Thursday, August 27, 2009

* Environment * Ethical living The Observer Ethical Awards 2009: Natural selection

Welcome to the launch of the Observer Ethical Awards 2009, in association with Ecover. Ethical issues have been variously pitched as cool, transformed, rebranded and even normal (praise indeed given their former tie-dye/wind-chime hugging roots). This is all absolutely valid, but for our fourth awards, I'd like to pitch the ethical outlook as being simply vital.

Inevitably, given the current fiscal climate (politely described as "challenging"), some leaders and big businesses will try to weasel out of environmental and social justice commitment or scale back previously "ambitious" plans to become low carbon. If you like, this is the opposite of greenwashing but just as pernicious.

The best defence against such weaseling, when commitment to a better planet is more important than ever, is mass engagement and enthusiasm for new and better ideas, campaigners and their projects. And the Observer Ethical Awards are all about enthusiasm. Each year this is reflected in the fact that you vote in your thousands for the people and ideas you think make a real difference.

The judging panel is made up of the UK's top environmental and sustainability experts and some extremely well-known faces. Even when our judges are primarily famous for something else - say, acting in Hollywood blockbusters or writing the Booker prize winner - they are well versed in and passionate about a range of ethical issues from fairtrade and organic farming to low-carbon technologies. This is necessary because, going on previous years, victories are hard won and debate is fierce.

This is part of the reason why past award winners continue to set a new ethical agenda across the country, and even across the world. In June at the Awards party in central London, Annie Lennox presented the award for Conservation Project of the Year to a group of retired islanders who had set up the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (Coast). By September this same group had persuaded the Scottish government to create Scotland's first-ever No-Take Zone in Lamlash Bay on the Isle of Arran - decisive action that positively changes the outlook for future generations of fish and islanders. Vital action, you might say.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

5 Cheap & Easy Ways to Green Your Wardrobe

Written by Yuka Yoneda

As Inhabitat’s fashion editor, I spend a lot of time (yes, a tad bit little longer than is required for my job) perusing through seriously crave-worthy fashions, from the frilly and ethereal, to the haunting and hardcore. That being said, looking at all of these beautiful clothes can be very bittersweet when you’re working with a less than rockstar budget. In fact, one of the biggest complaints I hear about ethical and eco-conscious fashion is that it is just too expensive! I definitely acknowledge the fact that buying a lot of these labels is not cheap, but you have to admit that it makes sense that clothing using the latest and most innovative fabrics and paying fair wages to local people would be more pricey. I try my best to save up and buy my favorite eco-chic pieces when they go on sale to support the cause, but who says you need to spend big bucks to rock a look that is both green and cutting edge? Here are 5 easy and supercheap ways to green your wardrobe by using your noggin instead of your benjamins.
5. Flip It and Reverse It

Instead of buying two separate garments, diversify your wardrobe by looking for clothes that are reversible or double duty in some way. Dresses with cute patterns on both the inside and out (like the supercute baby blue number below) are a great example of getting two dresses for the price of one!
4. Call In the Swap Team

Swap meetups are a simple way to score fresh pieces for the new season without actually having to spend money on them. And since you’re basically trading clothing with other people instead of purchasing new, the whole process is very sustainable. If you’re looking for a swap meetup in your area, is a great place to find one (I recommend the Five Borough Clothing Swap Meetup if you are in NYC), or you can always host your own swap party with your friends! Real Simple has a wonderful guide with everything from how to organize your swap party to what to serve.
3. No One Has to Know That It’s the Same Dress!

In the past, fashion has been all about buying new clothes to keep your look fresh and discarding old ones. But why not revamp what you already have by accessorizing wisely? Take a cue from The Uniform Project, a clever and inspirational website that follows the daily fashion adventures of one girl as she recycles the same little black dress into a new creation everyday for a whole year, and use your imagination to make your own wardrobes staples sparkle again.
2. Threadbangers Unite!

