Fur, Fashion and Ecocred

www.cbc.ca

A significant increase in fur use within the fashion industry over the last two or so years indicates a departure from the anti-fur and animal rights sentiment and campaigns that characterized much of the green and ethical consumption discussions between the 60’s and 90s. I find this quite interesting given the increasing attention of the world on sustainability and green issues that has been brought about by a greater awareness of environmental degradation, equity, resource scarcity and climate change.

Fur use has a long history spanning from ancient use of fur to current fur use. A (very) brief history would be something like;

  • Necessity where our ancestors killed an animal for necessity i.e. for sustenance (meat) and used the rest of the animal in a sustainable manner such as using the inedible parts of the animal for clothing, tools etc
  • Status symbol: the association of fur and royalty (specifically ermine, mink)
  • This in turn resulted in fur being farmed (1800’s) and becoming a costly luxury item.
  • The development of cheaper options such as dyed and fake fur
  • Anti-fur campaignscommencing in -+ 1960’s (onwards), that resulted in reduced fur use. e.g.
    • PETA was established in 1976 and Lynx in 1980
    • Naomi Campbell and other super models in PETA campaigns
    • Lynx “it takes up 40 dumb animals to make this and only one to wear it” campaign

Fur sales have seen an increase of approximately 70% between 2000- 2010, and fur seems to be de riguer in most winter fashion collections and those in the fashion forward and trend setting scene. In many of instances the fur used is real and not fake, and there seems to be a growing acceptance of fur as a sustainable and natural choice. Considering the speed at which trends spread, especially in the fashion industry, this trend does not bode very well if you happen to be a creature with a beautiful and silky pelt.

In light of the above, given rise in sustainability, environment, green wash,ethical consumption and the fact that fur is a natural “resource” that is being positioned as a benign natural product by the fur industry, I thought it wise to look into the ecocred of fur. Is fur sustainable,green, ethical, equitable and good for us?

These are the issues that I think one should consider;

  • History shows that the fur trade has negative impacts on biodiversity and has resulted in species decline and biodiversity loss. As we know we need to maintain our biodiversity to ensure the provision of ecological services etc
  • Fur and leather are natural, recyclable and reusable.
  • The impact of fur farming includes pollution, waste, habitat loss, loss of biodiversity unethical treatment of animals and is hardly sustainable and or ethical, just like large-scale cattle or sheep farming.

“Compared with textiles, farmed fur has a higher impact on 17 of the 18 environmental themes, including climate change, eutrophication and toxic emissions. In many cases fur scores markedly worse than textiles, with impacts a factor 2 to 28 higher, even when lower-bound values are taken for various links in the production chain. The exception is water depletion: on this impact cotton scores highest.” (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • According to the International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) “Both scientists and governments agree that after more than 100 generations, farmed fur animals are effectively domesticated. In a statement to the Dutch Government in 1999, the Danish Justice Ministry noted that “The farmed mink’s temperament, for instance, has changed from being a nervous, agitated animal fleeing to its nesting cage upon approach of human beings, to now often reacting curious and examining.” Not really sure I like where this train of thought is going…!?
  • A lot of us eat meat, (though hopefully you try to eat free range, local and organic etc to try to reduce the ecological footprint of your meat consumption and be more sustainable), so technically you are involved with the killing of animals as well as habitat loss and loss of biodiversity already. Does this make wearing fur more acceptable, sustainable or ethical?

“ The climate change impact of 1 kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of wool which was the highest-scoring textile” in a study on the textile industry and climate change impacts. (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • Even if you are vegetarian or vegan you are to some degree involved in habitat loss, loss of biodiversity, killing of living things etc unless you are able to grow your own food and verify that there has been no negative ethical or environmental impact arising from your source of food.
  • International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) also states that “the majority of wild species used by the fur trade are not taken specifically for their fur, but as part of wildlife management programmes. These are necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, population and disease control and the protection of public lands and private property. The international fur trade does not handle any endangered species and to this end supports the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • There is also a great deal of evidence of inhumane treatment of animals as part of the fur manufacturing process.

I haven’t covered all the impacts or aspects of fur and I could go on and on and on about the ethics and environmental impacts, some positive, most negative.

My aim is to highlight the fact that it is up to each of us to ensure that we recognize the real impacts of our fashion choices. Personally it’s about necessity, demand and not falling for the green wash that fur is green and sustainable within our current context.

