Futures Before Fashions

… green is the new black …

Archive for the tag “Climate change”

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 ūüôā
  • 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 ūüôā

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?

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 РSustainable 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

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? 


Where it all began… the Age of Stupid, Fast Fashion and my Pledge…

For some time I have been reflecting on the amount of clothes I seem to buy, wondering why I am always needing more, and pondering why it seems that clothes just don’t last as long as they used to. I¬†wondered whether it was simply that I was tending to buy sale items or from cheaper outlets, and this is why they were wearing out or losing shape after just a few wears, resulting in me needing to throw them out and buy more. I started spending more, with the assumption that buying from bigger labels meant better quality and hopefully longevity. Not so. I just ended up with fewer items AND less money.

When I lived in Australia, it was common practice for me to scour the charity shops and markets for clothing, because it fit with my style, was cheaper, and I would often find unique items which I was unlikely to see walking past me on someone else. On reflection, it always seemed that the pre-loved or recycled items I bought lasted longer too. I guess this is probably because they have been worn, washed, and worn again many times over before I got them – they had already proved their resilience by the time they found a new home in my wardrobe.

When I moved to London, over time, I slowly got sucked into the same way of thinking as many other Londoners, that is – looking the part, wearing the labels, and only ever went into a charity shop if I needed something for a fancy dress party. It’s interesting, though, that in London, if you can pass the item off as “vintage” as opposed to “used” or “pre-loved”, they will happily triple the price and your money goes into the pocket of some hipster instead of to one of the many charities supporting the needy.

What I had also realised though, is that after a while, the unique aspects of the way that I had previously dressed were less often seen, and slowly but surely I began to resemble many of the 8 million or so other people wearing the “London Uniform” and conforming to what is a very generic and superficial sense of style, image and value.

I have recently watched a film called “The Age of Stupid”, set in the future we watch on as an archivist looks through film and news footage from 2008 in an attempt to understand why humankind did nothing to address the issue of climate change, despite all of the warning signs. In the words of William Nicholson, writer of Shadowlands and Gladiator, ‚ÄúI hate this film. I felt as if I was watching all my own excuses for not doing anything about climate change being stripped away from me.‚ÄĚ.

I started to think more seriously about climate change and wonder about my contribution as it relates to my clothing dilemma. I know to recycle, I minimise paper waste, and I buy long-life light bulbs. What I didn’t know what exactly how my clothing choices impacted so significantly on my carbon footprint.

I started by doing some research. Overconsumption is a major factor in climate change. We buy much more clothing today than we did a generation ago, and too much of it is what is known as “disposable fashion”. Shops like Primark, selling low-cost clothing, are going from strength to strength in the current climate or austerity, with their stores becoming bigger each time a new one opens. These types of brands are careful to point out on their websites the ways in which they are trading ethically through supporting their workers in overseas countries, and through their use of biodegradable packaging such as paper bags instead of plastic.¬†What is less clear is the end result of millions of people buying these cheap items which quickly become un-wearable and are designed to worn a few times before being thrown out and replaced.

In 2006, a report called ‚ÄúRecycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste‚ÄĚ for Defra found that around 1.5 ‚Äď 2 million tonnes of clothing and textiles waste are discarded every year in the UK . Of this only 16% (300,000 tonnes) is currently reused or recycled with 63% (1.2 million tonnes) ending up in landfill.

What we wear, how and where it is made, and what happens to it when we are done with it all have potential to have either a positive or negative impact on our communities and our futures.

I made a pledge that I would commit to a year of buying only second-hand clothing, whilst at the same time – researching as much as I could about the impact of the fashion and textiles industry on climate change and sharing this anyone that will listen. This is where it all began.


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