than scroll, Venetia also hosts the ‘Talking Tastebuds‘ podcast, in which she interviews various guests about their relationship with food, sustainability, mental health and well-being.

Natural Resources Defense Council

Not a person but an organisation committed to safeguarding the Earth. The NRDC works on a broad range of issues, from race to gender equality to sustainability projects. Follow them on Instagram to see what they’re up to and show your support.

My favourite thing about this account is that it shares a huge amount of easily digestible information, that if you so wish, you can visit their ‘like shop’ page and read up on. It’s a clever way of linking pages, petitions, blog posts and charities in one place.

Greta Thunberg

The girl of the moment, 16 year old Greta Thunberg shot to fame last August, when she began protesting outside Swedish Parliament during school hours with a sign painted with the words, “Skolstrejk for Klimatet” (“School Strike for Climate”).

Follow Greta on Instagram to keep up to date with her powerful speeches and activism. Following Greta is truly humbling – this 16 year old does more than the vast majority of us and can act as an inspiration to all. Read more about #ChildrenVsClimateCrisis here, and if you’d like to strike too, follow Fridays for Future, the page for international weekly  climate strikes.

Blue Ollis

Blue is a low-waste vegan who shared advice on how we can all cut plastic, eat better and reduce our environmental impact. Whether you’re into Instagram, YouTube or would prefer to read a blog, Blue has it all.

If you’re looking for inspiration of vegan recipes, she has also launched a range of ebooks, perfect for anyone looking to reduce the environmental impact of their diet, or just incorporate some more veggies!

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Social media can be a very serious place. With topics like climate change, animal rights and human freedom raised it can be a vortex of downbeat communication. As a dyslexic I am hyper aware of the intricacies of language and have been brought up in a household and culture that appreciates playing with the boundaries of words and upturning the rules for comic relief. Tongue and cheek humour, satire, sarcasm and puns are an innate part of my communication style that I often mute on social platforms for fear of being misunderstood or in case they invalidate the conversation at hand. But where would we be without humour? Without comical rhetoric or creative wordplay? Comedy adds a much needed balance to society and especially in times of fear and depression it brings fresh air to an otherwise serious world. It’s a form of expression that is too often sidelined, ignored or reprimanded as a means of silencing a creative perspective. Our history shows that in dictator-led countries creative expression is first to go. Stand ups provide political perspectives that help form our societal debates because humour is a way to convey serious topics and harsh realities that cannot be addressed in other ways. It pushes boundaries and conventions and creates an open space for free speech. It also allows for moments of relief from a congested and stifled reality littered with global violence and stale journalism. As a dyslexic my expression has often been silenced as my mind naturally explodes with comical repartee, hyperbole, surreal imagery, irony and quick quips. This is something dangerous to the ego of others. They might smite you for your wit through lack of understanding, which can often lead to fear, for breaking social norms, which can lead to feelings of vulnerability, or for shining a light on something they wish to keep hidden. This is why comics have lead a brave and important role in our histories and continue to break the status quo and remould our evolving future. Dyslexic comedy geniuses include Eddie Izzard, Whoopi Goldberg, Ruby Wax and Robin Williams. Don’t let a world where solemnity is prevalent steal your humour.

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Bea Johnson 

Described as the “Mother of the Zero Waste lifestyle movement”, Bea has been waste-free since 2008 – long before zero-waste was known to the average consumer! Her book, Zero Waste Home provides ways of reducing household waste and shared how she transformed her family’s home to the zero-waste lifestyle, with an amazing one litre of rubbish put out per year!

Read her 100 top tips here, or follow her on Instagram to keep up to date with what she’s up to – recently she has packed up and will be touring the US and Canada to share her message.

James Whitlow Delano

Photographer and climate activist James founded Everyday Climate Change, a collective of photographers who are capturing the everyday effects of climate change. His page acts as a quasi-photo journal, each picture with a short story behind it.

Both pages share information from experts about a particular topic, from racism in India to receding glaciers, accompanied by a beautiful (and often concerning) photo. Follow James on Instagram or check out his website.

