Futures Before Fashions

… green is the new black …

Free Fashion at Freecycle

Freecycle.org

I recently entered the wonderful world of Freecycle, when looking for some paint pots and really not wanting to have to pay full price for more paint than I needed.

Whilst looking through the listings on my local Freecycle site, I saw a post from a freecycler that she had two big bags of clothing which she was giving away free, as a way of saving her the trip to the charity shop. I sent her an email, and as I was the first to respond, I made arrangements to collect the clothes the following morning.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised, scoring a few pairs of jeans (Zara) which were in great condition, some dresses (Zara and Mango), a few shirts (GAP), and a few knitted jumpers. There was a lot more, but sadly many items which were really not wearable or didn’t fit, but which I made arrangements to deliver to my local textile recycling collection point. I had been completely unaware of the possibilities for freecycle, and am now completely addicted. I was thrilled to get so many lovely free items of clothing, but have also listed some of my own unwanted items from around the house, which other people have a need for (everything from household goods, furniture, bikes and sporting goods, books etc).

When I started this challenge, nearly a year ago, I did not have any idea whatsoever that I would find a way of getting free clothing, and expected that the majority would come from charity shops and ebay. The vast majority of the items of have acquired over the year have indeed come from charity shops, but I highly recommend logging on to your local freecycle site and checking out what they have before you spend a cent as I was pleasantly surprised!

 

9 Reasons to shop second hand – True Activist

True Activist promote the second hand clothing lifestyle

A good friend recently came across this great article on a site called True Activist about why it is a good thing to shop second hand.. and it sums up perfectly why I have taken on this challenge, and why you should consider making more sensible choices too.. check it out.

Its been a while.. but i am still going!

So I realise its been a long time between posts and for this I apologise. London life has a way of getting hectic and getting in the way of things! I continue with my challenge, and remain as focused as ever on the task.. only buying second hand clothing for an entire year!

The start of Autumn and the cold chill coming into London suggests that we are in for a very cold winter, and I have been searching the charity shops for a new (second hand) winter coat with a hood. It actually only took me two shop visits before I found the one I wanted, a khaki padded coat with a hood and nice and toasty warm! It cost me a grand total of £4.

I never said anything about accessories or shoes when I started this challenge, and I must admit I did recently buy a chunky knitted snood and a new pair of trainers, which despite not being included in my challenge – did make me feel somewhat guilty. As March approaches, the one year mark for my challenge, I have been thinking about what I will do when that date comes around. Despite being a long time fan of charity shops, I have been very very surprised to find that it has been actually very easy to only buy second hand clothing, and that when I walk past shops on the High Street selling shiny leggings, and other ridiculous current ‘trends’ I have not been tempted to wander in – even for a look!

The clothes that I have bought over the last year have a few things in common which set them apart from purchases over past years from high street retailers…

  • They are all second hand/preloved
  • Because of this fact, they have all stood the test of time/wash and have proven their resilience:)
  • They are not items that I see every second person walking down the street wearing
  • None have shrunk/gone out of shape/fallen apart when I wash them
  • I wear every single item! Not one of my purchases have sat in the wardrobe unworn since I bought them
  • They were exceptionally affordable
  • They give me a warm fuzzy feeling because I know I have not supported the rampant use of sweatshops, have reduced my carbon footprint, and prevented a few more items becoming unnecessary landfill.

So.. I am thinking about it… and as March draws nearer.. I will consider carefully whether there is any way I could go back to my former life… or whether this one year challenge has been a permanent change in lifestyle. In the meantime, I will resume my researching activities about the fashion industry, textile waste and climate change. Stay with me, you might learn something too:)

Why don’t we care about Bangladesh?

No doubt by now everyone has heard about the frequent fires, collapses and explosions in Bangladesh garment factories which have killed thousands over recent months. In the factory collapse alone back on 24th April, 1127 people were killed just a day after workers were protesting the unsafe conditions and raising the alarm about cracks appearing in the building. As they were still clearing that site, on May 9th over 900 more Bangladeshi workers were killed when a fire broke out in their knitwear garment factory.

