Fashion World Tokyo 2023: Pioneering Sustainability in Japan’s Fashion Landscape

Fashion World Tokyo 2023: Pioneering Sustainability in Japan’s Fashion Landscape

In the heart of Tokyo, where tradition and innovation converge, Fashion World Tokyo (FaW Tokyo) 2023 is set to unravel a fascinating tale of sustainable fashion. As Japan’s largest international fashion trade show, FaW Tokyo has transcended the boundaries of mere fashion exhibitions. It has become a platform that echoes the soulful harmony of sustainable practices, wellness, and avant-garde fashion trends.


Japan, a nation celebrated for its reverence for nature and cutting-edge technology, plays host to the grand spectacle known as Fashion World Tokyo. This colossal fashion exposition, organized by RX Japan Ltd., brings together a staggering 1,150 exhibitors from across the globe. Beyond being a fashion extravaganza, FaW Tokyo is an endeavor to spearhead sustainability in the Japanese fashion industry, aligning with the nation’s ethos of respecting nature as a fundamental part of its culture.

FaW Tokyo Vision of Sustainability


In a world teeming with fashion expos, FaW Tokyo stands apart with a resolute mission – to foster a circular economy and a recycling-based society within Japan’s fashion industry. It’s an ambition that dovetails perfectly with Japan’s reputation for innovation and reverence for the environment. The event seeks to achieve this by showcasing the latest sustainable technology and practices through its exhibition.

The Genesis of Sustainable Fashion Expo


The inception of the Sustainable Fashion Expo within FaW Tokyo was not by mere chance. It sprouted from the growing awareness of the fashion industry’s environmental impact. In 2019, as major fashion houses made headlines for waste incineration, Japan witnessed the profound effect of such incidents on its fashion landscape. Visitors and exhibitors called for a dedicated space to spotlight sustainable fashion. FaW Tokyo responded by launching the Sustainable Fashion Expo.

FaW Tokyo’s Impact on Sustainability


FaW Tokyo has emerged as a dynamic catalyst for the advancement of sustainable fashion in Japan and beyond. Major Japanese exhibitors such as YKK, trading giants like Itochu and Marubeni, and textile leaders like Toray and Shikibo illuminate the Sustainable Fashion Expo. Beyond these stalwarts, the expo showcases exhibitors committed to textile resource recycling, upcycled materials, and various technologies aimed at reducing clothing waste. These highlights collectively underline FaW Tokyo’s role as a harbinger of sustainability.

Japan Leading the World


As Japan paves the path to sustainability, it aspires to lead the world someday. The nation’s strong emphasis on wellness and health aligns seamlessly with the global trend. FaW Tokyo envisions Japan becoming the vanguard of sustainability, setting an example for the entire fashion industry.

Empowering Sustainable Fashion Brands


FaW Tokyo takes dedicated strides to empower sustainable fashion brands. It hosts a specialized exhibition, the Sustainable Fashion Expo, where brands can spotlight their commitment to sustainability. The event management proactively disseminates exhibitor information to industry media and press. FaW Tokyo’s commitment to promoting sustainable fashion transcends the event itself, extending to television broadcasts on two major national channels, collaborations with influencers, and extensive website, email, and social media promotions.

Introducing Wellness Fashion Expo


Following the success of Sustainable Fashion Expo, FaW Tokyo ventures into the world of wellness fashion. This addition aligns perfectly with Japan’s growing emphasis on longevity, wellness, and health. The concept resonates not only with the Japanese audience but also with the global wellness trend.

The Wellness Fashion Experience


Visitors to the Wellness Fashion Expo can expect an array of intriguing products. From Femtech-related fashion to comfort shoes, from fabrics that produce vitamin E to wearable smart fabrics, the expo offers a glimpse into the future of wellness fashion. Japan’s dedication to wellness and health finds expression in these innovative offerings.

Addressing Sustainability Challenges


Even in the organization of an event as colossal as FaW Tokyo, sustainability challenges are tackled head-on. FaW Tokyo is actively working to reduce waste by transitioning to recycled materials for its on-site materials. Collaborations with stand builders further contribute to minimizing the environmental footprint of the event.

FaW Tokyo doesn’t tread this path alone. With the guidance of the Conference Advisory Board, comprised of fashion industry leaders, the event launches sustainable fashion seminars and initiatives. Collaborations with major industry publications like WWD, experts, and the media help create a collective force that drives the industry towards sustainability.

In closing, FaW Tokyo extends an invitation to all to witness the direction in which the fashion industry is heading. It beckons readers to explore the latest and most advanced technologies and functional fabrics that Japan, the land of innovation, has to offer. FaW Tokyo isn’t merely an exposition; it’s a declaration that sustainability is the future of fashion.

FaW Tokyo 2023 is a journey that transcends borders, celebrating sustainable fashion as a bridge between tradition and innovation. In the heart of Tokyo, it’s a reminder that fashion isn’t just about what we wear; it’s about how we shape our future.

Tia Semi’s Inspiring Path from EFWA Runways to Sustainable Fashion

Tia Semi’s Inspiring Path from EFWA Runways to Sustainable Fashion

In the world of sustainable fashion, there are journeys that inspire and voices that echo powerful messages of inclusion and eco-consciousness. Tia Semi, a remarkable designer with a unique perspective, embodies both. From the runways of EFWA (Eco Fashion Week Australia) to her evolution as a sustainable fashion advocate, Tia’s story is one of resilience and creativity.

Navigating life with many challenges, Tia’s journey is a testament to the transformative potential of the fashion industry. EFWA provided not just a platform but a community that celebrated her uniqueness. It empowered her to create designs that fuse her Pacific Island heritage with sustainability, promoting eco-friendly practices and inclusivity. In this interview, we explore Tia’s vision for a more conscious and inclusive fashion landscape, where every individual, regardless of their background or abilities, can contribute to positive change.

Can you share with us your journey from being a runway model at EFWA to becoming a sustainable fashion designer? How did EFWA influence and inspire you to take this path?

EFWA made me more conscious of my impact on Mother Earth. I am privileged to combine the influence of my Pacific Island background and EFWA in learning about sustainability and as much as utilizing resources on our Earth, but also giving back to our Earth. I am more conscious of how I use my materials- I hand print my patterns on materials instead of mass production, I ensure I use and stretch every inch of fabric by having smaller offcuts created into scrunches and hats etc.

Tia Semi in a black outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photography by Port Douglas Photographer, Outfit by Curtin Spring

You have a unique perspective as someone who has personally experienced challenges such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, epilepsy, and being deaf. How has sustainable fashion and the platform of EFWA played a role in your mental and emotional well-being?

I am forever thankful for the EFWA platform, as they saw beyond my disabilities. This platform has proven to be impactful in a holistic way- they have embraced me as the being I am and I will forever pay it forward. Every individual has something to contribute to society and the Earth, we all leave an impact, no matter how big or small. EFWA embraced my uniqueness and now I can go out and share this with others. Together everybody achieves more. I am just getting started, what’s your excuse?

EFWA is known for its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. How has this platform empowered you as a designer and helped you bring your unique perspective to sustainable fashion?

EFWA embraced me and my uniqueness. I am not the same person when I first started my journey with EFWA 2018- I am bolder, and I am more confident in who I am and what I can achieve and contribute. I am more than willing to be the cheerleader and advocate for anybody else who needs guidance to find their path. Sustainability and Pacific Island fashion are my mandates- I am now an advocate by default. The Pacific Islands are the first to be affected by rising sea tides, so I have a responsibility to promote sustainability through my fashion label. EFWA has enabled me to be more conscious and dig deeper into my intentionality of what I am doing and how it affects Mother Earth.

Tia Semi in an orange outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photograph by Port Douglas Photographer

What are the key values and principles that you incorporate into your sustainable fashion designs?

I am a voice for the Pacific Islands and the effects of Global warming which affects the rising sea levels surrounding our Islands. My fashion label is a platform for sustainability and being conscious of how we leave our impact in this world. I use non-toxic fabric paint, I hand paint my materials, I utilize as much material to create accessories, etc. I would like to explore using my voice more to promote sustainability in my community and outer audience.

EFWA places a strong emphasis on eco-friendly materials and small-scale production of artistic clothes. How do you ensure that your designs reflect these values, and how has it impacted your creative process?

As I mentioned earlier, I use non-toxic fabric paint, hand-paint my materials, and avoid mass production. Also, I have collaborated with an Indigenous designer and created a line of upcycled Island design denim jackets (sourced from Op shops). This project was so fun and I would probably revisit it again in the near future. What a privilege to collaborate with other conscious and creative-minded fashion designers. This platform has opened up avenues I never should have manifested on my own accord. I am forever thankful and blessed for this opportunity.

How does fashion, as an art form, enable you to express yourself and communicate meaningful messages about sustainability and inclusivity?

Exploring sustainability through fashion is the best of both worlds! It is so fun and I love how we can develop our creations by digging a deeper level of creativity and innovation. My label embraces all people.

Can you share a specific moment or experience at EFWA that had a profound impact on your journey as a sustainable fashion designer?

Networking and collaborating with other fashion-conscious designers has been such a blessing. Also being on the runway and making lifelong friends through the experience with EFWA is something I’ll forever cherish in my life journey.

EFWA is known for raising awareness about the climate crisis and honoring biodiversity. How do you infuse these critical themes into your sustainable fashion designs?

I have mentioned in former questions my fusion with sustainability and the Pacific Islands- I am exploring more about how to be an impactful voice to reach a wider audience. My fashion is my voice, and I am developing and evolving this more and more. 

As a designer, how do you envision contributing to a more eco-conscious and inclusive fashion industry? What message do you hope to send to other aspiring designers and the broader fashion community?

We must utilize our strengths and explore our curiosities. If you asked me 4 years ago if I knew where I’d be now in my fashion and sustainability journey, I’d think you were talking about someone else. Just keep going, trip, fall, get up, and keep going. If your heart is true and you are willing to help others along the way, you cannot fail.

Tia Semi in a white and brown outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photography by Port Douglas Photographer, Outfit by Sylvia Calvo BCN

Lastly, how has EFWA as a platform shaped your perspective on fashion, sustainability, and the power of collective action?

