Weekly wrap - 18

6 - 12 December, 2021

The festive season is certainly upon us, and we are nearing the end of this crazy year (thank god!).


Like many, I am tired. But I am also feeling super inspired (this newsletter needs a revamp). I am just lacking the motivation.


So I have cut myself some slack, and given myself permission to slow down, and take it easy over the next few weeks. I am also going to take a break from these wraps, in the hope that a break away over Christmas, and the reflection and reset that comes with the New Year, will give me the boost I need to return better in 2021.


How are you ending the year?

So why the picture of cows? Firstly, I love cows. Secondly, this weeks wrap begins by recommending a report that delves into the leather industry's interconnected relationship wth the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. This issue ties in with a couple of articles I came across on how climate change is impacting the sourcing of natural fibres and textiles. I then deviate from this issue, introducing a new study into our attitudes towards solving the climate crisis.

 

Take a read

A new report released last month from Slow Factory and Stand.earth Research Group, "Nowhere to Hide: How the Fashion Industry is linked to Amazon Rainforest Destruction", delves into leathers interconnected relationship wth the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.


The fashion industry is one of two main industries that source leather from the Amazon (the other being the automotive industry). Given this, Stand.earth analysed almost 500,000 rows of customs data, cross referencing these with data from a range of other sources, in order to identify supply chains that linked fashion and shoe brands to the deforestation of the Amazon. While investigations are still ongoing, the research conducted so far have revealed over 400 individual supply chain connections, linking to over 100 brands.


The Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in moderating climate change, as it absorbs carbon dioxide (referred to as a carbon sink), and keeps temperatures stable. However, the forest is being cleared to create land for cows to graze - the "cattle industry is the single largest driver of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and tropical forests globally". Additionally, this deforestation is accounting for almost 2% of global CO2 emissions annually.


So what will create change? The article suggests the following:

  • Introducing regulation of deforestation.

  • Using our voices and voting with our dollar.

  • Better auditing of supply chains, and disclosing of the sources of leather.

  • Focusing on fibre innovations, such as natural and plant based Slowhide, developed by the Slow Factory and researchers at Columbia university and MIT, and Mylo made from mushrooms.


As mentioned in the previous article, looking to alternative materials is just one way in which we can help reduce deforestation, but they will also help lower the fashion industry's (and others) carbon footprint.


Californian firm touts ‘mushroom leather’ as sustainability gamechanger, from The Guardian, examines some of these vegan leather alternatives. In particular, the article focuses on mycelium (or mushroom leather), which is proving not only better for our animals, but the planet also.


What are some of the downsides to leather (aside from the obvious harm to animals)?

  • Leather has a big carbon footprint, with cowhide being a co-product of the beef and cattle industries, which are big greenhouse gas emitters.

  • The livestock industry (as mentioned previously) is a big contributor to deforestation.

  • The processing stage of leather involves “tanning” which can be done using vegetable tannins, however most commonly using chromium. The waste from tanning often ends uo in waterways, posing a major threat to humans and animals.

Why is mushroom leather better?

  • Mushroom leather can be engineered to look and feel like leather, outperforming it on a strength and durability front.

  • Mycelium can be grown to order, with the ability to be grown to a specific size and shape (reducing waste).

  • Mycelium grows quickly (in a matter of weeks) and is infinitely renewable.

  • Mycelium is carbon neutral and chromium free.

However, there is a downside when it comes to the scalability and affordability of these alternatives. It is also important to note that adding hardware, trims and accessories that aren't biodegradable is counterproductive and insensitive to these materials.


The climate threats facing fashion’s favourite natural fibres from Vogue Business highlights the interconnected relationship between climate change and the sourcing of natural fibres and textiles (e.g. cotton, wool, silk).


Unpredictable, unstable and extreme weather patterns as a result of climate change have resulted in shortages of raw materials.


Google’s Global Fibre Impact Explorer, a initiative launched in November in partnership with WWF, will examine this connection, aiming to “identify and assess the environmental risks of 20 different fibres due to factors including air pollution, biodiversity, greenhouse gasses, forestry and water use."


Amongst the 13 new commitments included in the updated UNFCCC Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action coming out of COP26 was a recognition of the need to realign fashion communications. As Vogue Business article Sustainable fashion communication: The new rules highlights, communications must refocus on limiting the global temperatures increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In order to achieve this, the fashion industry must commit to accurate reporting and transparent communication, avoid greenwashing, and be focus on inclusivity in marketing and storytelling.


So how can the industry achieve this?

  • Make rental and resale more accessible and affordable outside city centres.

  • Spotlight positive role models in campaigns.

  • Emphasise the emotional value and durability of clothing.

  • Increase education and up-skill communicators themselves, ensuring that they can clearly answer questions and avoid greenwashing (i.e. recycled polyester still releases microfibres!).

  • Provide more free resources that are available online (Future Learn really is a great example).

  • Incorporate communications teams within the entire process (from start to finish).

  • Ensure reports are transparent and easily digestible.

The article introduces the Futerra Solutions and Ipsos Mori report, Climate fatalism grips young people worldwide while the urgency for solution-oriented media grows, which involved 20,000 people from 27 countries. One interesting finding from the study was the identification of high levels of fatalism concerning climate change among young individuals, with 1/5 of participants under 35 years of age believing that it is too late to fix climate change.


 

Things to keep in mind over the coming weeks

Despite this Christmas still feeling very different for many of us, something that will more than likely continue is our over-consuming ways, and wasting far too much stuff. I get it. Conscious consumption can be tough this time of year. But if we take a little extra time to think about our choices, and make some small changes to our habits, we can make a difference this festive period. So over the next couple of weeks (and beyond) let's try:

  • Simply buying less, as most of us don't need more stuff. Start by taking a look inside your wardrobe, you will be surprised by what you find.

  • Consider buying and gifting secondhand instead of purchasing new. However, there are some guidelines when it comes to gifting preloved, so I recommend taking a read of the recent article from The Guardian Preloved and perfect! The seven essential rules for secondhand presents for some tips.

  • Try to shop small and local, and keep an eye out for transparent brands who consider people and planet throughout their supply chain. Remember, we have the ability to vote with our spending!

  • When it comes to dressing for the party season, choose the sustainable option and try to use clothing that you already own. If you really can’t find anything to wear, ask friends, family, and colleagues, or try looking around secondhand shops.

 

Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment. I would love to know what you have been reading, watching, or listening to this week.


Emma xx

 

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions contained on this site are my own. I am not affiliated with any brands, products, or organisations mentioned, and do not receive any sponsorship, payment, or other compensation for any of the content on this site.

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