I would rather not add to the demand for something that is not a necessity and also has a significant environmental impact, despite the fact that I love fashion and would love to wear something awesome, soft, warm and beautiful. If I have to keep warm I would prefer to do so with something that has the lowest impact and not something that adds unnecessarily to environmental degradation even if it’s is the height of fashion. If you have to up/ recycle an old, over 20 or 30 years) fur item but don’t add to the needless demand for fur.

Reference and additional readings for the super keen:

History of Fur: http://www.furgifts.com/?p=90

http://www.historytoday.com/carol-dyhouse/skin-deep-fall-fur

IfTF: The Socio-Economic Impact of International Fur Farming www.iftf.com

Marijn Bijleveld, Marisa Korteland, Maartje Sevenster The environmental impact of mink fur production. Delft, CE Delft, January 2011

http://www.oikeuttaelaimille.net/materiaali/esitteet/information%20about%20fur%20farming.pdf

My Latest Green Fail….

…. another post about green that isn’t really green and how we all need to change our thinking and consumption patterns…and yes I am not perfect …..

My previous post on rare earth minerals got me thinking about the fact that transitioning towards a greener and more sustainable economy by focusing on technology, resource and innovation may not necessarily be the best option, especially when:

  • The new and innovative technologies end up increasing our dependence on resources, albeit, new or different ones.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in dependence or impact that is merely dressed up in different possibly green-washed and even organic new swag.
  • The new and innovative technologies result in an increase in unnecessary consumption often due to green wash and unsustainable trends.

Keep in mind that not all new and greener technologies are unsustainable. What is important is the manner in which we make the change to newer technologies, and the quantity and quality of the new technologies that we buy. Merely buying the newest and greenest technology will not make you greener and in fact may make you guilty of unsustainable and unethical consumption patterns.

It is very important that when we make our “green” choices we consider the entire impact and not merely the superficial impact that we would like to see?  Unfortunately, and much to my dismay I am guilty of this in many respects. So I thought as my good deed for the day…..I would share some of my green fails with the hope that I could prevent someone else from going down the same route.

My most recent “goody two-shoes green delusion fails” are;

  • Falling for a new high-tech gadget and upgrading my iPad to the latest version, that isn’t really that different from my previous one? From a functionality perspective I use the new one for exactly the same purpose as the previous one.  The question is did I really need the new one? and was the overall cost of the upgrade really worth it?

Green Pros:

  1. Less paper use and waste by reading eBooks, magazines and online news,
  2. Note taking, report editing and emails on the tablet = less printing of emails and reports and having an easily transportable and accessible library of documents that I need during the day.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use of resources and rare earth metals used to produce, package and transport my new tablet: think ecological footprint etc
  2. The iPad 3 has a higher carbon footprint that the iPad 2. (http://ecolibris.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-green-is-new-ipad-part-6-comparing.html#)
  3. Waste: landfill / recycling and disposal costs associated with the previous tablet. (though, I did try to offset this cost by up-cycling  the old tablet)

  • Green Retail Therapy: I recently bought a whole new batch of solar fairy lights and garden lights. The new solar fairy and garden lights were marketed as being greener than the previous generation of solar lights etc.  … so despite that fact that I already have a few pretty solar fairy lights twinkling away in my little garden and the fact that I don’t need more lights in my garden, I bought some more.

Green Pros:

  1. At least I didn’t buy conventional fairy lights that would increase my use of electricity generated from coal.

Green Cons:

  1. Unnecessary use and waste of resources that were used to produce, package and transport my new ”green” lighting.

Ultimately, these two examples are a large-scale green fail on my part that has sent my ecocred plummeting, despite the fact that I didn’t send the old iPad or fairy lights to a landfill.

I didn’t really need a new tablet to do exactly the same things that my previous tablet did. Neither did I need additional fairy lights., …even if they were solar-powered and therefore greener than conventional lights.

I was just a greedy little wannabe wanting to have the newest and shiniest gadgets. Gadgets, that are being marketed as green, that maybe a bit faster, prettier etc , yet barely have enough new features to outweigh the environmental and social costs of the new gadget or technology.

Not everything that is green is sustainable!

Additional reading to up your ecocred!

Five things you should know before buying apples iPad.

How green is the new iPad?

Supermarket Refrigeration, Carbon Emissions, Climate Change & A Poll!

