Reblog: What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

I came across this article on NPR today and thought I’d share it with you – on the realities of our ‘fast’ and cheap clothing, and the cost behind what we pay for it.

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

Fashion is big business. Estimates vary, but one report puts the global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 million spent in the U.S. alone. In 2014, the average household spent an average $1,786 on apparel and related services.

More styles mean more purchases — and that leads to more waste created. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion that disposable clothing is damaging to the environment and the economy. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal,” Lewis says. “The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

How To Deal With All This Textile Waste?

One way developed nations get rid of their excess clothing is by donating it to developing nations. According to the United Nations, the United States is thebiggest exporter of used clothes, and the top importing countries of used clothing are India, Russia and Pakistan.

But with the strong dollar and availability of cheap clothing from Asia, some are worried that demand for exports of secondhand clothing will decline — thus forcing developed nations to find new ways to deal with post-consumer textile waste.

Fast fashion and the disposable culture also hurt sorting companies that export second-hand clothing.

Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections in New York City, collects second-hand clothing collector and sells it to sorting companies. The companies then sort through the clothes, separating those that will be made into other low-grade fiber products and those that will be exported.

Baruchowitz says the most valuable part of a sorting company’s business is in selling reusable second-hand clothing. But if the quality is questionable, more of the garments collected might have to head to the shredding bin rather than the second-hand clothes market.

“It’s very damaging to the environment, this fast fashion culture, and it also affects the secondhand market because these clothes aren’t meant to be used for so long,” he says. “I can’t say for sure, but the secondhand H&Ms would probably be in less demand than a garment that was produced with more quality. I’m getting all this stuff from fast fashion and I’m hearing from clients that it’s hurting them.”

Do Retailers’ Recycling Programs Encourage Consumerism?

Several clothing retailers have announced take-back programs that collect used garments from customers to be recycled, sold or remade into other clothing. H&M, for example, has allowed customers to bring unwanted garments — which will be transformed to recycled textile fibers for new products — since 2013. The company aims to have “zero garments going to landfill.” Patagonia also recycles and sells used Patagonia products in its stores.

It plays into the concept of extended producer responsibility, which means the manufacturer has to take into consideration the product’s afterlife.

But does it actually encourage more consumerism? For many stores, customers can get store credit and vouchers for sending in used clothing.

“If you bring it back to the store and you see something new and you’re going to give me a discount, I’m having a buying moment I may not have had before because you’re having me back at your store. It’s very smart in terms of business,” Lewis says.

The concept, however, might encourage a different type of thinking: If manufacturers have to think about how they’re going to get the most out of the product after it has been worn, Lewis says, it might spur them to start designing products that can be taken apart easily, have better quality, or might be biodegradable, for example.

H&M introduced new garments made of recycled textile fibers two year ago.

Grassroots Efforts To Counter Fast Fashion

A year ago, a few users began uploading YouTube videos of themselves exchanging clothes with friends. It was either that, or they were showcasing how they made new styles out of their old, scrappy clothes.

“Today is fashion revolution day and I decided to take part in this movement by making a ‘Haulternative’ video,” says CutiePieMarza, a YouTuber from England, in her video. She was exchanging clothes with grav3yardgirl, a YouTuber from Texas.

“It’s part haul, part swap … she asked me about a month ago if I would be part of this awesome project,” says grav3yardgirl in her video. “I think it’s something mainly going on in the UK.”

“Haulternative” is an alternative to the traditional “haul” videos, where users post videos of themselves parading their latest buys.

It was an activity that was part of the larger Fashion Revolutionmovement started in the United Kingdom that aimed to bring awareness to the source of our garments — as well as the waste created by our consumerist habits.

“It’s an alternative haul. It’s looking at how people can do a different kind of haul, how people can refresh their wardrobe without having to buy new clothes,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of the movement. “It’s encouraging people to be more conscious when they’re shopping.”

Instead of constantly buying new clothes, the movement suggested people buy from vintage stores, make new clothes out of old ones or just swap clothes. Fashion Revolution Week will take place April 18-24 and participants are encouraged to upload their “haulternative” videos this year as well.

Some companies are experimenting with new ideas. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The 30-year-sweatshirt by Tom Cridland is an example.

