In our ever-more hectic and multi-faceted lives, getting to grips with the most sustainable and ethical lifestyle choices from fashion to food (and beyond) can be a challenge. Sustainability and climate change are growing concerns, taking up more media column inches every day and providing a staggering amount of (sometimes conflicting) information.
As a consequence, eco-anxiety is on the rise, as reported by the BBC and The Independent recently, resulting in a what may sometimes feel like hopelessness and defeat, when in actual fact, the effort of individuals can be a powerful tool for change. The recent Techstyler X DAI panel discussion held at the Dai Performance Space in Marylebone, London, provided insights into a number of initiatives and identified actionable changes that individuals can make to behave more sustainably and reduce their carbon emissions.
Lizzie Rivera, Founder of BICBIM (Because It’s Cool, Because It matters) – a sustainable and ethical Lifestyle Directory – explained that BICBIM had vetted hundreds fashion brands with an extensive questionnaire in order to compile a list of the most ethical and sustainable ones. Many are under the radar brands that would take considerable time for shoppers to unearth, so BICBIM is doing the legwork and asking the crucial questions so consumers don’t have to. The content on BICBIM benefits from Lizzie’s journalistic expertise as a writer for The Independent and other publications, giving her the platform and mandate to ask the tougher questions that consumers might find uncomfortable – like “where do you source your meat from” when ordering food in a restaurant.
Jihea Kim, Founder @ecolifechoices provided snippets of real-life sustainable choices she is making ‘on the ground’ via her Instagram page. Her page presents sustainable lifestyle kits (for example low waste holiday travel kits), along with tips like joining Slow Fashion Season. As a Sustainability and Climate Change Consultant for ‘one of the big four’ accounting firms, she is privy to the research and debate around macro-forces influencing global sustainability and climate change challenges and initiatives. During our preparation call for the panel discussion she explained to me that companies in Europe may sometimes feel as though the burden of ocean plastic waste, for example, is not theirs, given that much of it originates from plastic entering the oceans off the coast of Asian countries. However a ‘bigger picture’ analysis of this situation reveals that exporting plastics from Europe to Asia (and exporting our plastic waste to Asian countries) is an irresponsible practice, given that the industry is Europe is fully aware that Asia does not have adequate facilities to safely and effectively process this plastic waste.
Delia Gadea is an Account Manager at OLIO, which connects neighbours with each other and with local shops and cafes so that surplus food (and other items) can be shared instead of being thrown away. Gadea explained how the power of one user quickly escalates, and in the case of OLIO, it has resulted in 356 tonnes (356,000 kg) of food being saved from waste bins by individuals signing up to the app. They now have a million users active in various countries around the world. Gadea shared tips for how to be an ambassador for OLIO (requiring a couple of hours per week) through to sharing the OLIO story with your colleagues and family – it all helps to push the brand (which has not done any paid marketing and is not profit-making) and help as many people as possible.
David Pepper, Project Lead at Provenance, explained how they help brands and retailers build customer trust through transparency. This, in turn, empowers shoppers to choose products carefully along ethical and sustainable lines. Provenance use blockchain technology to securely store uneditable details about the origin, creation and impact of products and processes, which can be unlocked by consumers via NFC technology with QR codes being scanned easily and quickly. Rather than acting as a certification, it is a platform that powers and facilitates the provision of information by brands (large and small – from Unilever to London-based Mashu, for example) to consumers. Pepper’s work currently involves mapping global supply chains, including for coffee and tea. Provenance’s work highlights the opacity of the supply chain, and often the financial inequality that brings. For example, in the vanilla market, farmers only receive 5-10% of the value of their crop (around 45 cents per kilo, versus the 500 euro price it can command in the global market). Provenance believe transparency is the way to achieve fairer wages and a balance of power in the supply chain.
Quick wins and takeaways from the panel were:
- Tackle one thing at a time until you’ve nailed it as a habit, then move onto the next thing (eg. switching to a reusable coffee cup);
- Commit to free meals/meat free days;
- Only buy second hand clothes;
- Use a reusable water bottle;
- Get a smart meter;
- Wash your clothes at 30 degrees instead of 40 (it reduces energy consumption by 40 percent).
Helpful Tips and Links:
Carbon emissions calculator: WWF Carbon footprint calculator
Energy efficiency tools: Bulb, Smart Meters and General Tips for energy saving at home
Water consumption tools: Water calculator
Fashion Rental: Front Row, HURR, Hire Street
Second-Hand Fashion: Vestiaire Collective, The RealReal, Ebay, DepopC
Food tools: OLIO, and others
Tree planting initiatives: Earth Day, One Tree Planted, London Tree Planting
Trusted Climate change news: World Economic Forum
Fashion sourcing: Common Objective
Circular Economy and Waste news: WRAP, Ellen Macarthur Foundation,
Carbon Footprint Offsetting, Transport emissions summary