My Sustainability Leadership Opportunity _ Chapter I

Having to think about my own personal Sustainability Leadership opportunity has given me the chance to consider the impact of the Postgraduate in Sustainability Value Chain had in my life. In fact, the opportunity for change and personal leadership came during a chat in front of a glass of wine (water for me!) at the second workshop. During the evening, a classmate congratulated on me for my contributions to a Sustainability Facebook Group I had made her part of. I had been sharing any good and interesting article on sustainability-related topics I had read touching upon a wide variety of issues such as food waste, climate change, renewable energy, sustainable fashion, etc. We started discussing how important communication for sustainability is and how even sustainability professionals may have a partial view of such a vast subject. I also mentioned how I loved that Facebook Group as I was finding it difficult to engage with my friends and families on sustainability-related topics.
Once back home I considered the idea of duplicating my posts sharing them with my circle of friends too. What I realised was that not all the posts were suitable for a less engaged and knowledgeable audience though. Moreover, most of the articles did focus on presenting a sustainability challenge/issue but did not offer guidance on how to solve them. I started thinking about how to communicate with my friends or people that were not operating in the sustainability space in a way that was going to be engaging, increase their knowledge on sustainability-related topics and inspire them to make better-informed choices and progressively move to a more sustainable lifestyle. My first sustainability leadership opportunity started when I decided to start a blog to engage a wider public and be an active change agent in driving the cultural change that is pivotal to make the planet a better place for us, our children and future generations. I have been blogging for almost a year (started in April 2018), and even though at times I struggle to keep up with what can be considered a side activity to my work, I make sure I write every two weeks I publish a blog post.
For those that want to follow the blog that I co-author, here the details:
http://www.sustainabilitylifestyleconsultant.com
You can find us also on Facebook @SustainLifeCon; Twitter: https://twitter.com/SustainLifeCon Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sustainablelifestyleconsultant/

Here one of my last posts on the SDGs:

https://www.sustainablelifestyleconsultant.com/blog-2/2019/2/7/09cx74k2qy34f7fn50fsgdf5fsj6al

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

#WhoMadeMyClothes by Fashion Revolution: how to engage consumers and make them ask for transparency in the Fashion Industry

I am Italian and one could say that Fashion should be in my DNA. Despite the fact that I had a “fashion-frugal” youth –  made worse by the fact that my twin sister and I shared the same wardrobe –  in my 30s I indeed spent quite a lot of money in designers’ brands. I was not the stylish, trendy, shopaholic fashionista, but I have always been attracted by the creativity and originality of designers and drawn to beautifully crafted clothes and accessories. While working in the fashion industry, I had the opportunity to appreciate the art and craftsmanship that goes into a luxury designer collection and the incredible hard work and long preparation behind a 20 minutes fashion show, but I also discovered that the fashion and apparel industry represents one of the world’s most polluting and labour intense activities. As my knowledge about this issue increased, I progressively reduced my wardrobe and started examining brands’ social and environmental profile. I soon discovered that information is generally scarce and often partial both for luxury and fast fashion brands. While coming to terms with the lack of transparency, I discovered the activities of Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit global organization that campaigns for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. 

Credit: Fashion Revolution Facebook page

Fashion Revolution’s main social media campaign, under the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes, takes place all around the world every year in April and encourages consumers to use their voice and purchasing power to transform the fashion industry. This year’s campaign saw over 275 million people engage with Fashion Revolution through events, posting on social media, viewing videos or downloading resources from the website. Its hashtags, including #WhoMadeMyClothes, reached 720m impressions an increase of 35% on the previous year. There was significant global media coverage and 3838 brands responded to the campaign using the #IMadeYourClothes hashtag.

Credit: fashionrevolution.org

Here I list the four key elements that in my view made this social media campaign so powerful and successful:

  1. Collaborative activism. Fashion Revolution calls for a fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry but tend to avoid negative protesting and “naming and shaming”. It does not target specific companies and does not promote boycotting. This way the campaign advocates a form of activism that is resolute but not confrontational, and therefore able to engage a wider audience. 
  2.  Enhanced agency. Phrases such as “When you demand, they listen”, “Your voice does make a difference”, “As consumers, our questions, our voices, our shopping habits can have the power to help change things for the better”, are powerful and resonate with consumers because they envisage successful change. Rather than making people feel guilty, Fashion Revolution works to show consumers that they have the power to make a positive change.
  3. Personal angle. The tagline #WhoMadeMyClothes is memorable and powerful because it is personal and puts consumers at the heart of the campaign. 
  4. Activism made easy. Citizen activism is on the rise with social media representing the ideal medium to reach people all around the world and mobilise them behind a cause. But being successful and cut through the noise is hard. Fashion Revolution has prepared the campaign superbly well with templates, posters and clear instructions on how to join in. 