How often do you walk into the fresh food section of your favourite (or not) supermarket and wish you had brought along a snowsuit or at least a jersey… More often than not my entrance to the refrigerated product section while grocery shopping makes me want to turn around and run. The refrigerated product section tends to be rather chilly…. maybe too chilly sometimes. I understand the need to ensure constant low temperatures in the food chain/ management process etc etc, however, one needs to consider the costs involved with maintaining low temperatures for such large open areas. This is particularly the case when the entire refrigerated food section of a shop is cooled and the fridges are door less. Surely the simple action of installing doors on supermarket fridges would reduce the need to cool entire sections of supermarkets while also reducing cooling costs and associated emissions?

Some interesting facts about supermarket refrigeration and emissions are;

  • Chemicals released by fridges account for 30% of British supermarkets’ direct emissions (www.gaurdian.co.uk)
  • There is concern about the use of damaging HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) gases as coolants which were introduced in the 1990s as a safer alternative to ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). (www.chillingfacts.uk.org)
  • Supermarkets are the biggest industrial emitters of HFCs, which do not damage the ozone layer but have a high global warming potential.
  • One tonne of the widely used gas called R404a has a warming effect equal to 3,900 tonnes of CO2 over a 100-year period. (www.gaurdian.co.uk)

Issues such as financial costs, emissions and environmental costs all need to be considered and mitigated particularly now, due to the need to respond to the effects and impacts of resource scarcity, climate change and environmental degradation. Many supermarkets and refrigeration companies are working towards reducing the use of technology and substances that emit green house gasses. However, the move towards efficient, sustainable and climate friendly refrigeration solutions for supermarkets seems to be quite slow and I have been wondering why it is that most supermarkets still have open, door less fridges? I do realize that some supermarkets are actively (or in certain instances slowly) working towards using less harmful refrigeration systems is it not easier to simply place glass/ transparent doors on fridges in the interim? That way shoppers can see what is inside the fridge’s while the supermarket maintains appropriate temperatures and reduces cooling costs and emission. There is also the option of motion sensitive automatic doors on fridges? Are door less fridges not being used because:

  • Manufactures don’t make large fridges with doors?
  • Cost involved with doors on fridges?
  • Supermarkets are scared that consumers will buy less if they have to open a door? Or if there is a glass door between the food and the consumer? Supermarkets therefore opt to provide lazy shoppers with the easiest option?
  • Shoppers are perceived as being too lazy to open a door?
  • Germ transfer from door handles are seen as a problem?

So I thought it would be a good idea to see how many people think doors on supermarket fridges are a viable interim measure for supermarkets to adopt until we are able to have more efficient and sustainable cooling systems in all our supermarkets.

Please humor me and take this poll so that we are able to determine whether or not asking supermarkets to install doors on their fridges is a viable option!!

  

 

References and additional reading for the super enthusiastic: 

Woolworths SA

The Gaurdian UK (article)

EPEE Global

Chilling Facts UK

http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/produkte-e/fckw/massnahmen.htm

http://www.agreenerfestival.com/2010/02/chilling-facts-%e2%80%93-supermarkets-fridges-more-damaging-than-plastic-bags/

http://www.developmentchannel.org/environment/energy/973-supermarket-fridges-hazardous-to-environment-study http://www.eia-international.org/ http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=grocery.sb_grocery

Victoria’s (Green Wash) Secret Highlights Why If You Want To Be An Angel You Need To Act Like One!

In the latest we didn’t know but we will be looking in to it story the Victoria’s Secret “Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women. Good for the children that depend on them.” range has been exposed for using cotton that is not so good to children and not really Fair Trade. (For more information on this please click on the links at the bottom of this post!)

Victoria’s Secret LTD thought they were sourcing fair trade cotton… and so they thought they were being good global citizens…. As did the Victoria’s Secret die-hards (and a few not so die-hards) who thought that by wearing the Victoria’s Secret undies (and other little bits of lace and stuff) they would not only transformed into looking like a Victoria Secret Angel… but also be doing quite an angelic deed.