As I have mentioned before, EFWA embraced me and my uniqueness and helped me to become more conscious of my impact on Mother Earth. Every person I have encountered on my journey has had an impact on my life. I love to reflect on my experiences and can only smile with appreciation and humility. I am a strong young Samoan and Aussie woman, I am alive, and I have a purpose and a voice. I will not give up, so don’t you give up. We all have a role to play. Start small and build- one foot in front of the other.

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

So how would you like to define “addiction”? We all know that there are several proper definitions of it according to study fields like medical science, psychology, and many more. Yet, I’m asking you to define it because I believe it’s important to define such things by ourselves. Because before defining it by yourself, you will take some time to think about it – how you feel about it, and I think that is what’s really important. Of course, I am not telling you to ignore the proper dentitions provided by the experts – we will definitely take those definitions and studies into account as we move forward. 

To me “addiction” is a habit that one does not have control over. The starting of it may be simple or fun, but as time passes the habit does not stay as simple as it was in the beginning. It becomes so complicated that overcoming it needs a really powerful force. Along with it, I think the habit of “addiction” harms the one who is addicted, it also may harm the ones close to that person, and it surely has detrimental environmental, social, economic, and health aspects.

How real is Fast Fashion Addiction?

Let’s think about a narcotic substance that surely causes addiction. Let’s consider cocaine for the sake of the discussion. The first experience of cocaine for someone mostly starts due to simple reasons like curiosity, fun, or the fact that everyone else is doing it – the enjoyment really feels worthwhile. But as the habit grows, the person who started it due to simpler reasons gets into a solid web. Parties and hangouts become less fun if there’s no cocaine. Friends who have the connections to supply become closer friends. Numbers of drug dealers get saved in the phone books. Money starts to vanish. Health starts to go bad. Family and good friends start to get worried. To maintain the supply of cocaine “The War on Drugs” continues to fail, people get tortured, enslaved, and killed.

Drug addiction

Now you might ask – “Seriously? You are comparing my shopping habit to something so harmful?”. My answer would be – “Yes! But I don’t have anything against you. I am simply trying to paint a picture for both of us to understand this more clearly.” 

From what I understand, following fast fashion or following new trends is fun at the beginning – because it’s simple to follow trends ( no need to think much about our own point of view of style ). It’s also something that almost everyone is doing around you – so it’s easier to join that team. It’s super available. It’s cheap – because the industry that’s producing it is surely using cheap materials to produce those, not providing proper wages to the real producers of those items in the best-case scenarios because, in the worst-case scenarios, we still hear about modern-day slavery of the garment workers. 

Garments worker in Bangladesh protesting on the street

Now let’s talk about the detrimental effects of it. To keep up with the trends – to hang out with those friends, to join those parties; you need to keep buying the latest trends. Just like the drug dealers on speed dial, you have all the apps that you need to keep ordering new ones – otherwise, you will be the one who will feel like an outcast at the next party. Now to keep buying those, you need a constant flow of money and if you don’t have that – well they will be sold to you for credit, you will prioritise that over your basic needs.

Now let’s think about the social effects. By seeing you following the trends, your friends will be more intrigued to follow those too. I am saying “more” because the industry through its amazing marketing and advertising has fruitfully convinced us that – it’s important, it’s fun, and it’s the only way to stay relevant. So, when you’re someone who’s following those, you’re doing free marketing for the industry too – your friend who is being inspired to do so by seeing you (along with the advertisements and seeing others) and probably considering it more important than basic needs too, just like you. 

shopping

If you think about the environmental effects of it – it gets more serious. To keep the price low, the industry seeks cheap materials. Those materials don’t last, but you won’t be wearing them after a few times eventually, so it doesn’t matter! So for those cheap materials, the industry turns to detrimental environmental practices of production which ensures bountiful materials at a cheap rate, and for that toxic chemicals are used. When those toxic chemicals get released into our water and air and soil, all of those get polluted – it affects our food production, puts our water security at threat, makes us inhale toxins harmful to our bodies. The process through its pollution affects all the other species too. Not to mention, to bring that product to your doorstep a huge amount of fuel is burned – the cost of which is way more than what you’ve paid for.

The health concerns now! I’ve already said how the production process can affect our environment. How tough it is to understand that what’s bad for the soil, the water, the air, and for other species – is harmful for us too? By wearing those things we let our bodies be in direct connection to those harmful materials.

fashion waste dumpsite

Now let’s paint the picture for real

Let’s see how addiction is defined by the experts. According to the website of the NHS – “Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.”, it is also mentioned that while addiction is mostly associated with drugs, gambling, alcohol, and smoking; it is also possible to become addicted to things like shopping, internet or even work. 

This is what the American Psychiatric Association says about addiction – “Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences.”

So according to these definitions, we can surely say that: 

  1. “Not having control over” – is a major factor of addiction.
  2. It is a complex condition.
  3. It is possible to become addicted to shopping.
  4. Despite harmful consequences, addiction goes on.

Can’t we all relate it to what I have said earlier about the addiction to fast fashion? 

Let’s get inside the brain to understand fast fashion addiction

Woman thinking

The whole idea of “addiction” is very complex, and what I have found out is – that there are many reasons behind the addiction to fast fashion too. 

One of the most common things is something called FOMO (fear of missing out), but I guess you all know about it. This is what the European Union says about FOMO – “FOMO is an overwhelming fear that other people at any given time are participating in exciting experiences in which you are not part of”. Social media plays an important part in spreading this, and fast fashion brands are using it perfectly. They are constantly offering discounts that do not last long, showing photos of clothes that celebrities are using and claiming that the stock of those clothes is limited, and constantly releasing new designs to make you feel that you have missed the last trend and this new one won’t last long too; so you need to grab it right now!

Shopping can be addictive, and fast fashion brands know it well. According to a study by a team of researchers from Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon – the pleasure center of the brain gets activated when a person comes across something that she/he/they wants to buy. The more the person wants the item, the more the pleasure center in the brain gets active, and when the item can be purchased at a cheaper rate, the brain gives the maximum sense of pleasure.

Now fast fashion brands produce about 52 micro-seasons in a year or one new collection a week! Just think about, every week how many clothes they are putting on display for you to see and desire. The cheaper the clothes, the more people desire them, the more people purchase them, and the more you see them on social media ( because people like to show what they bought, that they are keeping up with the trends, and the brands encourage everyone to keep posting photos and videos of their clothes that people bought and tag the brands in those contents; that’s what “fashion hauls” are ), and the more you desire to own them too. The crazy part is, that this cycle goes on every week, and the fashion industry keeps feeding this loop in our brains which creates an effect something very similar to addiction

Fashion waste dumpsite

To keep this cycle of consumption alive a culture of mindless consumption and throwing away has been established. There is a huge group of consumers who believe that they do not want to be seen in an item more than once because that might give others the idea that they have gone out of style! It’s important to point out that by “being seen” they mean that, they do not want to appear on social media twice in the same piece of garment!!

Let’s Calculate the Numbers for Fast Fashion Addiction

For the sake of the calculation, let’s say your favorite brand is H&M and you are someone who is willing to buy every week from their new collections. If you buy something in the price range from $20-$40 from them every week, then at the end of the year the amount of all your purchased items from this brand will be somewhere around $1040 – $2080 ( calculated in reference to 52 seasons a year ), and that is just one brand, and that is just a moderate pricing range considering different socio-economic situations. After this, to go with these clothes, you will need accessories and shoes too!!

Shopping addiction

Now think about that friend of yours who is super inspired by your shopping habit to do so! That’s another $1040 – $2080 dollars, plus the accessories and shoes!

Now, let’s talk about environmental numbers. Between 80 and 100 billion new clothing garments are produced globally every year, and from these new garment, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills. This means a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfills every second, and this industry is expecting to grow more every year! More importantly, around 60% of all clothing material now is synthetic fibers, which means plastic – nylon, acrylic, polyester, etc. The textile industry generates 42 million tons of plastic waste per year. Every time you wash a synthetic garment, it releases tiny plastic microfibers into the water. Up to 500,000 tons of microfibers end up in the ocean every year. This industry accounts for  9% of annual microplastic pollution added to our oceans. This is just a tiny fraction of the whole environmental problem caused by fast fashion, and it is expected that the apparel industry’s global emissions will increase by 50% by 2030 if the business-as-usual scenario continues. Along with every kind of plastic pollution, the fast fashion industry harms our environment through the usage of textile dyes, and pesticides, overproduction of low-quality garments that end up in landfills ( and creates waste colonialism too! ), excessive usage of water and water pollution, emissions from the transportation sector due to long supply chains and global shipping, energy-intensive production process which is heavily dependant on fossil fuels, methane emissions from the landfills due to overproduction of low-quality garments made mostly from synthetic fiber and waste colonialism.

It is not tough to understand that all of these adverse environmental impacts are harmful to our health too. Plastic pollution can damage human cells and can lead to infertility, obesity, diabetes, prostate or breast cancer, thyroid problems, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, among others. Prolonged exposure to textile dyes can lead to skin allergies, respiratory problems, hormonal imbalances, and even certain types of cancers. Methane emissions reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air and cause mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache, lung diseases, asthma attacks, cardiovascular morbidity, and mortality, and heightened stroke risk. These are just some of the health effects that can be caused by the pollution generated by the fashion industry, and if you still want to learn more about it, I am sure you can google it and learn from verified sources.

All the other adverse effects

At this point of the article, I am really feeling overwhelmed and tired to even talk about all the other negative impacts caused by fast fashion, but they surely include serious factors like – labor exploitation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, etc. 

Deforestation

How to overcome the fast fashion addiction

Now that we’ve explored the deep-rooted addiction that fast fashion can become, it’s time to shed light on breaking free from this cycle. Embracing a sustainable, eco-conscious approach to fashion and lifestyle is not only a remedy for our planet but also for our well-being.

Love for earth

Slow Down, Choose Quality: Shift your focus from quantity to quality. Invest in timeless pieces that are made to last. Seek out brands that prioritize durability and craftsmanship. Remember, a well-made, classic garment can serve you for years, saving you money in the long run.

Circular Fashion: Embrace circular fashion principles. Explore thrift stores, vintage shops, and second-hand markets. Not only will you find unique pieces with character, but you’ll also extend the lifespan of clothing and reduce waste.

Regenerative Fashion: Support regenerative fashion practices. Look for brands that prioritize sustainability, ethical labor practices, and environmental conservation. These brands often use eco-friendly materials, reduce waste, and contribute positively to local communities.