On Fashion Revolution: Fashion Revolution is an amazing organization that campaigns for a more transparent industry. Fashion Revolution was started by two remarkable women, Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro as a reaction to Rana Plaza. In just 5 years, the movement has grown to span over 100 countries and to reach millions of people. For more info: https://www.fashionrevolution.org  

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ceri-heathcote/carry-somers-fashion-revolution_b_9648732.html

Further reading on Fashion and Sustainability

Reports:

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/the-state-of-fashion-2018

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/A-New-Textiles-Economy_Full-Report.pdf

In the news:

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/14/sustainable-apparel-coalition-factory-environment-water-textiles

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/28/stella-mccartney-calls-for-overhaul-of-incredibly-wasteful-fashion-industry

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/29/fast-fashion-giving-way-sustainable-wardrobe

https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/dec/31/fashion-watershed-year-moves-from-waste-woke-sustainable

Our Children, our Future: Education for sustainability in five exquisite and thought-provoking books

Image by Oliver Jeffers at http://www.oliverjeffers.com

“Children are our most valuable resource.” — Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States

In this blog, I am at trying to raise awareness around sustainability issues and inspire changes in human behaviour, towards ways of living that are ecologically, economically, socially, and personally more sustainable. Within this scope, a special role is played by education for sustainability to young children. We believe that our children need the knowledge and skills to understand the problems we are facing to be able to take actions to resolve them. Young children are very receptive. They understand the beauty and magic of Nature and can easily grasp the interconnectedness between ourselves and our environment. They are responsive and empathic, and spontaneously relate to other people’s lives. By engaging them and transferring relevant information we can help them embrace positive attitude and become advocates of a more responsible and respectful relationship with our planet and society.

With the Winter Holidays break fast approaching, I thought of suggesting stories and books that caught my attention for their important messages and the ability to convey them in an engaging and entertaining way. In this episode, I want focus on books for young children.

1.     The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

This is an enchanting tale with environmental themes and beautiful illustrations that become more vibrant as the garden blooms. Liam, the city gardener is a really wonderful character. The garden taking over the previously lifeless city and the change from a grey and depressing urban wasteland to a blooming, green metropolis is in many ways truly magical and inspiring. 

2.     Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

This book by the renewed illustrator and children’s author Oliver Jeffers, is a fantastic read to make us all think about how remarkable the Earth really is. “The big globe, floating in space, on which we live,” as Jeffers puts it, is a delicate ecosystem, home to many billions of people and animals, which we should take care of.  It is a beautiful, heart-warming book that contains an important message – to be kind, and take care of the Earth, as it really is all we have.

3.     Tidy by Emily Gravett

Tidy is the story of a badger, Pete, that likes everything to be neat and tidy at all times, but whose overenthusiastic neatness ends with the complete destruction of the forest! Gravett delivers the message of environmental preservation with subtlety and humour and it is the perfect book for reading aloud thanks to the funny rhyming.

4.     We Planted A Tree by Diane Muldrow

In this simple poem illustrated by award winner Bob Staake, two young families in two very different parts of the world plant a tree. As the trees flourish, so do the families, while trees all over the world help clean the air, enrich the soil, and give fruit and shade.

5.     Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt and Vin Vogel

Filled with colourful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons of friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others. The bright, friendly illustrations soften the topic while still conveying the characters’ difficult feelings, such as worry and embarrassment. A thoughtful and well-executed look at the challenge of childhood hunger.

Flexitarian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Omnivore: Food habits have an impact on climate change

The latest annual food and drink report published by the supermarket chain Waitrose on November 1 (Vegan Day) revealed that one in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan, with a further 21% that claim to be flexitarian (i.e. having a largely vegetable-based diet that is supplemented occasionally with meat). About 60% of vegans and 40% of vegetarians surveyed said they had adopted the lifestyle over the past five years, with 55% citing animal welfare concerns, 45% health reasons and 38% environmental issues. The report comes as food choices assume an increasingly important role in the debate over countering climate change. A recent study by the University of Oxford, in fact, suggests that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. Another study conducted by Carbon Trust revealed that each person in the UK has an annual carbon footprint (1) of 11 tonnes of CO2 and equivalent (CO2e) and about a fifth of the average personal carbon footprint comes from food. To understand the carbon emissions from food production, all the carbon-emitting processes that occur as a result of getting food from the field to our plates need to be considered:

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

·       Production: Farms generate a large proportion of the emissions from food production as a result of processes including deforestation, fertiliser production and use, and livestock management.

·       Origin: Transporting food around and storing it generates emissions. However, this activity also has the potential to make the food industry more efficient and cost-effective by providing food where and when it is required.

·       Seasonality: Growing food out of season, either in the UK or overseas, can be a high-carbon method of production. Seasonal food tends to have a lower carbon footprint.

·       Home care: Food waste in the home directly increases emissions as extra food production and expense is required in order to replace wasted food.

When considering the above processes there are few simple actions that can be taken and have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions:

1.    Less and better: By cutting meat consumption from 100 grams of meat a day to less than 50 grams a day, the food-related emissions would fall by a third. That would save almost a tonne of CO2 each year, about as much as an economy return flight between London and New York. Pasture-raised animal products are often more expensive than the conventional, but have a lower footprint. The best choice is to buy organic, pastured-raised meat. Dairy is often forgotten but it also has a significant carbon footprint. According to a recent report by the UN’S Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, the production of milk and dairy products accounts for 2.7 per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Reducing milk and dairy products and choosing organic contribute to CO2 reduction.

2.    Look for local and seasonal. Buying local produce means that transportation is minimised and therefore its carbon footprint is. By purchasing seasonal products, emissions related to long-distance sourcing are avoided as well.

3.     Plan your meals. An estimated 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in 2015 in the UK according to WRAP. Planning meals, buying less and more frequently can help reduce food waste and therefore the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production and transport.

For further reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars; https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-03/Food_in_a_warming_world_report.PDF; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

For vegan and vegetarian recipes: https://www.101cookbooks.com; https://www.tinnedtomatoes.com