We all saw the images and talked about how horrific it was. We all heard the big labels named. Walmart. GAP. Uniqlo. Benetton. Joe Fresh. Primark. H&M. Zara. Marks and Spencer. Mango. And then…. The people, outraged and appalled by what they had seen appeared to do what? Nothing. I walked past Primark on Oxford Street recently and it was, as usual, jam packed. People flooded out the doors with smiles, and why wouldn’t they be? They had a huge (Eco-friendly) paper bag full of bargains to see them through (at least until the next trend hits the shelves).

I wondered why it was that the same people I can imagine standing around the water cooler sadly comparing stories they had seen on TV about the factory tragedies with colleagues, seem unable to take back control of their spending behaviour to actually attempt to have some meaningful impact on this world. Are those bargains really so great that we can turn a blind eye to what we know to be the tragic realities of fast fashion? What will it take for people to make a change?

Having been to Bangladesh in 2001 and seeing how hard life is for many many thousands of people doing what they can to get by, I know it is simply not an option for those luck enough to have a source of income to decide to leave because their workplace in unsafe, or to strike because they have unsuitable working conditions. I saw children working making bricks, carrying heavy bricks all day in the heat to make what may be the only income for their household.

So… life there is pretty rough for the vast majority. Add to that the impact of climate change on the region and it really does appear as though there is a value statement being made about Bangladesh and its people. We can’t see them. Not our problem? Of course, no one in their right mind would admit thinking this but what other conclusions can be drawn from our apathy and continued care-less choices…

I recently came across an article with Dame Vivienne Westwood, who is a supporter of the Environmental Justice Foundation – a not for profit organisation working to protect the environment and defend human rights. The have made this small film interviewing one of Bangladesh’s climate refugees. Watch it. You have seen the images of the factory conditions where your clothes are made. If that didn’t cause you to stop and think twice about the source of your clothing purchases… Maybe this will?

Traid & Traid Remade

Traid & Traid Remade

If you have not wandered into a Traid store yet, do it now! Traid is an organisation which collects unwanted clothing from across the UK for reuse and sale at their charity shops across the country.

By doing this, they are minimising waste, their carbon footprint and consumption, and funds raised by Traid contributes to projects in developing countries to fight global poverty, exploitation and environmental damage caused by the textile and fashion industries.

Traid have their very own fashion label, too, which launched in 2002. TRAIDremade design and produce upcycled clothing for women and men using second hand textiles that would otherwise be thrown away.

When you buy TRAIDremade, you are helping to protect the environment by reducing landfill and supporting international development projects to fight poverty – to which all of the profits are directed.

Each TraidRemade items is unique, and is sustainably remade by hand the TraidRemade workshop in Brighton. TRAIDremade designers work exclusively with old clothes and textiles donated to TRAID to create wearable, original items that no-one else will have, and which you will not find on the High Street.

Traid also have a collection service, so if you have a bag of clothes you no long need, consider giving them a call to collect it.. Or pop it in one of their collection bins around the UK. It will free up space in your wardrobe for all the new things you will buy in their stores!

Buy TRAIDremade at their online store http://www.traidremade.com, or at TRAID Camden, TRAID Hammersmith and TRAID Shepherd’s Bush.

Top tops, low price…

Top tops, low price...

So, I know a lot of people say they can never find things they like in charity shops, and others who wouldn’t go into one for fear of being seen looking at second hand clothes. After some particular success today I thought it would be good to show the quality of clothing you can get in the hope of convincing you that you really do NOT need to spend crazy amounts on labels you love!

On a break from Uni today I took a stroll down to the Scope shop in Camberwell High Street to see what they had on offer… And scored a few bargains! Inspired by my success, I also stopped a the big Barnardo’s in Brixton and picked up a few more things.