Capsule Wardrobe: Simplify your wardrobe with a capsule wardrobe. Choose versatile, mix-and-match pieces that suit your style. This minimalist approach reduces the temptation to constantly buy new clothes.

Mindful Consumption: Before making a purchase, pause and reflect. Ask yourself if you truly need the item or if it’s just a fleeting trend. Consider its impact on the environment, and opt for eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled fabrics.

DIY and Upcycling: Get creative! Learn basic sewing and repair skills to mend and upcycle your clothing. Transform old items into new, unique pieces. It’s a fulfilling way to reduce waste and express your individuality.

Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and society. Understanding the consequences of fast fashion can motivate you to make more conscious choices.

Community and Swap: Organize clothing swaps with friends and family. It’s an enjoyable way to refresh your wardrobe without spending money and gives previously-owned garments a new life.

Support Sustainable Brands: Discover and support sustainable fashion brands and designers. They’re leading the way in creating clothing that’s stylish, eco-friendly, and ethical.

Spread Awareness: Share your journey towards sustainable fashion with others. By raising awareness and educating friends and family, you can collectively reduce the demand for fast fashion.

Breaking free from fast fashion addiction isn’t just about changing our habits; it’s about transforming our perspective on fashion and consumption. It’s a shift towards a lifestyle that’s not only better for us but for our planet and future generations. Remember, small changes lead to big impacts. Together, we can create a fashion industry that values quality, sustainability, and ethical practices over mindless consumption.

How you dress is an expression of your identity, so explore and express yourself mindfully – let fashion be a force for good.

Woman wearing a beautiful white dress in the field
Trashion to Fashion: Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed’s Stylish Eco-Journey

Trashion to Fashion: Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed’s Stylish Eco-Journey

In the dynamic landscape of sustainability and fashion, Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed emerges as a compelling advocate for change. At just 30 years old, she’s making remarkable strides in promoting eco-consciousness and responsible fashion practices. With her unwavering commitment to environmental causes and sustainability, Habiba is a driving force behind positive change in the region.

As the CSR Ambassador at Mrs. Earth UAE and the founder of ‘Trashion Kenya,’ Habiba has dedicated herself to raising awareness about environmental issues and transforming the fashion industry into a more sustainable and responsible one. In this exclusive interview, she shares her insights and experiences, providing a glimpse into her inspiring journey and her vision for a more eco-conscious future.

Congratulations on being awarded 2nd Runners Up and CSR Ambassador at Mrs Earth UAE!

Can you tell us more about your role as an ambassador and how it connects with the Women of the Earth Foundation’s mission for positive change, sustainability, and social responsibility?

Thank you so much for your kind words! It is a great honor to have won Mrs Earth UAE Water Award symbolic of one of the elements of nature as 2nd Runners-up. Being also awarded as the Mrs Earth UAE CSR Ambassador Award for the Women of the Earth Foundation is a great achievement and a recognition for my commitment to sustainability and the environment. As the Mrs Earth UAE Water and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) ambassador, I have the opportunity to raise awareness about important environmental issues and inspire others to take action and promote the Mrs Earth UAE Women of the Earth Foundation’s mission and values. This is especially meaningful in the Year of Sustainability in the UAE, as the country prepares to host COP28.

Additionally, as Mrs Earth UAE Delegates, we serve as ambassadors of the Women of the Earth Foundation which is a non-profit organization and the official philanthropic initiative of Mrs Earth UAE, with a mission to inspire change and overcome nature’s issues collectively by promoting environmental literacy and inspire collective community changes to help save our planet.

Your journey as a sustainability advocate and founder of Trashion Kenya is impressive.

What initially sparked your passion for sustainable fashion and environmental consciousness, and how have your background and experiences shaped your commitment to making a positive impact in the field of sustainability?

Thank you for the great compliments. My passion for sustainable fashion and environmental consciousness was sparked by a desire to make a positive impact in my country, Kenya. My sustainability journey started with volunteering for charity work, community clean-ups, and nature regeneration initiatives such as mangroves and tree planting through different local organizations in Kenya. I witnessed firsthand the impacts of plastic pollution, textile, and other waste on our ecosystems.

This drove me towards researching for solutions both online and offline, by attending sustainability-focused events such as the first sustainable blue economy conference which was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya in 2018 where I gained knowledge on sustainability and insights on environmental solutions by interacting and engaging with experts in the field. I also discovered the art of creating fashionable products from waste through sustainability events. Since I was also already blogging about travel, lifestyle, and fashion, this motivated me to combine my background in blogging, fashion, and content creation with my commitment to sustainability, leading me to found Trashion Kenya. My personal blog is now dedicated fully on sustainable fashion, travel, and lifestyle as an ethical influencer, habibabien.eco.

Through Trashion Kenya, I had the the opportunity to volunteer in schools in Kenya where I started the ‘Trashion Club’ which included fun up-cycling activities and awareness talks before I moved to the UAE. Not to mention more youth participation opportunities such as the Creative World Forum in Eindhoven Netherlands where for the first time, I presented Trashion Kenya to the world and engaged with youths, experts, and leaders in the sustainability space where we exchanged great futuristic ideas. Through Trashion Kenya, I aim to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability in fashion including innovative up-cycling and recycling solutions, join hands with fashion activist organizations in my country and globally for climate-just fashion, train and educate youths in partnership with the Green Futures Fellowship and inspire others to embrace more sustainable practices. 

As a sustainability advocate based in the UAE, how do you see eco and sustainable fashion evolving in the region? What challenges and opportunities do you see for promoting sustainable fashion in your location?

As a sustainability advocate based in the UAE, I see eco and sustainable fashion evolving positively in the region. There is a growing awareness and interest in sustainable practices among consumers and fashion brands. However, there are still challenges to overcome, such as limited access to sustainable materials, the need for more education and awareness, and the need for more sustainable fashion businesses, only a handful in the region. The opportunities lie in promoting local sustainable fashion designers, encouraging collaborations, and fostering a culture of conscious consumption such as clothing swap events, thrifting, renting, and reselling.

Fashion Revolution U.A.E plays a significant role in raising awareness about ethical fashion. Can you share some of the initiatives or campaigns that you’ve been involved in and how they have contributed to promoting a more transparent and sustainable fashion industry?

Fashion Revolution UAE, with the valuable contribution of its dedicated organizing team, plays a vital role in advancing the cause of sustainable fashion in the region. As part of the Fashion Revolution UAE organizing team, we have been involved in various impactful initiatives and campaigns every annual Fashion Revolution Week (held every year on April 24 for one consecutive week) to promote a more transparent and sustainable fashion industry. One of our key initiatives is the “Who Made My Clothes?” campaign, where we encourage consumers to question the origins of their garments and demand transparency from brands.

We also organize educational workshops and events to raise awareness about ethical fashion practices and showcase sustainable designers and brands, including local fashion school students’ sustainable fashion contests. Through these efforts, we aim to empower individuals to make informed choices and drive positive change in the fashion industry.  Our collective efforts at Fashion Revolution UAE and commitment to promoting conscious and eco-friendly practices, I believe, are making a profound impact on the industry and inspiring positive change in the fashion industry, promoting a more sustainable and conscious approach to fashion. Together, we can make a significant impact on promoting sustainable fashion in the UAE. 

You are the founder of Trashion Kenya. Could you tell us more about this organization and its goals in promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness through fashion?

Trashion Kenya is an initiative I founded with the goal of promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness through fashion. It was established as a media platform to raise awareness through a fusion of trash and fashion design that is either upcycled or recycled whilst communicating environmental conservation and advocating against plastic through campaigns, beach cleanups, and workshops. We believe that fashion can be a powerful tool for positive change.

Our mission at Trashion Kenya is to raise awareness about the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. We aim to inspire individuals to embrace sustainable practices and understand the value of reducing waste not only plastic and textile waste but waste in general. Additionally, we strive to offer sustainable alternatives to promote a more sustainable future. It’s been a challenging journey; Trashion Kenya took a pause during the Covid-19 pandemic but has eventually resumed this year in 2023 with the main focus on serving as an educational platform teaching youths about climate justice and sustainable fashion.

Through a partnership with the Green Futures Fellowship, we have been educating passionate youths on climate education, including sustainable fashion. With great efforts from the Green Futures Fellowship’s team lead, Jonah Kirabo, we brought in climate experts from various fields, and I’m proud to say that the first cohort was a great success! At Trashion Kenya, we are driven by our goal to make a global impact through storytelling, education, and sustainable fashion innovation. We aim to inspire people to make more conscious choices. We’re currently exploring various avenues, such as books, documentaries, and educational institutions, to bring our bigger vision to life. Taking it one step at a time, we’re committed to creating a more sustainable future for fashion and the planet. 

How do you see your role as a young woman in sustainability influencing and inspiring the next generation of advocates and changemakers in the field of sustainability and eco-fashion?

As a young woman in sustainability, I strive to be a role model and advocate for positive change in the field of sustainability and eco-fashion. By sharing my passion, knowledge, and experiences, I hope to inspire the next generation of advocates and changemakers to embrace sustainable practices and make a difference. Together, we can create a more conscious and environmentally friendly future for fashion and the world. 

As someone who is deeply involved in the sustainable fashion movement, what advice would you give to individuals and communities who wish to incorporate more sustainable choices into their daily lives?

For individuals and communities looking to incorporate more sustainable choices into their daily lives, my advice would be to start small and be mindful of your consumption. Consider thrifting or buying second-hand clothing, as it reduces waste and supports a circular economy. Invest in quality, timeless pieces that will last longer. Embrace the concept of “less is more” and avoid fast fashion trends. Educate yourself about sustainable materials and ethical brands. And most importantly, remember that every small choice counts, and together we can make a big impact. 

Can you share a story or experience that has been particularly meaningful to you during your journey as a sustainability advocate and how it has shaped your perspective on the importance of sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility?

Visiting waste recycling facilities, slums, and dumpsites in my country, Kenya, during my journey as a sustainability advocate while working on a sustainable fashion campaign for Trashion Kenya was a profound experience that left a lasting impact. It opened my eyes to the environmental challenges we face and reinforced my commitment to promoting sustainable practices. Especially seeing the mountains of discarded plastic waste and clothing, and learning about the challenges of second-hand traders about the poor quality of “mitumba” (second-hand clothes) that often end up being burned or discarded.