So where does the blame lie? Does the blame lie solely with Victoria’s Secret LTD? Or with the fair trade certifying body? Or the consumer? Things to consider when buying / consuming …

  • Paying premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has — perversely — created fresh incentives for exploitation (www.bloomberg.com). This applies to most areas where there has been a realization that there are profits to be made in the next big thing…greening, green wash… etc
  • A consumer cannot abdicate ethical, moral, green decision-making by leaving the “big, green, ethical” issues for fair trade certifying bodies, multinational organizations, politicians etc.
  • Just as not all that glitters is gold… not all that is labeled green/ good/ ethical etc is green, good or ethical.
  • Don’t be a gullible consumer.

The same principle applies to carbon credits, the green economy and the climate change COP17 discussions etc Just because the politicians, leaders etc fly around the world and meet to discuss things like emissions reductions, sustainable development and the green economy transition it does not mean that they are in fact guiding us towards a more equitable and sustainable future. We each have a role to play and leaving the big decisions to the worlds “leaders” is not going to get us any closer to an equitable and sustainable future.

Additional reading:

What Is Victoria’s Secret? Actually, It’s Child Labor

Victoria’s Secret to probe child labor claims

Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking

Touch Lightly This November: Three Easy Things You Can Do To Increase Your ECOCRED

Closet waiting to be recycled!

The following is a list of quick easy and good green things you can do this November that will contribute towards reducing your/our impact on our planet and saving you some money.

1. For the book-worms, you could go paperless and start reading ebooks (if you haven’t already). For those who say that the whole thing about reading a book is holding it and smelling it etc… I say try something new for the planet… I used to be one of those who needed a proper book to read from, however I gave ebooks (kindle iPad app and apple bookshelf app) a shot and found that the benefits are great and include:

.

  • Never losing your page. Whenever you reopen the book/file you will automatically find yourself where you left off. No need for bookmarks, dog-eared books and forgetting your spot.
  • The Kindle app has a thesaurus. This is great, even bespectacled book-worm like me (sometimes) need to check the meaning of words
  • You can highlight phrases and sections without permanently damaging the book and you can see what phrases etc that other readers have found interesting and highlighted.
  • You can have all your books with you are the same time without having to lug an entire library around with you. This is particularly great for travel!! And also for reference and when you forgets parts of stories.
  • Ebooks are often cheaper than “real” books.
  • you could also recycle all your old books and donate them to a library, charity or educational facility.

2. Recycle yours and other’s wardrobe’s. You do not always have to buy a new pair of shoes, item of clothing or jewelry. Simple changes in your wardrobe and fashion related buying habits can save a great deal of resources, energy and emissions etc. A few tips are:

Vintage Jewelry

  • Re-sole and re-heel your old pair of favorite shoes. I often get really upset when an old favorite pair of shoes starts to look a little worn or old or needs a new heel etc. Until I found a really good shoe repair place. I have just recently had one of my wardrobe staples re-heeled and re-soled and they are back to perfect and I didn’t have to worry about having them replaced!
  • Old jeans can be cut to make shorts or bermudas.
  • Maxi dresses can be hemmed or cut and turned into shorter summer dresses.
  • Shirts can be taken in or modified to suit the new season trends.
  • T-shirts can be dyed, tailored, and tweaked with the help of lace, glitter and paint (lead free of course) etc
  • Scarves can be used to accessorize outfits and change looks
  • Raid your aunt’s, uncle’s, mother’s, mother in-law’s, granny’s, sister’s wardrobes and jewelry boxes for vintage pieces that can be used to add a bit of flair to your wardrobe. I have found many a gem in my mother’s and mother-in law’s wardrobe!

3. Instead of buying fresh flowers to brighten up your office or home grow your own flowers. Cut flowers even though regarded as “natural” have a significant impact on the environment. One has to look at cut flowers from a holistic perspective and consider things such:

Roses

  • Carbon and ecological footprint of the cut flower industry
  • Water use for growing and storing the flowers
  • Costs and emissions associated with the refrigeration and transport of the flowers.
  • Costs associated with maintaining the optimal temperature for the growth of the flowers (if grown in hothouses)
  • The use of Genetically Modified seed
  • The reduction of biodiversity in areas that grow the flowers often in mono-culture fields or hot houses etc.

However, one should also bear in mind that the cut flower industry does in fact provide employment and economic benefits to the areas in which the flowers are grown. As a result the issue is not the kill the industry but rather to nudge the industry towards greener production methods. So until the cut flower industry is able to reduce its negative impact on the environment you could reduce your consumption of cut flowers by the following:

  • Grow your own indigenous flowers and use the flowers to make your own flower arrangements. The indigenous flowers in your window box or garden will use less water and attract pollinators as well as increase the biodiversity of the area.
  • Grow your own indigenous plants and have statement pot plants placed strategically throughout your home or office. The indigenous plants will also contribute to the biodiversity of the area while creating an aesthetically pleasing focal point.