This one is a no-brainer. Sewing your own outfits (especially out of reclaimed fabric from clothing you already have) means that you’re saving energy, materials and avoiding unethical labor. We love Threadbanger for ideas about everything from making a stylish slouchy dress out of old t-shirts to crafting a Balenciaga jumper out of scrap fabric. Need patterns? SANS has some simple and elegant ones for as little as $6.
1. Repurpose What You Already Have

Wait - don’t throw that away! Before you discard old clothes or accessories, consider what other ways you may be able to use them. From transforming tank tops that no longer fit into handy grocery bags to repurposing padded bra inserts as shoe insoles, chances are there are some pretty ingenious ways that you can turn your old junk into something you really need and save some cash while you’re at it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Primark protestors urge us to choose ethical fashion NOT fast-fashion

By Bertie Bowen

More than 30 supporters of ethical fashion were at the opening of Primark’s new super store but with 250 crazed shoppers to contend with we hope their message did not fall on deaf ears. The group ‘Labour Behind The Label’ organised the demonstration and their aim was to educate consumers who buy into fast fashion culture and make them stop and think about who may be really paying the price. Affordable clothes are vital but most Primark shoppers are buying more than they need. According to Labour Behind The Label, high street stores such as Primark are exploiting workers and damaging the environment. Workers based in Bangladesh are reportedly paid the equivalent of seven pence an hour for hard labour. With emotive banners, leaflets and songs, protesters urged shoppers to choose ethical fashion instead.

You can buy fashion every week if you wish, but to be environmentally and ethically aware try to buy from second hand shops, vintage markets and, of course ethical fashion brands. Shopping in this way, you can make a long-lasting difference whilst ensuring you are individual and stylish.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

So cool, and so ethical

Not long ago, ethical fashion had an image problem. No one wanted to wear baggy-bottomed Thai fisherman's trousers or an ecru smock top. Unflattering and unappealing, eco-fashion was best left to eco-warriors.
But there has been a definite swing over the past year. Ethical consumerism – from buying products made from recycled or renewable sources to supporting companies that adhere to fair trade principles – is on the rise. It is now cool to care.

So cool in fact, that the latest edition of Vogue has devoted 10 pages to ethical clothing. And London Fashion Week, which starts next week, will include an exhibition space dedicated to 13 ethical labels.

But it's the celebrities behind the movement who are really making a difference. They've made ethical consumerism sexy. One is Bono. Last year, along with his wife, Ali Hewson, and designer Rogan Gregory, he launched Edun, a socially conscious fashion label.

Its clothes are made in locally run factories in Africa, South America and India and the company promotes trade rather than aid. The range is brilliantly designed: this autumn there are beautiful Art Nouveau printed silk dresses, elegant tie-neck chiffon blouses, urban skinny jeans and denim trench coats.

This year Bono also launched Project Red, a collaboration between Armani, Amex, Converse, Motorola and Gap. Each brand markets covetable and ecologically sound products under the Red banner; profits are donated to a fund fighting Aids, malaria and TB in Africa.

Project RED's unofficial face is Scarlett Johansson, who appears in October's issue of Vogue wearing Armani's designs for the charity. The actress told the magazine: "We don't have to live in a teepee and wear a hemp skirt to be conscious about what's going on. Maybe somebody thinks, 'It's cool that she's wearing the Red T-shirt, I'll hop over to Gap and pick one up'."

Gap, which launched the T-shirts in the spring ( parkas, hoodies and jeans will follow) isn't the only store turning out fashionable and ethically produced clothes. Last week saw the launch of Adili, a website devoted to the top 25 ethical fashion labels, including Ciel, Patagonia, HUG and People Tree, which has a concession in Topshop, Oxford Circus.

People Tree has given the movement a boost with Trudie Styler as its new face. It has designed T-shirts in conjunction with Action Aid; 10 per cent of profits will go to help raise Fair Trade awareness in Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Small, independent fashion labels have also furrowed the green path. Brighton-based Enamore sells everything from pretty hand-made kimono tops to delicate hemp knickers ( far more appealing than they sound).

Chic shoes can be found at ethical boutiques such as Terra Plana, which designs shoes with recycled materials. And rather than squeezing into jeans made from cotton cultivated with pesticides, consumers can now choose brands such as Loomstate, whose eco-friendly designer jeans are sold at Harvey Nichols and Urban Outfitters.

Larger companies are catching on. Timberland, which sells eco-friendly footwear made with vegetable tanned leather and recycled rubber soles, is launching a reforestation project – it will plant one tree for each pair of boots sold.

And Marks & Spencer, which recently commissioned a survey that found that 78 per cent of shoppers wanted to know more about the way products were made, has just launched its own Fair Trade line.

Tesco, meanwhile, is to sell a range of organic clothing designed by Katherine Hamnett, a long-time crusader for ethical fashion.

Of course, it can be argued that eco-fashion is an oxymoron. How can eco-friendliness fit with so ephemeral an industry? The most significant progress should perhaps come from consumers: buying less, and more ethically, could be the most ecologically sound way to shop.

Further read the article here