San Francisco was aware of this problem in 2002 — and pledged a goal of reaching zero waste by 2020 by encouraging the recycling of clothes, shoes and linen.

“I think for clothing, because we’re a consumer culture, it’s hard for me to say don’t buy anything,” Lewis says. “We can probably slow down how much we buy.”

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Global Inequality in Photos – Action 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals

To coincide with this week’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York, where the Sustainable Development Goals will be finalised, an NGO-based movement called ‘Action 2015’ has gathered a collection of beautiful photographs demonstrating the vast gaps in equality that persist across the world. The aim is to draw attention to the universality of this problem, to caution against replicating the Millennium Development Goals (which many countries have fallen short on. Check out the rest of the project here, and don’t forget to add your name to the Action 2015 campaign, find an event near you and join their social media project#lighttheway!

 

Sebastião Salgado:

“My images of the Awá, a nomadic hunter-gatherer tribe of the north-eastern Brazilian Amazon, reveal the devastating consequences of deforestation and shed light on the lives of the Awá, who have become known as Earth’s most threatened tribe. Pictured: The tracks of the illegal loggers go deep into the forest – Awá territory. These tracks are then used by illegal farmers who transform the forest into pasture for the cattle ranching.”

 

The son of Piraima’a in his father’s arms. Awá fathers are very close to their children.

Tanya Habjouqa:

The images of occupation – such as the ubiquitous photographs of veiled women herded into checkpoints – have lost their visual impact and explain only so much. There is much more here to humanise. Pictured: Members of the Gaza Parkour free-running team practise in a cemetery on the outskirts of their refugee camp in Khan Younis, Gaza. The walls show damage from past Israeli incursions, but this doesn’t stop the team from training.

 

Teenage girls in Ramallah try on dresses for a dance. Since they were children, all they have known is occupation but, despite that, they are not defined by that and refuse to let it be so.

Mona Ennab, a ‘Speed Sister’ from Ramallah, trains with colleague Noor Daoud at the Qalandia checkpoint during Iftar in Ramadan. Open spaces for practising racing are limited in the West Bank.

 

 

#Freedom2Me

In celebration of the end of World War Two 70 years ago, the Anne Frank House have launched a fascinating social media campaign called ‘Freedom 2 Me’. Since then, governments, policy-makers, international institutions and civil society around the world has struggled with some horrific examples of human freedoms being curtailed, and basic human rights ignored.

Can we truly say we have let go of the barbaric methods of the past, when modern day slavery, gender discrimination, sexual crimes, war crimes, torture and a multitude of other horrors are still very much a reality in our world?

This campaign is asking us to share what the idea of freedom means to us – as individuals or as a collective of humans.

What does freedom even mean? Is freedom defined the same way in every country? Do some people have more freedoms than others? It seems like a lot of people take freedom for granted. Not everybody in the world is free. In what way are you limited in your freedom and what kind of freedom would you wish for the future?

Share these ideas via social media – through their Facebook page, and on your own social media with the hashtag ‘#Freedom2Me’. Here’s mine!

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African Myths, Busted

We’re all guilty of some stereotypes about Africa – I’ve never been there and I can assure you I have my own, mostly based on literature and my academic interests in development studies. That’s not the problem, but we should ask ourselves why. This powerful video confronts them spectacularly and challenges many of the most common ones.

I’m surprised so many ridiculous myths about what Africans live, work and play like are so powerful, and so monochromatic.

For a continent the size of the US, China, India, Japan, Eastern Europe, UK and eight other European countries combined, the fact that there are still only a handful of images of its life and people is outrageous.

 

I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking video and its message. It’s high time we started a proper series of conversations about why we are painting an entire continent with one stereotype (and let’s not shy away from the racism inherent in all of these assumptions) and thinking nothing of it.

Earth Day 2015

In honour of Earth Day, here’s a video showing the beauty in our natural world. Incredible!

Greenpeace released this important and moving video about what we truly ‘need’ – clean air, safe water, protected rainforests and biodiversity. Take a look:

This is also another important video from the Gaia Foundation, about how our modern consumption is taking a severe toll on the sustainability of this incredible planet.