Interacting with the community living in these areas and hearing their stories of experiencing pollution firsthand reinforced my commitment to promoting sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility. What truly inspired me was witnessing the beauty that can be created from waste by the Trashion community in Kenya as a sign of hope and true activism. This led me to explore global innovations in sustainable fashion which has further fueled my motivation to promote the movement. It’s incredible to see the endless possibilities and inspiring ideas that are shaping the future of fashion and it’s moments like these that drive me to continue my work and inspire others to make a positive change. 

How do you envision the future of sustainable fashion in the UAE and beyond? What are your hopes for a more eco-conscious and socially responsible fashion industry?

I envision a future where sustainable fashion in the UAE and beyond becomes the norm, rather than the exception. A future where shopping malls are filled with sustainable fashion brands with no sight of fast fashion brands. My hope is for a fashion industry that embraces eco-conscious practices and prioritizes social responsibility. I hope to see an increase in sustainable materials, ethical production processes, transparent supply chains, and fair pay for professionals in the fashion industry in the UAE including fashion models. I also hope for greater awareness and education among consumers, leading to more conscious purchasing decisions. Ultimately, I believe that by working together, we can create a fashion industry that is both stylish and sustainable, making a positive impact on the environment and society. 

How do you define success?

For me, success is not just about personal achievements, but also about making a positive impact in the world. It’s about pursuing my passions, embracing my values, and striving to create meaningful change. Success is finding fulfillment in what I do and inspiring others to do the same. It’s about leaving a positive legacy and contributing to a better future for all. 

What’s your mantra for life?

As a sustainability advocate, my mantra for life is toBe the change you wish to see in the world. It reminds me to lead by example, to live in alignment with my values, and to actively work towards creating a more sustainable and equitable future. It’s a constant reminder that even small actions can make a big difference. 

How can others support your good work?

Thank you for offering me the platform for others to support my work in sustainability. They can join my sustainability journey by following my personal eco page habibabien.eco on social media platforms active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Threads, where I create content to raise awareness about sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility. I’m soon to launch my website. They can also connect with Trashion Kenya on social media Instagram, Twitter and Threads, Trashion Kenya on LinkedIn and Facebook to explore collaboration opportunities on climate-just fashion and education. I also extend an invitation to eco-conscious brands and individuals who are interested in partnering and collaborating with me to amplify our efforts and promote sustainable practices together. We can also get acquainted on my LinkedIn, Habiba Abdulrahman. Together, we can create a more sustainable future! 

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

TUAessence: A Tale of Sustainability, Crafted by Fernanda Lopes Lima

TUAessence: A Tale of Sustainability, Crafted by Fernanda Lopes Lima

In the heart of Brazil, a sustainable fashion revolution is blooming, led by the visionary founder of TUAessence, Fernanda Lopes Lima. This trailblazing brand intertwines ethical principles with artistic brilliance, offering a new paradigm for conscious fashion. In an exclusive interview, Fernanda unveils the captivating story behind TUAessence’s inception and the inspiration behind its meaningful name.

With a background in fashion, contemporary art, and eco-social responsibility, Fernanda’s approach to ethical fashion design is deeply rooted in her personal values. TUAessence embraces slow fashion, veganism, and eco-friendly practices, using biodegradable fabrics for its one-of-a-kind collections. Through transparency and compassion, Fernanda fosters fair trade practices within the brand’s supply chain, building genuine relationships with everyone involved in the creation process.

As a climate activist, Fernanda emphasizes the role of education in reshaping the fashion industry’s impact on the planet. With a strong commitment to environmental preservation and social consciousness, she extends her mission beyond fashion through fundraising campaigns, supporting indigenous communities, and protecting flora and fauna in Brazil.

Join us on this enlightening journey as Fernanda Lopes Lima invites us all to embrace mindful choices and co-create a future where sustainable fashion reigns supreme.

Can you share the story behind the formation of TUAessence and the inspiration behind its name?

TUAessence was born in 2015 on a life-changing trip I took to Costa Rica with 7 other friends. I fell in love with it and couldn’t leave. TUA was the vehicle and catalyzer created so I could move there. On the trip, I met Ju, my ex-business partner and dear friend. I have always worked with fashion; she worked in the pharmaceutical sector, also fell in love with the little fishing village by the Pacific, and agreed to join me in this adventure.

TUA’s name is a funny story! Ju and I didn’t know how to name it at first. We brainstormed with friends over wine sessions, writing all possible names on the white kitchen tiles with washable markers. Until one day Renata, a great friend of mine who was studying numerology, came up with a name that had the energy of the number 6 (we had that very much in mind at the time) and meant Transformation, Union, and Amor (Love). Bingo! TUA! Transformation, Union, and Amor lived in the essence: TUAessence!

How did your educational background in fashion, contemporary art, and eco-social responsibility shape your approach to ethical fashion design?

Each one of these paths helped me somehow. Fashion has brought me technical, technological, and empirical knowledge, as well as experience. The arts have always shaped and guided the way I see the world: through colors and textures. Beauty is everywhere and it moves me. As for the eco-social aspect, it was very much present my entire life, living and growing up amongst/experiencing such a profuse culture and passionate people in a country like Brazil: wild, raw, varied, intense, and mesmerizing. But the greatest was to be lucky enough to grow up with grandmothers who were both seamstresses very committed to love. This gave me awareness, basic notions of limits, keeping it real, and mostly of gratitude to honor and respect my ancestors and nature.

How do you find inspiration for your designs and incorporate your personal values and beliefs into your creative process?

These two are linked, and I believe, inseparable. My personal beliefs and values are the lenses through which I see inspiration. I can only feel passionate, motivated, and inspired by something that deeply touches me. That will necessarily be linked to something very deep within me, shaped by my core values, experiences, and memories. My creative processes and the themes I choose for the projects and collections are always linked to something I’m in love with.

As a climate activist, how do you incorporate environmental and social awareness into your design process and brand philosophy?

TUA is a slow fashion, vegan, eco, and fair trade beachwear brand ethically made in Brazil with biodegradable fabrics. All suits are double-sided (reversible). The prints are made with non-polluting water-based pigment, exclusively developed in partnership with visual artists. We produce in small quantities and only one collection per year, optimizing the use of fabrics and reducing textile waste. Any scraps are reused in the production of other handicrafts or destined for charities that use them for the same purpose. Our packaging and labels also follow our conduct of respect for the environment; we do not use plastic.

How do you ensure fair trade practices within the supply chain of TUAessence, and what steps do you take to support the workers involved in the production process?

I know personally every single person who collaborates with me. I meet them, shake their hands, look them in the eyes, know about their lives, and share about mine too. I see where and how they work. We co-create. Every single TUA suit may have been initially thought of and designed by me, but it has in it a little bit of every single brain, heart, and hand that helped me think, shape, give form, and bring that suit to life. We establish a give&take balanced relationship based on trust and affection. Everything I do, I do with love. If I’m not emotionally involved and driven, I can’t create beauty in the world.

Could you elaborate on your experience with textile technology research and the development of collections using biodegradable and organic fabrics?

I have always worked for other brands until I founded TUA. I had never really thought much of the fabrics used, even though I was already involved with textile technology, natural dyeing, etc. But then I moved to Costa Rica, to live in the middle of the jungle, and my entire perspective changed in regards to nature, my personal relationship/impact on this planet, and how disconnected humanity got from it. I’ve always enjoyed studying, and having an academic background helped me with more profound research. I had to dig deeper to learn more and find the truth about the fashion industry at a time very few people were starting to really talk about it, never mind doing it. It just stopped making sense to work with polyester, for example. I also learned how to better identify greenwashing and empty/fake sustainability used simply as marketing and shallow propaganda, and that was the basis for all of my choices within TUA.

Could you share any specific challenges you have encountered while promoting sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry, and how have you overcome them?

I don’t know if I’ve overcome them. They’re here, on a daily basis. For example, the customers who tell me there’s a fast fashion brand that has a somewhat similar piece of clothing and it costs ⅓ the price… Or the salespeople who represent the textile companies and try to sell us really bad quality recycled plastic disguised as some brand new technology and solution… Or “sustainable” cotton made with tons of pesticide and/or slavery labor. It’s challenging because we, those truly committed to making the real deal “conscious fashion,” don’t work solely with the production of fair trade biodegradable goods. We work with education. We inform, create, and shape new consumption consciousness and habits. This takes time.

In your opinion, what are the key changes that need to happen within the fashion industry as a whole to move towards a more sustainable and responsible future?

We need transparency. We need companies to tell the truth, and we need buyers to know exactly what they’re buying, what they’re paying for, and what they’re sponsoring, strengthening, and encouraging. Like the Fashion Revolution campaign says: “When people know, they care!”.

Could you share some examples of your fundraising campaigns for the protection of fauna, flora, and indigenous communities in Brazil?

  • “Sustentabilidade no Dia a Dia” (Daily Sustainability) lecture about more sustainable choices and habits, with specialist guests to raise donations for flood victims;
  • “Semana Verde” (Green Week) 35% OFF with 5% of sales to Instituto Nawá of Studies and Preservation of Brazilian Indigenous Cultures;
  • “AcroYoga Beneficente” (fundraising AcroYoga) to raise donations for Instituto Nawá of Studies and Preservation of Brazilian Indigenous Cultures.

Can you talk about any collaborations or partnerships that TUAessence has undertaken to further its mission of sustainability and responsible production?

I have always partnered up with local artisans, artists, small businesses and shops, as well as NGOs to create events, collections, and projects since I was in university. My graduation project was very special and dear to me. In 2007, I developed costumes for the kids of Instituto Kairós’ music class with upcycled materials back when the term “Upcycling” didn’t exist yet. The clothes were made from old curtains and upholstery, and the sandals were made of bean sacks with old tires as soles.

How do you see the role of fashion evolving in the fight against climate change and the transition to a more sustainable and regenerative economy?

I can only see this through education. We have got to raise our collective awareness and engagement on what we buy, because in a capitalist world, every single time you choose to spend a single cent on something, you’re giving it a vote. You’re amplifying that product/company/idea/concept’s voice.

What advice would you give to aspiring ethical fashion designers who want to make a positive impact in the industry?

BE CURIOUS! Go live with the entire production chain. Get close and familiar with every single step. Learn where the raw materials/fabrics you want to use come from, how and where they were made. By whom? What’s the composition? Choose wisely the production processes (fibers, dyeing, printing, pigments), and especially the people who will be collaborating with you and establish real relationships with them. They aren’t numbers; they are lives, and the creative process is about CO-creation. To create is to relate. There’s no lush, healthy creative process without relationships. Go relate and live the whole process, from the supply chain to the final customer.