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Climate Change in the Italian Alps: Simone "Simun" Laurent, an ethnic-Walser dairy farmer in the valley outside Gressoney Saint-Jean, leads his dairy cow outside his barn past his son. Climate change in Gressoney means a shorter snow season. More precipitation will arrive as rain. The Alps are the "water tower" of Europe. Glacial ice and winter snow store water, slowly releasing it, feeding rivers upon which European nations have depended upon in the warmer months, since before Roman times. Receding glaciers mean less water stored up to feed rivers, especially in times of summer drought. Also, rain water drains away more quickly and is not stored in the Alps' glaciers. Farmers and livestock pastoralists, like Simone, will find less grass in high meadows in summer to fatten up his cows to produce milk he uses to make Toma cheese. Outside Gressoney Saint-Jean, Val D'Aosta, ItalyIronically, climate change brought the Walser, who speak a dialect of German, to the Gressoney Valley in the first place. During the 12th and 13th centuries Walser clans crossed the high Alpine passes from Switzerland, searching for virgin land, when there was less mountain ice than there is today, during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) c. 950 CE – 1250 CE. While this is clear evidence of naturally-occurring cycles of climate change, the temperatures are actually higher now, and now the pace of warming is turbocharged by carbon levels that are much higher today because of human activity. So, climate equilibrium is a long way off but one thing is for sure, it will be much warmer than during the MWP. Funded by @spacenomore Published by @washingtonpost #climatechange #globalwarming #italy #dairy #foodsecurity #alps #spacenomore #washingtonpost

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Thank you for reading! Who are some of your favourite people to follow on this subject?

Carbon offsetting

We all know flying is bad for the environment – it’s suggested that commercial flights account for just above 2% of global carbon emissions, including the large proportion of the world that don’t fly at all. Whilst shaming people about flying is not the answer, those of us who are able to do something about it probably should. Not flying is not always possible (and let’s be honest, we all love a holiday every now and again), so carbon-offsetting is becoming more and more popular, with new organisations popping up with various solutions to the problem.

Below are some that you suggested, with some honest input about my flying habits, costs and plans for the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

Hometree.ie at Moy Hill Farm

If you’re looking for a relatable, home-grown feel, Moy Hill Farm tree planting is perfect. My friend knows the owners and frequently visits, seeing her previously planted trees. “By pledging you will be supporting a regenerative eco system” – Moy Hill also works with community to grow food and regenerate woodland to benefit the local community and wildlife. So far the charity has planted 14,000 native trees, such as Oak, Hazel and Birch. It’s difficult to know exactly how much carbon 10 trees (the minimum amount you can pledge) will offset, but knowing you are contributing to an amazing community project to the benefit of the local wildlife and environment is great.

 

Chooose.Today

Chooose uses your donations to fund the best UN-verified COreducing projects in LEDCs. Just £2.50 per month (their ‘climate neutral’ option) offsets approximately 3 flights from Oslo to London per month. Donating different amounts per month allows you to be ‘climate positive’ (£3.99 per month) or a ‘climate champ’ (£7.98 per month), offsetting different amounts of flying. The website is easy to use and offers both subscriptions (donations per month) and one off donations (e.g. 6 month or 1 year options), depending on the amount you’re looking to offset and how much money you’re willing to part with. I love this idea and it’s super easy to use, but also think moving your money to an ethical bank (e.g. Triodos) could have a similar effect without actually costing you any money.

 

My Climate.org

The Swiss not for profit organisation Climate.org works with partners both locally and globally to educate and consult on climate-protection projects. For individuals, it also provides a calculator for you to be able to calculate accurately your emissions, whether flying, driving, or simply living at home. After putting in your details, it provides a cost to offsetting those specific journeys, supporting international projects and sustainable development worldwide. There is some choice as to where your money goes e.g. helping smallhold farmers reforest areas or enable efficient cookers for women in Kenya.

I love this idea because it is very specific as to how you can offset your lifestyle. It also makes you think twice about longhaul flights. If I were to offset all my flights this year, according to this calculator it would cost me £153, the vast majority because of travelling to Tokyo for the marathon. For shorter journeys (e.g. Copenhagen) a payment of £5 was enough (bearing in mind this doesn’t include other travel).