    Indigenous Austrailian Flowers

Getting you hands dirty by growing plants and gardening is also a great and cost-effective way to de-stress and get/ stay in touch with the nature.

Have a great November!

Integrated Urban Design, Densification and Sustainability

A real "Green Building"

Resource scarcity, urbanization, environmental degradation and climate change all combine to make the provision of housing, resources, infrastructure and services to the world’s population increasingly costly and difficult. The issue is further compounded the unsustainable urban environments in which most urban dwellers live. Most urban environments are characterized by sprawling urban environments that require high levels of energy inputs to live and work in.  Examples of this include the dormitory suburb’s from which many city workers travel to and from everyday and the car dependant cities that are planned for the car as opposed to the pedestrian or cyclist. Dormitory suburbs and cities planned for cars facilitate the wasteful use of energy and time (spent commuting) and contribute to high levels of emissions. Add this to the increasing rates of urbanization and we have quite a large problem.

According to UN Habitat (2010) approximately 51% of the world population lives in urban areas. Resource scarcity, environmental degradation and climate change all combine to increase the rates of urbanization being experienced around the world and specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to approximately 62% of the world’s slum population.  

We therefore need to find a sustainable way to be able to accommodate the increasing urban population. The densification and integration of urban environments has and is being recognized as an efficient, effective and sustainable way to provide resources, housing, services and infrastructure to urban dwellers.  The concept is broadly based on the following:

  • Lowered infrastructure provision costs. It is cheaper and easier to provide services within a smaller area. E.g: providing water and energy reticulation across a smaller area with a higher density of inhabitants serviced as opposed to a larger area with fewer inhabitants.
  • Mixed-use environments where people have to travel shorter distances to and from work, shopping and entertainment.  This would reduce travel costs as well as carbon emissions etc.
  • Reducing urban sprawl and the maintenance of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are basically services that nature/ ecosystems provide.(Wetlands – water purification, Biodiversity-food, plants resources, trees and forest that clean the air etc)

The Verticle Forest or Bosco Vertical in Milan, Italy, is a great example of innovation, design and urban densification.

“Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) is a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity without the implication of expanding the city upon the territory. Bosco Verticale is a model of vertical densification of nature within the city. It is a model that operates correlated to the policies for reforestation and naturalization of the large urban and metropolitan borders (Metrosbosco). Metrobosco and Bosco Verticale are devices for the environmental survival of contemporary European cities. Together they create two modes of building links between nature and city within the territory and within the cities of contemporary Europe.
The first example of a Bosco Verticale composed of two residential towers of 110 and 76 meters height, will be realized in the centre of Milan, on the edge of the Isola neighbourhood, and will host 900 trees (each measuring 3, 6 or 9 m tall) apart from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants.
On flat land, each Bosco Verticale equals, in amount of trees, an area equal to 10.000 sqm of forest. In terms of urban densification the equivalent of an area of single family dwellings of nearly 50.000 sqm.
The Bosco Verticale is a system that optimizes, recuperates and produces energy. The Bosco Verticale aids in the creation of a microclimate and in filtering the dust particles contained in the urban environment. The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect from radiation and acoustic pollution, improving the quality of living spaces and saving energy. Plant irrigation will be produced to great extent through the filtering and reuse of the grey waters produced by the building. Additionally Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will contribute, together with the aforementioned microclimate to increase the degree of energetic self sufficiency of the two towers. The management and maintenance of the Bosco Verticale’s vegetation will be centralised and entrusted to an agency with an office counter open to the public.”  (http://www.stefanoboeriarchitetti.net/)

Stella McCartney To Launch An Eco-friendly Sunglass Line!

Great news for eco-friendly fashionistas!! Apparently Stella McCartney has been involved in the research and development of an earth friendly range of sunnies which should launch in 2012!


Nothing finishes off an outfit like the perfect pair of sunnies that are stylish and not harmful to nature! Super exciting! I can’t wait! I just hope that this isn’t another case of greenwash and the sunnies are in fact not harmful to out planet!


Check out this link for more information.