What is your favorite Brazilian food? Does climate change have any impact on it?

My favorite Brazilian food is Feijoada (black bean stew usually made with pork – even though I take the VG version as I don’t eat meat – rice, kale, and orange). Climate change, as well as production and consumption habits, have a direct impact on it. First of all, the animal farming industry and the spread of meat consumption drive farmers to destroy native forests to make pasture. Alongside animal farming, the plantations of transgenic soy, corn, and wheat to feed these animals cause the impoverishment of grain diversity in Brazil. Rice and beans are the basic meal in every Brazilian plate but, due to monoculture, Brazil has been importing rice and beans for over 10 years now. Instead of using our super-rich soil wisely to produce a great variety of food that will actually feed our people and animals, we’ve been enslaved by the monoculture industrial farming that deforests The Amazon to basically grow GMOs and abuse cattle for export.

How do you define success?

This is a tricky one… Success is to go to sleep and wake up with satisfaction and gratitude. Success is to live a healthy meaningful life surrounded by nature, animals, and people I love. Success is to have the freedom to come and go, establishing bonds of love and not domain. To leave planted trees, clean air, and freshwater, as well as a regenerated abundant planet filled with life and possibilities (like I found), to the ones to come yet.

How do you envision your future?

I have no clue (LOL). I hope I get to be in the middle of the woods or in the jungle, once again. Preferably by a pristine beach, with clean water, and fresh air, surrounded by nature, animals, and people I love.

What’s your mantra for life?

LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU (May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May all my thoughts and actions contribute to that.)

Learn more about Fernanda Lopes Lima and her work at TUAessence.

This is part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Shaping Narratives, Inspiring Change: An Interview with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational

Shaping Narratives, Inspiring Change: An Interview with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational

In a world where stories have the remarkable ability to spark change, Lensational, an organization at the forefront of empowering women through photography, stands as a beacon of hope. We had the privilege of sitting down with Lydia Wanjiku, the passionate and visionary CEO of Lensational, to delve into her journey and explore the transformative power of visual storytelling.

In this captivating interview, Lydia Wanjiku takes us on her personal and professional journey, from her discovery of Lensational to her current role as CEO. With a background in both development and photojournalism, Lydia offers a unique perspective on the intersection of these two fields and how they shape Lensational’s approach to empowering women through photography.

Get ready to embark on a journey through the lens, as we dive deep into the inspiring world of visual storytelling with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational. Discover the transformative power of photography, the untapped potential of marginalized voices, and the role each of us can play in shaping a brighter, more sustainable future.

Lydia, tell us your backstory and the journey you took to become the CEO of Lensational.

Following my Passions

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to do things that I feel passionate about and this was the same for whichever career I would decide to pursue. After completing my undergraduate degree in Business and Innovation Technology, I didn’t immediately enter the workforce. I wanted to ensure that I made a well-informed decision about my future. However, this decision was challenging, as my traditional upbringing emphasized pursuing conventional career opportunities solely based on having a degree. My father was not pleased with my choices during that time, and to alleviate the pressure, I took up various jobs.

One of these jobs was in the fashion industry, an area that still captivates my interest today. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, fashion is intricately linked to storytelling, which is a fundamental aspect of all my passions. Subsequently, I worked in technology as a project lead, and it was during this period that I discovered Lensational.

Discovering Lensational

While searching online for photography storytelling jobs, I came across a tweet by Hivos Awards, which highlighted an organization empowering women through photography. Lensational recently received a social innovation award. Intrigued, I visited Lensational’s website and found an opening for a curation manager position. Although the role required someone based in London, where the headquarters were located, I applied nonetheless. Bonnie, the founder of Lensational, offered me the opportunity to volunteer as a program manager in Kenya. It was an incredible opportunity since Lensational had yet to establish a presence in Africa.

Volunteering and Partnering with IFAW

Initially, I contributed to Lensational on a voluntary basis until 2018 when we formed a partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Faye Cuevas, the Vice President at IFAW at the time (now a member of our Board of Directors), had pioneered an innovative approach involving indigenous Maasai women in conservation efforts within their communities. We partnered to explore how photography could facilitate meaningful participation for these women. This partnership required my full-time commitment, so I dedicated myself exclusively to volunteering at Lensational. Working closely with Faye provided me invaluable insight into the systems and processes of a large organization like IFAW. At the time, I never envisioned becoming CEO, but my keen eye for detail allowed me to observe these aspects which have come in handy in my current role.

Building Programs and Gaining Valuable Insights

The women I worked with spoke a language I don’t speak, necessitating the use of translators. This challenged me to think critically about how best to deliver effective training. Every session became an opportunity to provide feedback to Lensational, aiding in the improvement of our delivery methods and measurement of social impact. Although I believe this pilot partnership could have been more successful with the knowledge we now possess, the experience laid the foundation for our subsequent program achievements, gaining significant recognition.

The partnership continued for approximately a year and a half, but I began yearning for financial independence. This posed a dilemma for me since I still possessed an immense passion for Lensational and saw its untapped potential. Leaving to pursue a job that provided a steady income bothered me greatly. When I discussed this with Bonnie, she offered me a full-time position as Programs Director in 2020. This opportunity coincided with Lensational’s shift in strategy, adopting a bottom-up approach and increased involvement in training programs. Being closely involved with one of our most active programs granted me valuable insights into program management.

Navigating Challenges and Shaping Strategic Direction

As you are aware, 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to run any programs and faced financial hardships. During this period, I proposed utilizing our downtime to focus on programming. This involved evaluating our past programs, identifying areas for improvement, and enhancing our curriculum, which directly influenced program delivery. Unbeknownst to me, I was unintentionally influencing the overall strategic direction of Lensational through my programming work. This led to some friction with the CEO, who is also the founder, as well as the board of directors. However, during an Innovation Bootcamp with the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator, I had the opportunity to present my work. Bonnie happened to witness my presentation and was deeply moved by its impact. Shortly after, she messaged me, expressing her newfound appreciation for my vision.

From Programs Director to CEO

After a few months, Bonnie approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming the CEO of Lensational. I eagerly accepted the position, which I officially assumed on International Women’s Day in March 2021. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you tell us more about Lensational and how it came to be?

In the early 90s, in Hong Kong: A Struggle and a Revelation

In the early 1990s, in the vibrant city of Hong Kong, a young girl named Bonnie Chiu resided with her grandmother, Lin Fa. Their modest life was a constant reminder of the struggles Lin Fa had endured after fleeing her home in Medan, Indonesia, during an anti-Chinese conflict. As Bonnie listened to her grandmother’s harrowing tales of survival and the challenges she faced in making ends meet, she realized the importance of preserving these stories for future generations. Driven by her grandmother’s illiteracy, Bonnie recognized that without her own active participation, these powerful stories would remain untold. This profound experience ignited a passion within Bonnie to uplift women who shared similar backgrounds.

An Encounter in Turkey: Unleashing the Power of Photography

In 2012, Bonnie embarked on a journey to Turkey, where an unexpected encounter would shape her future path. While exploring Istanbul’s magnificent palace, Bonnie found herself capturing precious moments with her friends. In a serendipitous turn of events, four Turkish girls approached her, requesting assistance in taking photographs and learning the art. A deep connection quickly formed between Bonnie and these girls. Later, as Bonnie interacted with them through social media, she discovered something remarkable. The captions accompanying their photographs defied the stereotypes often associated with Muslim women. This revelation sparked Bonnie’s realization of the immense potential of photography as a universal language capable of transcending words, geography, and cultural barriers.

A Vision Takes Shape: Lensational is Born

Drawing from her own travel experiences and the shared stories of women she encountered along the way, Bonnie developed a profound understanding of women as powerful agents of change and the custodians of countless untold stories. Fueled by her unwavering determination to amplify these voices, Bonnie founded Lensational in 2013. The organization’s core mission was twofold: to provide women with the necessary skills in visual storytelling and to create income-generating opportunities for low-income community women in regions such as Asia and Africa. Lensational achieved this by showcasing and selling their powerful images, as well as securing commissioned assignments for these talented photographers.

Through the power of photography, Lensational has continued on this transformative journey, championing women’s empowerment and amplifying their stories to the world.

You have authored a curriculum on photography storytelling for climate action. How can visual storytelling help inspire action on climate change?

Photography in visual storytelling is a very powerful tool to inspire action on climate change by conveying the urgency, impact, and human dimension of the issue.

One way is by evoking emotions. Climate change is still seen as a distant and abstract problem, especially for people who are not directly affected. Photography can bridge this gap by capturing compelling images that evoke emotions such as empathy, compassion, and concern. By showcasing the human and environmental impacts of climate change, powerful images can engage viewers on a deeper level and motivate them to take action.

Closely connected to that is raising awareness. When events and stories related to climate change are visually captured, they bring attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as the melting of glaciers, the destruction of ecosystems, or the displacement of communities due to rising sea levels. There are people who without seeing what’s happening in the world would never believe that climate change is an issue.

Photography also puts a human face on climate change by capturing the lived experiences of individuals and communities affected by its consequences. By showing the real people behind the statistics and highlighting their struggles, hopes, and resilience, photography storytelling helps create a personal connection and fosters empathy. This personalization of the issue makes it more relatable and motivates people to take action. This additionally amplifies the voices of marginalized communities, indigenous peoples, and activists who are on the front lines of climate change and gives them a platform to speak for themselves.

Last but not least is showcasing positive examples and solutions. While it is essential to depict the challenges posed by climate change, photography also highlights positive examples and solutions which in addition to giving hope encourage individuals and communities to adopt sustainable practices and support climate-friendly initiatives.

Related: Lensational Climate Warriors: Maasai Women Inspiring Change through Art

You have a background in both development and photojournalism. How have these two fields influenced your approach to leading Lensational?

I find myself standing at the crossroads of two starkly contrasting realities. On one hand, I have the privilege of closely working with underserved communities, affording me an intimate understanding of their realities and lived experiences. On the other hand, I also have the privilege of comprehending the inner workings of development systems and processes, particularly in programming and implementation. What I’ve observed is that despite the goodwill of policymakers to connect with underserved communities, a significant disconnect persists, lacking a common language through which they can communicate and merge their aspirations.