 

Climate Care

Climate Care turns ‘climate responsibilities into positive outcomes’ providing tailored programmes to help organisations and individuals offset carbon emissions. This isn’t their only selling point though – they also work with governments to deliver large-scale emissions reduction projects and work with communities in LEDCs to build sustainable projects, improving the lives of people and benefitting the environment.

They also provide a calculator, which once you’ve calculated how much carbon you want to offset, gives you a cost for doing so. On this calculator it would cost me £53.40 for this year’s flights, compared to the £153 of MyClimate.org, but this could reflect the type of projects they’re funding. If you don’t know how much carbon you need to offset, Climate Care also provides flight, car, energy, event and business to calculate approximate carbon emissions, before allowing you to checkout, funding various projects around the world.

 

Atmosfair.de

Atmosfair is a German non-profit organization that actively contributes to CO₂ mitigation by promoting, developing and financing renewable energies in over 15 countries worldwide. They rely on donations from individuals and businesses, working with both to mitigate emissions, with an emphasis on air travel, as currently there is no technological solution for greener air travel (e.g. electronic planes, although interestingly hybrid planes may soon be a reality). Atmosfair uses donations to fund the creation of renewable energy sources in countries where they hardly exist, but could be successfully utilised (e.g. solar power across the equator). In this way, atmosfair saves COthat would otherwise be released by the use of fossil fuels in these countries. Meanwhile, locals benefit by being able to access clean energy around the clock, often for the first time.
For personal offsetting, Atmosfair provides a calculator which separates out emissions by airline, so is even more personalised than the other calculators. As I travelled to Tokyo with British Airways, I found that I released 60% less COthan the average airline, taking my offsetting cost for this flight down to just £42.20, from £79 via MyClimate.org. The calculator gives an excellent breakdown of emissions, comparisons and costs for each flight taken, which I love.

 

Trees For Life

Slightly different to the above few organisations, Trees For Life focuses specifically on helping the Scottish Caledonian Forest ecosystem, providing a home for wildlife and regenerating old forest. Regenerating forest is a long process, but provides a multitude of environmental benefits. Whilst there is no calculator on the site to offset your specific emissions, donations to their accredited ‘Carbon Offsetting’ location are used to plant trees in their conservation estate, with the capacity to offset over 50,000 tonnes of CO2. Trees for Life also links to this carbon calculator to calculate how many trees you should plant to offset your particular emissions.
If you’re looking for something close to home (and are based in the UK!), this could be the project for you – it’s relatively small scale with measurable impacts, and speaks to my ecology brain!

 

TL;DR

I was interested to see that most of these companies don’t simply plant trees to offset carbon (what I thought might be the easiest and most marketing-friendly way of offsetting carbon). Most fund global projects to reduce future carbon emissions in one way or another, which means you’re not exactly offsetting your own carbon, but rather reducing carbon that might be released in future.

I love the idea of this, because offsetting carbon does nothing to actually change the fact that COwill always be released as long as non-renewables are still being used. Atmosfair, Climate Care and Chooose fund renewables and energy-saving projects in place of projects that would otherwise use non-renewables, thus changing the future potential emissions.

It’s hard to tell which is my favourite – Moy Hill Farm is close to home, easy and cheap, and provides the option to see the impact you’re having first hand, but no calculator or personalised offsetting that I can see. The Chooose Today subscription model is reasonably priced, scalable according to your income and travel plans and incredibly easy to use – I would say perfect for a present for a climate-conscious friend. MyClimate.org is expensive but comprehensive, and I can’t help but think trying to save money whilst offsetting carbon just means that you’ll be offsetting less carbon, but it’s hard to tell. Climate Care might be a favourite, because it costs less than MyClimate.org and seems to do a similar thing. German brand Atmosfair works closely with airlines, which I love – I think it’s time for the worst emitters to take responsibility for the own emissions, and I would feel more comfortable flying with an airline that I know offsets their carbon. It also provides the most comprehensive calculator that I saw, and reasonable costs too.

 

So, what did I do?

I pledged 10 native trees with Moy Hill Farm, because I love supporting small businesses (and to be honest it was the first one I saw and I wanted to do something there and then). This cost €30.