Earth Day is a special occasion for us to stop and think about the beauty of the natural world, take it all in and to think long and hard about how we can preserve it for future generations. Small everyday acts of kindness towards our planet, each other and to the millions of species we co-exist with can help us preserve scenes like the ones we’ve just seen for generations to come. There are thousands of ways to take part in Earth Day and adopt new lifestyle practices. Have a look at the Earth Day Network’s page for some inspiration. Greenpeace is also a great resource. I’m going to enjoy the beautiful sunshine in Budapest today and take time to appreciate the natural beauty around me. Happy Earth Day!

I also came across this excellent article on HuffPost, about new ways to mitigate against climate change, and the new voices in the debate:

Training a Global Force of Climate Visionaries

Global climate disruption caused by human-generated carbon pollution is among the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, full stop. Now, more than ever, the global community is beginning to recognize the scope and scale of the climate crisis. And while the vastness of the problem can be daunting, the good news is that the solutions to solve it are right in front of us, in the form of the people we interact with every day.

To be clear, reaching a strong international emissions reductions agreement at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year is a critical step forward in halting global climate change. But the truth is that the power to act isn’t an exclusive right reserved by world leaders. People all over the world — in different countries, with different political ideologies and occupying different places in society — are realizing their power and taking action designed to change the politics of climate change and to support the transition to a clean-energy economy.

At the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, we seek to find these great leaders and make them exceptional, transforming them into agents of change with the knowledge, tools and drive to communicate effectively around climate-change impacts and solutions. Our Climate Reality Leaders range from teachers to businesspeople to pastors, but they share a common understanding of the urgency of climate action and a desire to become warriors on the front lines of the fight against climate change. Their work is evident everywhere, from family dinners to international summits.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps — a dynamic group of thousands of world-changers shaping the climate conversation — began humbly: in 2006, former U.S. Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore invited 50 people to join him in the Tennessee countryside to learn how best to explain global warming to their friends, colleagues, and peers. Since then, Climate Reality has honed and refined the model for larger international audiences; today, trainings are intensive two- or three-day programs all over the world that feature a blend of educational presentations, collaborative workshops, and ample networking time for attendees to get to know each other.

To date, Climate Reality has held 27 trainings around the world, training a global network of more than 7,500 activists from 125 countries. Each training focuses on the issues and solutions most relevant to the region: in Rio de Janeiro, indigenous leader Mayalú Kokometi Waurá Txucarramãe shared the devastating effects of deforestation, while in New Delhi, Sanjit Bunker Roy talked about his Barefoot College program, which trains illiterate rural grandmothers to install solar panels. At the upcoming training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, speakers will delve into the impacts of climate change on the U.S. agricultural economy and the public-health implications of climate change, all in the context of the state’s significance in U.S. politics.

Climate Reality Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, with as many reasons for taking action. Former engineer Terry Gallagher — who will be a Climate Reality Mentor at our upcoming Iowa training — is now an ordained minister focused on faith-based social-justice action, advocacy and education, who uses his ministry as a forum for helping people engage in responding to climate change. Carol LeBlanc, an IT manager who works with the U.S. federal government, recognized the immediacy of climate change when her former Colorado Springs neighborhood was swallowed by wildfires in 2012.

Exactly because of their diversity of backgrounds, Climate Reality Leaders find the trainings to be highly personal experiences. This is reinforced in part because trainees work closely with Climate Reality Mentors throughout the process — people who have been through the trainings and use what they have learned to guide the next batch of Climate Reality Leaders.

Learning in this way — through intensive, hands-on experiences that can then be shared — not only encompasses the philosophy of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, it also offers a model for broad and systemic societal change, which is critical to solving the global climate crisis.

This post is part of a Huffington Post What’s Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference — whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.

The Atlas of Beauty

I came across a wonderful photography project today – The Atlas of Beauty by Michaela Noroc.

Michaela is a Romanian photographer who has travelled around the world to capture the true faces of female beauty in all its forms. Through this, she aims to showcase the diversity of beauty in our world.

I see many young people trying to be somebody else, to copy global trends, instead of being themselves, keeping their unique genes and cultural background. There is a lot of pressure to look in a certain way, and my message is that an original is always better than a copy.