As documentary photographers and photojournalists, we bear the responsibility of bridging this gap. In the realm of photojournalism, documentary work, and development, however, there exists a prevalent tendency to approach underrepresented communities with preconceived notions about what their issues are and how their stories should be told. Often, we evaluate their circumstances through our own lens and determine the narrative angle that should be emphasized, inadvertently misrepresenting them.

By solely focusing on challenges, communities naturally yearn to understand how their situation will improve, which may lead to disappointment if tangible solutions are not presented.

Occupying this intersection has continually challenged me to explore avenues for these two entities to find common ground. Through our experiences working with these communities, I have come to recognize their desire for active participation in shaping how they are portrayed and the role played by development practitioners. At Lensational, we are currently investigating how the women we train can foster collaboration and active participation within the communities they document, even if it involves their own communities.

Our current approach prioritizes including the voices and perspectives of the communities themselves, allowing them to actively participate in the storytelling process. This shift fosters a more accurate representation of their experiences, challenges, and triumphs. By showcasing their resilience, resourcefulness, and agency, we not only empower them but also contribute to a more balanced and authentic narrative that transcends the confines of the victim label.

Lensational works in a range of diverse contexts locally and internationally. Can you share a specific project or experience that has been particularly impactful or meaningful to you?

It is so hard to narrow this down, however, I will say that taking part in in-person training with our photographers interacting with their communities is an experience that is forever transforming me.

Lensational has a focus on amplifying the voices of women. In your opinion, why is it important to elevate the perspectives of women in conversations and decision-making around sustainable development and climate action?

Women make up approximately half of the global population, and their experiences, knowledge, and ideas are essential for creating comprehensive and inclusive solutions. By tapping into their voices we ensure that the perspectives of all segments of society are taken into account, promoting diversity and avoiding the marginalization of certain groups.

Women also have unique insights and knowledge. They play key roles in resource management, agriculture, and community development, which are critical areas for addressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices. By including their perspectives, we tap into a wealth of expertise and foster innovation in tackling environmental challenges.

According to you, what is the role of storytelling and media in creating social change and driving sustainable development/climate action?

Stories form our perceptions of different things. When we think of a particular country for instance, a particular mental image immediately comes to mind based on the stories we hear and see essentially in the media. I firmly believe that every individual has a role to play in sustainable development and climate action, regardless of how small it may seem. However, when we lack proper information about the reality of what is happening, we are unable to effectively fulfill our roles. Hence, the media and storytelling assume a critical role and in my honest opinion, as one of the key players in driving climate action and sustainable development.

How do you define success? 

This is a very tough question! I think success is very personalized and I feel that I’m still working on defining what success means to me.

As a leader in the sustainable development field, what advice would you give to individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities?

Having a clear purpose is essential for individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities. It provides a guiding light and a sense of direction. Equally important is the active engagement and involvement of communities in the pursuit of that purpose. By including community members in decision-making processes, valuing their perspectives, and addressing their needs, a more inclusive and sustainable approach can be achieved. Together, with a shared purpose and engaged communities, we can create meaningful and lasting change in our communities.

What’s your mantra for life? 

I am intent on knowing and becoming the best and highest version of myself. That’s the mantra I live by.

How can others be involved with you and Lensational?

There are many ways to get involved with us. We are in the process of raising funds for a number of projects and we want to break the idea that philanthropy is the purview of billionaires by inviting individuals with which amount of giving they may have to be part of a greater course. More information on the projects to give to can be found on our website.

We are always looking for new talent to join our team and information about available positions can also be found on our website.

Find Lydia and learn more about her work at Lensational.

This is part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Art as Activism: Unveiling the Creative Journey of Rick Frausto

Art as Activism: Unveiling the Creative Journey of Rick Frausto

In a world where creativity meets climate consciousness, we are thrilled to present an exclusive interview with the exceptional artist and activist, Rick Frausto. With his captivating pen and ink drawings, Frausto has woven a tapestry of visual storytelling that transcends boundaries and inspires change. Join us as we delve into his artistic journey, exploring the profound impact of his work and the unwavering resilience it ignites within us all. From the majestic beauty of nature to the urgent call for climate action, Frausto’s art serves as a powerful reminder that sustainable living and creative expression can intertwine to shape a brighter future. Get ready to be captivated by his unique perspective, as we uncover the journey of the incredible artivist, Rick Frausto.

Rick, please tell us your backstory. How and why did you become an artist?

I began creating art as soon as I could get my hands on paints, mud, and anything that helped me express myself. The creative life is the only life I’ve ever known. For me, being an artist has been a calling rather than a career choice. As a young man, I began a formal practice starting with ceramics. From there it evolved into found object sculpture which was my focus for over two decades. In 2017 I embarked on a journey of full-time travel. That’s when I transitioned into pen and ink drawings.

Can you please tell us what inspires you to create your artwork?

Nature is my biggest inspiration. The word ART lies at the heart of our planet’s name – Earth. Trees have always been one of my favorite subjects. I’m also very inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and greatly admire those who possess the courage to stand up for what they believe in. Pop culture is a big influence too.

You have a very unique style of creating your artwork with pen and ink. Why did you choose this medium?

For over seven years, I was the Art Director for a company in Hollywood that required a daily commute. I decided to sell my car and use public transportation instead. Spending many hours each day on the train gave me a lot of time and the inspiration to start drawing again…something I’d done prior to getting into sculpture but had put on the back-burner. During that time, I did observational drawings daily. Initially, that’s how it started. The catalyzing moment, however, was when I was traveling with my uncle on a train from St. Louis to Chicago. I had my sketchbook with me as I always did. We were having a great conversation that led to this quote he remembered:

“There was an old owl, who lived in an oak.

The more he saw the less he spoke.

The less he spoke the more he heard.

Why can’t we all be like that bird?”

That quote was the first one I based a drawing around. It came about very spontaneously. When I was done, someone from across the aisle said, “I really like that drawing, keep it up!” That person was none other than Joan Haring, the mother of the legendary artist, Kieth Haring. How’s that for encouragement?!

I didn’t fully realize the power of using quotes in my drawings until September 2016, when I learned of the Native American protests at the Standing Rock reservation. I was moved to create something in response to the Water Protector’s heroic fight. That’s when I created the Native American Proverb drawing. I posted it on Instagram and went about my day. A few weeks later I started receiving messages from friends who reported they’d been seeing that drawing everywhere on social media. After some digging, I found that several celebrities had reposted it (without credit) which ultimately led to it going viral and becoming one of the iconic images of the No DAPL movement. It made me aware of the power of pairing a quote with an image, which led to the drawings that I’m best known for these days.

As an artivist, do you think different forms of art can play a significant role to motivate people to take action in their daily lives, especially now, when the climate crisis is getting intensified with every passing day?

Absolutely! I’ve seen and felt it deeply first-hand. I’ve had folks reach out to tell me how much my work has helped them see or understand a heavy subject in such a way that made them feel empowered rather than being in despair. The greatest gift I can give through my work at this moment is hope.

How do you think artists can collaborate to make the climate movement stronger and more fruitful?

My approach is to work with people and organizations that are aligned with my values when it comes to climate conservation. It feels good to be collaborating with those who are making a real impact. It’s all about action in the right direction.

What’s your take on climate optimism as an artist/artivist?

I do think we already know how to prevent things from getting worse and these are the very things that need support in order to change things for real.

Going back to the land, earth stewardship programs, listening to our native elders. Nature heals our mind, body, and soul. We have to protect it in order to protect ourselves and future generations.

Do you have a favorite piece of art of yours? Tell us about that.

My artworks are like my children, so it’s hard to say which one is my favorite.

All I can say is the one I’m currently working on is always my favorite at that moment. Each piece is a stepping stone to the next, so they really are all connected.

Who are your biggest inspirations?

I’m inspired by so many. Those who show true inner strength and courage in the face of unthinkable odds light my fire. Those who shine bright and lift up people make my heart sing. Those who show up and help those in need with no hesitation give me so much hope. Those who possess sacred knowledge and have the power to heal make me want to learn more. So many people inspire me.

How do you define success?

To me, success is staying true to yourself and following your own path.

If you stick with it long enough you will meet the people you are meant to cross paths with and find out the things you need to know to make you happy.

What’s your mantra for life?

Health is wealth.

Learn more about Rick Frausto or connect with him on Instagram.

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

Lensational Climate Warriors: Maasai Women Inspiring Change through Art

Lensational Climate Warriors: Maasai Women Inspiring Change through Art

In the heart of Kenya, nestled in the foothills of the majestic Mount Kenya, live the Maasai people, a Nilotic ethnic community, members of the Nilo-Saharan family of languages related to the Nuer, Kalenjin, and Dinka. For generations, they have called the land of Kenya their home, relying on its fertile soil and abundant water resources to sustain their way of life. But over the years, the pastoralist community that relies so heavily on livestock rearing and agriculture has seen their way of life and their livelihoods threatened by the changing climate. The once-abundant water resources are drying up, and the land is becoming increasingly arid, making it difficult for the Maasai people to sustain their way of life. Recognizing this issue, international social enterprise, Lensational, along with The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Global Network partnered up to empower the Maasai women through photography and digital storytelling.

Collaboration for Empowerment: Lensational and NAP Global Network’s Partnership

Through the program, these women were trained in photography and digital storytelling, empowering them to share their stories with the world. They were provided with the skills and tools they need to share their stories and raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on their community. 

Through this initiative, six Maasai women came together to tell their stories about how climate change has affected them and their communities. Through the lens of these skilled photographers, we gain a unique perspective on the profound transformations unfolding in the Maasai community. Each photograph tells a story, offering glimpses into the everyday struggles, remarkable resilience, and inspiring adaptation efforts of the Maasai people, with a particular focus on the experiences and perspectives of women.

The Six Maasai Photographers

Picturing Resilience: Lensational and the Maasai Women’s Fight against Climate Change

As we embark on this visual journey, we are reminded of the urgent need to address climate change and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities. Through the artistry and storytelling of the Maasai women, we are compelled to listen, learn, and take action to support these communities as they navigate the uncharted waters of a warming planet. So, let us immerse ourselves in the photographs and stories that unveil the Maasai community’s experiences with climate change, and let their voices guide us towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

1. The shoulders shielding the effects of climate change, by Catherine Pilalei:

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Meet Catherine Pilalei, a remarkable Maasai photographer and devoted mother of two. Through her lens, she discovered the power of independence and self-reliance. In this project, Catherine and her community of Maasai women learned that embracing their own capabilities is essential, even when men migrate with cattle. Witness the captivating photographs that showcase their resilience, highlighting the importance of women’s empowerment in the face of a changing world. Join us as we delve into their inspiring journey, where visual storytelling transforms lives and paves the way for a brighter future.