I should mention that these items are labelled Jigsaw (cardigan), Promod (sleeveless blouse), and Warehouse (purple long sleeved blouse). You may also be interested to know that the unpleasant long sleeved blouse is current season and selling in their stores for £40.00!

Off The Rails – Upcycled Fashion Show

On the weekend I went to see a fashion show of up-cycled garments young people from Islington made as part of an initiative to educate them on climate change and sustainable fashion. This was the culmination of a 6 month project – developed by Islington’s The Zone Youth Project – where the young people involved learnt how to use sewing machines to make new items from old clothes and fabric, including bags, t-shirts and clothing.

The young people are part of Climate Change Youth Ambassadors (CCYA) programme which aims to teach them about climate change, engage with their local communities and work to reduce London’s carbon footprint. One of the aims of the fashion project was to address the negative impact on the environment of buying new clothes produced on the other side of the world and enable positive behaviour change.

This was a fantastic event, and it was so great to see young people getting involved with the project, and to have the chance to show off their skills at such a well supported event.

I wanted to blog about this event in the hope that these young people might be an inspiration for other young people and young people’s services when considering funding for local initiatives and events. Young people are too often the focus of bad press in London, and I hope my film goes some way to showing what young people are capable of when they have the support and resources to reach their potential.

It is fantastic to know that, when young people like this are our future, they are already getting involved in doing their part to think about climate change, and the impact of their actions on our planet… Oh – and does anyone know where I can buy one of those t-shirts?

To become a climate change youth ambassador in London – click here 

Find out more about:

Crocs, Socks and Spring Cleaning the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

I have just come back from walking a 160-something kilometre section of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Preparing for this mad adventure was fairly easy, as what was abundantly clear from those who had done it before was that it was absolutely essential to keep the weight of your bag as low as possible (no more than 10% of your body weight)… After all… It’s a long way to carry a bunch of unnecessary crap. For me… This meant that my packed bag should weigh no more than 6 kilograms. Underwear and socks, a pair of tech trousers, a couple of lightweight tops and some thermals, some waterproofs and my boots… Perfect.Approaching the start date of our camino I was conscious that my challenge was only just beginning and that if there were any specific things I needed (and was unlikely to find second-hand in limited time), I would need to get them before Earth Hour and the launch of my challenge. Turns out, I could make do with mostly things I already had, and only bought a super-light waterproof jacket and some new socks.

Regrettably, though the socks were made from terribly ‘green-sounding’ bamboo fibres and felt pretty soft, they did not live up to my expectations. I had blisters by the end of the first day, and after some very superficial researching found that their environmental credentials are a bit hit and miss. Yes – the growing of bamboo to make the fibres is environmentally friendly, turns out that the manufacturing process to turn this into fabric involves significant amounts of very toxic chemicals. (The message is here that the clothing made from Bamboo fibres is very soft and quite a treat to wear – but if you are buying it for environmental reasons – dig a bit deeper… all is not as is marketed). I persisted with the socks rather than buying new ones, and they held up fine.

Camino de Santiago

The exact moment I realised that I could not effectively intake enough oxygen required to walk up a hill and eat chocolate at the same time…

The walk itself was absolutely stunning… Rolling green hills, crystal clear streams, crisp mornings and fresh air, exactly what was needed to detox from our lives in London. Despite thousands of people walking the routes every year, it was really nice to see only small amounts of discarded litter along the way, probably less than I see each morning on my ten minute walk to the tube station in London. This observation was either an indication that things have changed since 2010 when a Camino forum user posted this or that because we were ahead of the busy 2013 summer season, the litterbugs had not yet arrived. Or maybe the “Spring Clean the Camino” campaign of 2009 is starting to take root, and people are heeding the messages about this issue on the forums. I have my fingers crossed that people are actually engaging their brains.