The inspiration for this came from a recent trip to Ethiopia.

I realised that beauty is about being different, yourself and keeping your cultural heritage.

In this album, I will regularly add interesting faces that I met by chance, on the street. Because The Atlas of Beauty means also images captured in few second with women from all around the world, in their everyday life.

So without further ado, here are the photos. Be sure to check out her wonderful Instagram and Facebook pages! All photos come from Michaela’s Facebook page.

The idea of The Atlas of Beauty was born two years ago. Then, in August 2013 I started a long trip with some savings gathered in a few years and my backpack.

I wanted to go round the world and capture natural and authentic feminine beauty.

Initially, the project was called Beauty Around the World, but then I changed it to The Atlas of Beauty, a name that expresses better the idea of doing for the first time ever, an encyclopedia of feminine faces and cultural diversity of the world.

In November 2014 I returned from my trip around the planet, after 15 months of searching, with a portfolio full of images, but with empty pockets. Now I am in Bucharest and I’m trying to raise funds to go on a new journey in the summer.

Each advice, suggestion, promotion, share can help me make new images.

Medellin, Colombia

Colca Valley, Peru

Los Angeles, US

Jakarta, Indonesia

Bagan, Burma

Ethiopia

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Singapore

Ecuador

Maramures, Romania

Mawlamyine, Burma

Havana, Cuba

We live in a diverse world and there’s beauty everywhere. A few months ago I entered in the amazonian jungle of Ecuador to capture images for The Atlas of Beauty. In a Kichwa tribe, with hundreds of years old rules, I found a very expressive young woman. She dressed in her wedding dress (yes, this is her marriage outfit) that she used when she was 15 years old (yes, people from this tribe may get married at that age) and let me take her some photos in her courtyard. Actually, in Amazonia all the jungle can be your courtyard.

Tibetan woman in Xiahe, China

I met Maria Jose last year in the driest place on earth: the Atacama Desert in Chile. She was traveling with a backpack, sleeping in a tent, making all kinds of ornaments of paper, which she was selling. In Latin America I met a lot of people who had this lifestyle for many years, not being part of the classical way of living in a society. Maria Jose is a student yet and enjoys the freedom of this independent journeys, only on vacations. She’s from Venezuela, but moved with her family since few years ago, in Chile. Maria Jose from Venezuela, in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

There is a place in Ecuador where most men have long hair to their waist and women wear traditional clothes with pleasure. Although it is a prosperous city with modern influences, in Otavalo the old habits haven’t died and the indigenous population has plenty of traditions to be proud with. In a world of globalisation, where more and more women tend to behave and dress the same, it’s nice to see that there is still diversity, that there are still young women who proudly assumes their origins and keep their traditions. I dream to discover in the future more places like this, with The Atlas of Beauty, and to show that diversity is a treasure that we mustn’t lose. The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc/ Diana in Otavalo, Ecuador

In Myanmar I met the most serene and generous people. Maybe it comes from buddhism or maybe it’s the peace that everyone enjoys after long years of dictatorship and violent conflicts. I tried to bring this gentle atmosphere in The Atlas of Beauty, photographing Yu Kyi in one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world. For The Atlas of Beauty any share is a chance to grow and continue. The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc/ Yu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar

The Peruvian women from the Andes Mountains walk proud in their traditional clothes. I would have stayed for hours to admire the fine details of Calla’s dress, but I had to photograph her before the night would spread out over the beautiful landscapes at nearly 4,000 meters. The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc/ Calla in Colca Valley, Peru

I think true feminine beauty means assuming your origins and enjoying elements from your culture, things that make you different. In other words, beauty is diversity.

Tim Jackson on the Economics of Climate Change

I came across this incredible TED talk by Tim Jackson, the environmental economist, on how shifting the way we think about growth and prosperity could help us navigate the realities of climate change. It’s a brilliant summary of the moral and economic dilemmas facing the climate change debate and it’s also highly thought-provoking.

I am a huge admirer of Jackson’s work and if you enjoyed this talk, I recommend his fantastic book ‘Prosperity Without Growth‘ and his work with RESOLVE. You can read the book on an e-reader but there’s also a summary PDF here.