2. Rebuilding after the storm, by Grace Ntesio

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Introducing Grace Ntesio, a remarkable photographer and devoted mother to a young boy, whose lens captures the strength and resilience of women in the face of adversity. Through this project, Grace has discovered the indomitable spirit within women, a spirit that refuses to surrender in the face of challenges caused by climate change. Witness their determination as they navigate tough times, defying helplessness and finding innovative solutions to overcome the hurdles presented by a changing climate. Join us as we delve into Grace’s powerful series, celebrating the unwavering resilience and inspiring ingenuity of women in the face of climate-related difficulties. Together, let’s honor their remarkable journey and draw inspiration from their resourcefulness in building a brighter future.

3. Changing lifestyles in the face of drought, by Irene Naneu

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Enter the world of Irene Nanue, hailing from the vibrant Narok North Melili area. Through her participation in this project, Irene discovered the hidden struggles endured by their community under the weight of climate change. Yet, amidst the challenges, she witnessed the remarkable resilience and innovative adaptation efforts of her fellow community members. With a newfound understanding, Irene recognized that climate change is a global issue, far from a mere occurrence, and that the first step in combatting it is through education and awareness. Join us as we delve into Irene’s enlightening perspective, unveiling the silent hardships and inspiring initiatives within her community. Together, let’s embrace the power of knowledge and unite in the fight against climate change.

4. The search for a good harvest, by Esther Tinayo

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Allow us to introduce Esther Tinayo, a visionary photographer and devoted mother of three, who unveils the truth behind their experiences in this captivating series. Through her lens, Esther sheds light on the realization that the challenges they have faced for so long are not merely natural climate patterns but are, in fact, linked to climate change. In the face of drought, Esther discovered the importance of managing a smaller, healthier herd rather than struggling to care for a larger, weakened one. As a community, they have learned to seize the precious moments of rainfall, preserving and preparing water resources for the inevitable dry spells. Join us on this visual expedition as Esther’s photographs reveal the wisdom gained from their experiences, highlighting the significance of adaptation and sustainable practices. Together, let’s embrace their journey and draw inspiration from their resilience, as they navigate the ever-changing climate for the sake of their families and future generations.

5. Navigating drought in the highlands and plains of Loita, by Immaculate Pisoi

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Meet Immaculate, the visionary photographer behind this captivating series. As a homestead manager in the drought-stricken region of Loita, Immaculate intimately understands the profound impact of water scarcity on her daily life and the lives of her community members, particularly the women. Through her lens, Immaculate fearlessly explores the far-reaching consequences of the prevailing drought, shedding light on its effects on households, communities, and the resilience of women. Join us as we embark on a visual odyssey, guided by Immaculate’s keen eye, to witness the struggles and triumphs of those grappling with the harsh realities of water scarcity. Together, let’s uncover the power of visual storytelling in illuminating the untold stories and rallying for change in Loita and beyond.

6. An odd contest for a better future, by Claire Metito

A collage of beautiful photographs with the photographer's photo on the upper left corner of the collage
Copyright © lensational.org

Introducing Claire Metito, an extraordinary photographer and devoted mother of four, who brings her unique perspective to this series. In Esiteti, their community had long endured drought without fully understanding the underlying force of climate change. But now, as women, they have gained awareness and embraced their vital role in shaping a better future for their children. Join us as we embark on a visual journey, guided by Claire’s lens, to witness their determination, resilience, and unwavering commitment to securing a brighter tomorrow. Together, let’s explore the profound impact of their storytelling and the power of mothers in shaping a sustainable legacy.

Igniting Change through Art and Empowered Voices

Person in a jungle Holding Camera Leaning on Wood Plank

In the resounding echoes of their photographs and digital narratives, the Maasai women have shattered the silence and given a resolute voice to their community’s struggles in the face of climate change. Their impactful work has transcended boundaries, resonating with audiences across the globe and igniting a vital conversation about the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities like the Maasai people.

Lensational’s partnership with the Maasai women, training and empowering them in the realms of photography and digital storytelling, stands as a testament to the organization’s unwavering commitment to fostering empowerment and promoting social and environmental justice. By equipping these women with the tools and skills to tell their stories, Lensational has created a powerful platform for their voices to soar and their narratives to reach far and wide.

Through the lens of this initiative, we witness the transformative power of art, as the Maasai women’s images and words ignite empathy, challenge perspectives, and spur collective action. Their stories have been captured, shared, and celebrated, raising awareness and inspiring individuals and communities to confront the urgent realities of climate change.

Embracing Resilience and Empowering Change

Sunset tree in Kenya Safari, Africa

The Maasai women’s journey encapsulates the resilience, strength, and unwavering spirit of communities facing the ravages of climate change. It reminds us that within every challenge lies the potential for change and the capacity for individuals to rise, unite, and champion a sustainable future.

As we bid farewell to this visual expedition, let us carry the stories of the Maasai women within our hearts, nurturing their flame of resilience and empowering their calls for justice. Together, we can weave a tapestry of hope, embracing the collective responsibility to safeguard our planet and create a world where every voice is heard and cherished.

How to Reconnect with Nature

How to Reconnect with Nature

It all starts with one breath, a pause, where you allow yourself to simply exist. When you no longer try to prove your worth and you give yourself permission to just be. That moment can seem like a lifetime – because it changes everything. It alters how you perceive the rest of your day, how you carry yourself, and how you interact with your surroundings. That’s why it’s important to take a break and try to reconnect with nature.

When we breathe, we ground ourselves.

A beautiful golden sunset with reflections on the river water and the shadow of trees visible. Image used for an article titled - How to reconnect with nature.
Photo by Tania Roa

Today’s technologically driven world full of grind culture causes us to forget to breathe. Thankfully our bodies do it automatically, but modern society neglects the power of deep breaths. Mindful inhales and exhales do more than merely keep us alive – they rejuvenate our mind, body, and soul.

To reconnect with ourselves, we have to reconnect with the natural world. We’re part of nature, and whenever we disconnect from our breath, we disconnect from the beings that give us that breath – the plants that release oxygen, the soil that swaddles the plants, and the water that nourishes the plants.

To reconnect with nature, we can use our senses with more intention. 

We limit our ability to connect when we look down at our phones rather than up, at our surroundings. As we rush through life, we forget to use all five senses – eyesight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. 

1. Eyesight:

Close-up photo of a human eye with intricate details of the iris and pupil.

Just looking at a landscape photo can be calming (that’s why so many devices come with nature-based wallpapers). But sight can be taken a step further: go outside and observe. Pay attention to even the slightest movement, such as the gradual fall of a leaf or the calculated journey of a snail. You’ll begin to see things you didn’t before, and that’s where you’ll find inspiration. 

2. Smell:

A woman wearing a red dress is leaning forward and smelling wild flowers in a green field.

Smell the flowers. Literally. Smell their perfumes and others, like the salt of the ocean breeze and the aroma of your tea or coffee – after all, everything we consume comes from the Earth. Smell helps ingrain memories into our brains, so let’s ingrain the delicious fragrances of our blue and green home. 

3. Hearing:

Close-up of a person's face, showing one eye, eyebrow, cheek, and some hair.

Even when it’s tranquil and seemingly still, nature is constantly moving and, therefore, making continuous noise. Don’t just hear but listen to the evening calls of creek frogs as they notify you of sundown. Go underwater and listen to the crackling of busy coral cities. My mom taught me the beauty of rushing water, and now I always close my eyes to listen to the river as it seamlessly cascades over rocks and logs. These are the sounds of energy coursing through nature.

4. Touch:

Hand touching delicate white flowers and leaves on a tree branch. The rest of the tree is blurred in the background.

Don’t be afraid to become a tree hugger. Touch is a love language, and what our planet needs right now is more love. When we interact with the natural world, we act out our admiration for it. Respectfully demonstrate your affection as you would to a loved one.

5. Taste: 

Hand of a person holding a half-eaten watermelon slice. The person is wearing an orange t-shirt, which is slightly visible in the photo."

Taste the sweetness of the Earth. Everything we eat comes from soils or oceans. No matter how many artificial ingredients we add, everything edible originates from the planet. So why not taste all the elements? Gather food as close to its source as possible by supporting local small-scale farmers or growing your own food. 

When we unwrap the potential of our five senses, we gain an understanding of our place in nature. Daily tasks become meditations. A walk at the park evolves into a vibrant journey when you observe, smell the plants, listen to the birds sing, touch the grass with your bare feet, and taste the juiciness of ripe fruit. 

Let’s rebuild our relationships with the beings that give us life.

Nature’s Harmony: Inanna’s Journey in Singing for the Planet

Nature’s Harmony: Inanna’s Journey in Singing for the Planet

Music is a magical form of art that has the power to touch souls. It has a way of connecting people, beyond language barriers and cultural differences. Music fosters a sense of belonging and community by enabling people to express themselves and engage with others on a deeper level. As we listen to music, we are taken to a world of emotions and feelings that can make us feel alive, bring us peace, or even inspire us to take actions.

And it’s not just people who create music. With its own distinctive sounds and rhythms, nature contributes to this symphony as well. Birds tweeting, leaves rustling in the breeze, and waves crashing on the shore: these natural sounds influence musicians and artists to produce music that captures the splendor and majesty of our planet.

Inanna, also known as Annalisa G. Dunker is one such musician who uses her art to promote environmental sustainability and inspire people to take action for the future of our planet. Through her soulful songs and fascinating videos, Inanna conveys a message of harmony and hope. She believes that music can be a powerful force for change, uniting people to safeguard the environment and build a better future for future generations.

In this exclusive interview, we speak with Inanna about her journey as a musician, her inspiration for writing about environmental issues, and how she envisions her music influencing the world for the better. So sit back, relax, and join us as we delve deeper into the world of Inanna and her music.

What inspired you to use your creativity and imagination in singing for the planet?

I moved here to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, I knew that at that point I had a clean page that I could start again, in this city with many things that I am passionate about. It was actually very easy, kind of a quick-change, not only of life but of career in general. 