As we neared Santiago, large blue bins appeared which were filled with the discarded waterproof ponchos and boots people had offloaded as they neared their destination. I’m not sure who provided these as they didn’t have the usual local council logos on them but I did wonder where they ended up after collection and made a mental note to try to find out.

Anyway… What I packed in my bag was not an issue really, but after strolling (read: limping) into Santiago after days of walking down muddy trails, rock hopping over rivers, and at times just dragging my concrete boots through brown sludge… I had an unexpected desire to find the nearest store and ask them to dress me from head-to-toe and throw in some new shoes. Actually, truth is, I would have been equally as happy to buy some clean tracksuit pants and a hoody – the urge was primarily about the comfort of warm, dry, and clean wrappings (evidence of this was later in the evening of our arrival unashamedly walking through Santiago in Crocs… with socks…..).

I managed to fight the urges and instead only bought a couple of postcards and a fridge magnet. Stephen bought a wicked shirt of the Camino, something I would be all over under normal circumstances but resisted on this occasion – even when Stephen pointed out that if he bought me a gift it would not technically be breaking my self-imposed rules for the year ahead. I clutched my fridge magnet and postcards, quickly left the shop and we went back to our apartment to wash all my stinky walking clothes to let them dry another night over the heater in our room ready for wearing the following day on our drive back to Bilbao airport.

Quite an adventure it was, and an exercise in restraint on a number of levels… Packing only what I needed – dictated largely by what I could carry on my back for up to nine hours a day, and having to really consider this carefully in advance, knowing full well I would not be permitted to buy anything else along the way.

SIDE NOTE – Sustainable Tourism / Development? 

Since coming back from Spain I have come across some interesting research about sustainable development of the Camino de Santiago, acknowledging its appeal to tourists as a personal challenge or non-religious spiritual journey as well as those with the more the traditional religious pilgrimage motivations. There was quite an apparent difference in the style of camino people were doing, including many doing the “Last 100 km” who were clearly being catered to by mass tourism interests meeting large groups at the beginning and end of every stage, ferrying their belongings in advance to their high-end accommodation in advance of their arrival. Though not as I would want to do it, there is no judgement from me about those who choose/have to do their Camino in that way, but it does raise questions about the impact of this form of mass tourism in the region, and the long-term impacts of this on the environment. To read more about this issue – click here. 

Camino de Santiago

Learn about Looptworks

Was just on the internet doing some research and happened to come across this company in Portland, Oregon (US) which was founded in 2009.

This company repurposes abandoned materials into meaningful, long-lasting and limited-edition products from pre-consumer excess… with the aim of ridding the world of waste while and inspiring a generation to reduce their impact on the planet.

The issue of textile waste at the pre-consumer end of things was not something I had considered when I started out on this challenge… my focus was squarely with the consumer patterns and waste at the end of a garments life.

Their website reports “Every week, one factory can dispose of about 60,000 pounds of textile waste that goes into landfills. That’s roughly equivalent to 113 Baby Grand Pianos!”. It had not ever occurred to me that factories could be discarding so much, when although the fabric may not be what was requested, it is perfectly good quality textile which could be used in another way (Upcycled).

Discovering this site has made me realise exactly how little I know and how inspirational and innovative people can be when motivated. If you have some time, check out this short video.

You will also find a link to their website on my links page.

Less than 2 hours to go

In 2007 in Sydney… Earth Hour was started. In 2013… Hundreds of Millions of people have already switched off for Earth Hour at 8:30pm local time. 

Earth Hour is about helping people to realise that their own actions can have an impact on the planet and drawing attention to energy use. In 2012, over 150 countries participated. This year, Palestine, Tunisia, Suriname and Rwanda are participating for the first time. This year, Australia has asked it’s people to switch off for good and switch to renewable energy.

So… It’s not yet 7:30pm… You have time to get to the shop for some candles and make it back in time to log off, switch off and shut down at 8:30pm.

What are you waiting for? 

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