I offset my flights to and from Tokyo using Atmosfair, as it was the only one that allowed me to specify my airline. This cost €47.

The remaining 3.5T of carbon to be offset for this year’s past and upcoming flights, I used Climate Care. This cost £25.

In future I think I’d just use Atmosfair or Climate Care for all the reasons mentioned above and for simplicity. Don’t forget that if you don’t have money to spare like this, simple changes such as which bank you keep your money in can have huge impacts, either funding things such as arms and tobacco or more sustainable and ethical projects, such as renewable energy. The best one I’ve found is Triodos but I’d love to find some more!

Please comment below with your thoughts, questions and recommendations – I’d love to hear them all!

 

Problems with plastic

We all know we should be using less plastic and reusing what we have as much as possible, so I’m not going to preach on here. However, I thought I’d do some quick-fire facts about our incessant plastic consumption since it was world ocean’s day recently (8 June).

  • Every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists
  • 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second
  • Plastic takes around 700 years to start to degrade (depending on the type of plastic)
  • When plastic degrades it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, which make it easier for them to contaminate the environment
  • Marine animals often mistake plastic bags for food, meaning they eat them, which over time can kill them
  • In the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than in the last century. Our consumption is not going down (yet)
  • There is set to be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050

Plenty of reasons (although by no means all of them!) to reduce plastic consumption. Of course, NONE OF US ARE PERFECT, so this is all about reducing consumption as much as possible in a way that you can sustain. The more you do the better, and over time we should all be looking at our consumption habits and trying to do better. BE better.

Pretty much all industries are culprits in the excessive plastic use department, but both social media and wellness are pretty bad, with all their plastic bottles, straws and whatever else. So here are some simple ideas on how to reduce your plastic consumption. Tell your friends, make it cool, blog about it! Only in spreading the word and doing our part will we make a difference

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When your swell bottle is so instagrammable it makes it into every one of your photos

1. Don’t use plastic straws – such a simple thing, and yet it can make a huge difference. Plastic straws make their ways into our oceans by the tonne, and are an environmental disaster. They’re totally unnecessary and easy to cut out. Of course it’s easy to forget to ask for your drink without a straw, but try to make a habit of it when you’re ordering something. You can buy reusable straws if you’re keen on them, and they’re pretty easy to carry around with you!

2. Buy a reusable water bottle – if you’re getting a water bottle every time you head to the gym/to a class, you really need to rethink this. Buying and carrying around a reusable water bottle is SO easy, and also encourages you to drink more water, which is also a great thing. We’re lucky in the UK that tap water is totally potable, so refilling is easy and free. If you’re looking to make one change, this is a serious one to consider!

3. Carry a rucksack or have canvas bags in your everyday bag – I was going to say ‘don’t use plastic bags’, but often we forget and have to purchase those pesky 5p single use bags anyway. Carrying around a canvas bag in your handbag means you’re not ever caught short on that quick trip to the shops. Or, if you’re keen on walking everywhere like me, a rucksack has a multitude of benefits, and doubles up as a great way to carry your shopping! Here’s a great one that doesn’t make you look like a pleb (like me).

4. Say no to microbeadsMicrobeads are tiny plastic beads found in all sorts of beauty products. Thankfully, they are banned in some countries (including the UK), but when buying things overseas, this is something to be aware of. They are a complete disaster environmentally.

5. Don’t get takeaway (coffee) cups – annoyingly, these are 100% NOT recyclable, because even though they feel like paper, the inside is actually lined with plastic, making them one of the worst everyday plastic offenders. If you get a reusable cup/thermos, not only can you feel good about it/yourself, but a lot of companies actually give you money BACK, meaning over the long run you’re saving too! Here are some great coffee cups and my personal favourite – a swell bottle (or chilly’s).

6. Spread awareness/talk to local businesses – Making changes in your life is a great way to make a difference, but spreading the word can increase the difference you make. Encouraging businesses to stop using plastic straws, takeaway cups and plastic cutlery is a great thing to do, and could even save the businesses money. Why not speak to someone at your workplace to see what can be done there? My work has been taking steps to increase its sustainability (no plastic dishes, meat free Monday, no straws etc). It’s great to be a part of the change!

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