Music-wise, I had done a lot of things before – I had been a singer before in several bands and projects, but I kind of felt I still needed to find my own voice. And this time, I really wanted to do it with something with a deeper meaning with something that I could really stand for.

So the project started because I moved here and I wanted to do something on my own – produce music on my own, find my own sound and my own real voice in the music and I wanted my music to have a specific message. In this case, it was speaking up for the environment and the future of nature, the future of animals and the whole planet. And so I simply decided to dedicate all my music to that. 

I really felt I had to do it because in those times, especially in early 2019 with all the new protests and Greta Thunberg and all the movements that were appearing more and more, everywhere I felt I wanted to do more apart from just changing my daily habits, or do little modifications in my daily life. I really wanted to speak up and to contribute to a cultural change and I thought – “What’s better than to be able to change culture itself? ” And I thought that I would do it through music because it’s one of my skills and one of my passions and that’s how it happened. 

So, I’ve been working on all these songs and all the imagery and products around it since 2019. 2019 was the time when my very first single that came out. It came out in May 2019.

What inspired you to take the name “Inanna” and what does that mean to you?

Inanna is the name of the Sumerian goddess of love and harvest but also war and justice. I thought, the name of a goddess is something timeless that would be good for this project because I want to give a timeless feel to my music. And also, I’m talking about such enormous topics and issues. I’m taking on this task of discussing the future of humans on the planet and the future of nature – the future in general. So I thought that maybe, only the name of a goddess could contain all that.

I think what I loved the most in Inanna is her duality as a goddess figure. I felt it really fit with this project because on one hand with this music, I’m trying to invite people into a possible world where things are done better, where we reach a higher place, a better place in our relationship with animals and nature. But on the other hand there is witnessing and acknowledging everything that is happening and everything that we’ve done. 

So there is this dual thing of the need for love and togetherness and connection and work all together but also the rage and the sadness for everything that unfortunately humans have done to the planet and animals. So I really thought it was a perfect match. I also liked that the name contained part of my birth name, which is Annalisa and this “Inanna” had a little bit of a part of me too, so I feel that Inanna is kind of an amplified version of myself.

Do you think art – different forms of art, can play a significant role to motivate people to take actions in their daily lives, especially now, when the climate crisis is getting worse with every passing day? 

I think that all art forms and music in particular, play an enormous role in cultural and social change. Arts have an incredible power to bring people together to inspire collectivity. They have the power to speak to conscious and unconscious layers of ourselves. And that’s why in many people at many times and all points in time, they have the capacity to create these moments inside a person where you understand something in a much deeper way, in a way that only a piece of art can make you see or understand. So, I have a deep respect for all artists who are using their skills and their capacities and their tools to speak up for the things that we should definitely change, revise, redefine.

Another factor that is very important when it comes to Arts is their kind of ritualistic power, specially with music. Not only they bring a group of people together but all the people get to feel something together at the same time and even if it’s different, maybe from person to person but there is something in common, like a common ritual and I love ritualistic events because I always say – “Rituals are made to get one person into the ritual as a person and then when they go out of the ritual, they actually go out as someone else because the ritual actually does something to you”. And I feel that is exactly what I’m trying to do with my music and I feel that’s what the Arts should do, to really make you feel different after you experience that piece of art.

How can artists collaborate to make the climate movement stronger and more fruitful?

Artists can collaborate in so many different ways. I have seen it lately especially from the very beginning of this second big wave of the environmentalist movement that is growing and growing – I have seen so many organizations, associations, platforms, digital platforms and artistic endeavors being born in the last three and a half years. At the beginning of 2019, I thought I was maybe one of the only ones that were doing this – as a musician. But I’ve seen so many things happening since then and artists can definitely find so many ways to collaborate in events where they can do things together, support each other, uplift each other, help each other. 

So, what I do personally is really try to stimulate and give a further impulse to gatherings like, really doing things together, whether it is an event where we talked or there is an artistic community coming together for a concert, or maybe I’ve been getting in touch with a lot of other organizations to see if we can do something together. I think, especially in these times, uplifting each other and togetherness is one of the most important things we can do. We should not see each other as competing artists or competing organizations. Because we’re really talking about the future of everything, the future of our soul. And if there’s something that we all have in common is this home, this planet and we must take care of it together.

So what I definitely recommend to all artists, entrepreneurs who are speaking up for the future of the planet and working for the future of the planet – “Get in touch to try to do things together. You’re not alone. There are so many other people doing the same and together, you’re stronger together. Together is much better.”

What do you think are needed as ingredients of a song that can create that can inspire change?

I don’t want to talk about the ingredients to make a perfect commercial song, that works for sure in a radio context or in a TV show context. To me, what really matters is speaking to two different levels in a person. Like if you have a catchy song, that’s great because it’s already the first element that will get to someone, but if that song already has a message that’s even better. And from that message, if you have different layers that will touch and communicate to different people – that’s even better. I think it’s about making it really broad and generous.

I think with the meaning you really want to try to communicate something from who you are from an authentic place. I always try to write from who I am and what I really think. I never write thinking – “Oh what is going to make people feel good or what is going to sell?” I always try to be as authentic as possible and I think that’s the best ingredient that you can put in any piece of art, for sure.

Polluters have surely lost the empathetic connection with nature, and we believe that your songs have the power to mend that connection which might make them take a stand on the right side. How do you plan to get your music to reach them?

As I was saying, the way I am trying to reach people wherever they are in life and wherever they are in the world and whatever historical experiences they have is to try to meet them where they are and to simply invite them to another view, another way of seeing things, I really think it’s important not to impose certain views.

Because we don’t know where other people come from and their past experiences and their life history. So I think one element is to be able to invite someone into something you deeply believe, as you know, your life mission and you think it’s really important for everyone. And for the future is to try to invite with generosity and invite with a smile and always try to make people try to feel what you feel like.

I really want to gather people around me, through a sense of understanding and empathy. I don’t want to blame even if I know it’s hard because we get very angry sometimes, especially environmentalists or animalists, we always think – “Oh my goodness, this is never gonna get fixed. How can some people do this? And they don’t see it.” Of course, I have those moments too and we all have, but I don’t think it’s the most effective way to invite people to what we consider the right side. I think you always have to meet people where they are and understand the enormous complexity of certain systems.

So, I think that it should always start from a place of compassion and empathy, you should always try to meet everyone where they are at, even if you know, that certain people or organizations are actively working against the future of nature and everything, we know of this planet, but the reality is so incredibly complex that the best way we have, probably, the only way we have is to try to invite always through compassion and understanding.

What’s your take on climate optimism as an artist and an activist?

I have to say that it gets very hard at times to be optimistic. Because even if I am constantly surrounded by incredible communities of environmentalists and animal rights activists that make me feel that everything is possible – that we are changing the world conversation by conversation, little by little, song by song, but at the same time you also see the tendencies and what’s going on in the world every day, it’s tough to see that a lot of things are not changing at all. But I always tell myself, – “Should I just give up because I don’t see the change that I want to see? And in the time frame that I want to see it?”

I know what I stand for and I know what I believe in. I am dreaming of a future where nature is always considered in every decision of society and economy. I’m dreaming of a society where animals are not exploited anymore, and are not mistreated anymore. And it’s a society that I acknowledge. I don’t acknowledge animals as other beings that live here on Earth with us and not for our own benefit for us.

So, I’ll just keep working for that, and I know that, even if the changes are not as fast as I would like them to be, changes are definitely happening. And that’s what keeps me optimistic. Because I see that change happening around me every day, even in the arts.

Where do you think “spirituality” stands with art and activism? Do you think that understanding “spirituality” is important to feel more environmentally empathetic?

Yeah, definitely. There is a kind of spiritual element in my songs. To me, it translates into something very simple, which is a feeling of reverence. To me that’s what spirituality is in general. It’s this feeling of reverence towards everything that is alive towards the beauty, amazing, incredible wonders, that this planet has, this incredible biodiversity of all animals, all earthlings. The feeling of reverence when you really see that and take that in is automatically spiritual to me. And that’s the feeling of rediscovered awe, that I would like to transmit through my songs and through the imagery and everything that I’m trying to do. So I guess it’s just that big feeling of awe and reverence towards the Earth and all Earthlings.

Tell us about your favorite song and why it’s your favorite.

It’s difficult because I’m very attached to several of the songs, of course, on different levels, and for different reasons. But I think that if I had to choose one, I think I would still choose “Change” which came out last year for Earth Day. 

I think mostly because it’s the one that probably sums up the whole Inanna style among all the other songs. Because it’s got a powerful message, it’s got a little bit of the rage, it’s got a hopeful message of togetherness and coming together for something, it’s got a little bit of Middle Eastern hint – which is something that I do. I feel it’s a song that really summarizes a lot of what Inanna is. So I think I would still pick that one. Yeah, it’s definitely “Change.”

Who are your biggest inspirations?

People that have inspired me and that keep inspiring me – I have to say, one of the first ones that really made an impact was Charlie Chaplin and it all started because of my grandfather who was very passionate about him and all his movies. This may have got nothing to do with the environmental movement but I loved the fact that he had such a clear vision for everything that he did. His movies and everything was almost made by him single-handedly. I simply admire that all his art was really his fruit, like his product from top to toe because it was really coming from an authentic place of who he was and what he believed in. 

Other inspirational figures, definitely all the current environmentalists that are doing so much for the planet. I always loved Jane Goodall – absolutely a hero of mine. I really admire what Leonardo DiCaprio is doing. I really hope to meet him at some point. I really admire all the work he’s doing and all the documentaries that he is funding. 

Knowledge is power – when we know, when we’re aware of things, we can choose better, we can do better. So every artist that really takes time and spends resources in spreading knowledge, I have a very, very big admiration for them.

Another person I really admire that I have had the honor to meet lately is Maggie Baird. She’s the founder and president of “Support and Feed” an organization that I love. Maggie is Billie Eilish’s mother. She’s been working so hard to promote the plant-based equitable food system. And I really hope her organization will grow more and more because it’s really fantastic what they’re doing.

What’s your mantra for life?

I don’t know if it’s actually a mantra for life but I love to sign my newsletters and my messages to my fans and people that know the Inanna project with this little sentence –  “A hand is a paw is a fin is a wing. – Inanna.”

Find Inanna and learn more about her at www.inannamusic.com

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.

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