In the labyrinth of global efforts combating the climate crisis, a distinctive initiative takes center stage at the blue zone of COP28 – the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion (E+C Pavilion). This pioneering endeavor stands as the first dedicated space within the COP Blue Zone, delving into the dynamic intersection of Entertainment, Culture, and Climate.
The Pavilion aims to serve not only as a physical space within the COP Blue Zone but as a metaphorical bridge connecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. Their mission is to provide a platform for collaboration, education, and inspiration, and to establish a vital connection between the creative industries and the global climate discourse. This connection goes beyond symbolism, manifesting in interdisciplinary activations and programming events that inspire concrete climate action.
“As members of the creative sector, we hold immense power to shape mainstream perspectives, raise awareness on important issues facing our planet, build shared understanding and consciousness, and encourage behavioral change.”
The Partnership and Impact Director of E+C Pavilion, Samuel Rubin shared with Green & Beyond Mag
At the heart of the Pavilion’s significance is its unique ability to amplify climate dialogues globally. The Pavilion, according to the organizers, aims to be a space where “entertainment, culture, and intricate global climate dialogues intersect.” Its goal is clear: to use the influential realms of entertainment and culture to articulate, disseminate, and amplify pivotal climate discussions emerging from COP28 to a global audience.
Significance of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28
Amidst the urgency of climate action, the E+C Pavilion emerges as a dynamic hub pulsating with creativity, activism, ambition, and hope. In an era where social media platforms dominate communication, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion recognizes the power of narrative impact and climate storytelling. “Uplifting the power of narratives and stories in promoting planetary justice and fostering an understanding of interconnectedness, kinship, and care for people, flora, fauna, and the planet” is a focal point.
This approach aligns with the Pavilion’s mission to inspire collective action through the emotive strength of storytelling. Positioned within the Blue Zone, this pavilion seeks to amplify the emotional resonance and transformative power of Entertainment and Culture, fostering heightened awareness, inspiring collective action, and catalyzing systemic change.
“Climate change not only threatens natural resources, but also the cultural heritage of communities intricately tied to ancestral lands and waters. Culture therefore provides the imperative to educate and empower generations of community members to band together to generate locally-suited solutions to preserve natural and cultural heritage.”
– Samuel further shared with Green & Beyond Mag
Hence, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28 marks a groundbreaking venture as its genesis lies in recognizing the transformative potential of culture and entertainment in steering climate conversations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the power of narrative shifts and cultural efforts, estimating that the committed engagement of 10-30% of social influencers and thought leaders is pivotal for shaping new social norms.
“The creative sector urgently needs more hubs like the E+C Pavilion. These spaces are crucial for building essential infrastructure, advancing decarbonization initiatives, crafting policies, creating economic incentives, securing funding, and ensuring diversity and representation across the entertainment industry.”
– The Communication & Content Director of E+C Pavilion, Kirsten Wessel shared with Green & Beyond Mag
The significance of such a platform extends beyond the COP event. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions play a pivotal role in shaping the global climate agenda. The pilot edition of the Pavilion at COP28 is designed to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and potentially other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. This ambition is rooted in the understanding that the creative sector, employing over 50 million people globally, is a powerful force that can drive meaningful change.
Cultural Catalyst for Policy and Action
Emerging from this understanding, the Pavilion aims to be a nexus where entertainment and culture converge to exert influence. In crafting this unique space, the organizers draw inspiration from UNESCO‘s view of culture as the “ultimate renewable resource” to combat climate change. The Pavilion is more than a platform; it’s a testament to the urgent need to leverage the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries for climate advocacy.
“Tackling the climate crisis will take decisive action at all levels of society, so why not harness the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries to actively address and combat climate change?We have no alternative but to make an earnest effort, crucially because it involves adapting to the evolving climate and mastering the art of navigating our current reality. Whether conveyed through music, film, art, or otherwise, it’s essential to feel acknowledged and share narratives of resilience and joy within our global communities.”
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion positions itself as a bridge between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. The mission resonates with a commitment to inspire concrete climate action, fostering collaboration and leveraging culture’s power to engage a global audience. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions serve as dynamic drivers of climate action and environmental stewardship.
The E+C Pavilion stands as a testament to the potent fusion of creativity and climate action. Through its objectives, the Pavilion aims to showcase the profound impact that culture, arts, music, and storytelling can have in interpreting the reality of the climate crisis. According to the organizers, “The emotive strength of these mediums taps into universal human experiences, transcending borders and languages.”
E+C Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28 – Programming & Events
The Pavilion’s programming themes craft a vivid portrayal of its objectives. From exploring audiovisual sovereignty to examining the influence of persuasive industries in raising climate awareness, each theme is a thread in the larger narrative of leveraging culture for climate action. Notably, the Pavilion’s emphasis on health, mindfulness, and storytelling underscores a holistic approach to climate engagement.
As the organizers succinctly put it, “The Pavilion and its programming are designed to unite these subsectors and bolster the presence of the entire industry in the climate agenda.”
The Pavilion’s commitment to fostering collaboration is evident in its event formats. Whether through sectoral roundtables, discussion panels, or interactive installations, the Pavilion aims to provide a diverse set of avenues for engaging with climate issues. This inclusivity extends to community mixers, where people from diverse backgrounds converge to network and build bridges within the creative sector.
Panel discussions to be hosted by organizations like NAACP, Harvard, and MENA Youth Network will delve into crucial topics such as storytelling in the Black community for environmental justice, communicating climate change and health solutions through video media, and exploring climate action through the cultural lens of the Middle East and North Africa.
Additionally, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion will feature a fashion show spotlighting eco-conscious clothing and accessories. This exhibition goes beyond the traditional runway, championing innovative design and creativity while emphasizing sustainability in the fashion industry. It serves as a testament to the Pavilion’s commitment to intertwining culture and climate across various sectors.
The lineup of performances is equally impressive. From Nile Rodgers, renowned for his contributions to the music industry, to spoken word performances by environmental justice advocate Isavela Lopez, the Pavilion offers a diverse range of artistic expressions. These performances aim not only to entertain but also to inspire a sense of responsibility and climate awareness.
The Pavilion’s vision goes beyond COP28. It aspires to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. By encouraging dialogue, igniting innovation, and mobilizing people globally, the Pavilion seeks to contribute to a more sustainable and habitable planet.
As we delve into the details of the Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28, it becomes apparent that it’s a hub of climate optimism, as the Pavilion’s dynamic programming aims to instill a sense of hope and empowerment. By incorporating diverse voices, the Pavilion seeks to catalyze tangible actions and solutions across borders and sectors.
Recognizing the Importance of Diversity & Inclusivity
The Pavilion’s extensive programming, comprising over 190 proposals from around the globe, reflects its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Events will be conducted in English, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese, making the Pavilion a truly global platform. Private roundtables, interactive exhibitions, and community mixers highlight the diverse array of activities that participants can engage with.
Another crucial aspect of the Pavilion is its emphasis on talent diversity. From Indian actress Dia Mirza to climate lawyer and activist Farhana Yamin, the Pavilion brings together a diverse array of voices. This diversity is not just symbolic; it mirrors the Pavilion’s broader mission of uniting artists, innovators, and thought leaders from varied backgrounds to foster collaboration and synergy.
“A prime example being featured in the pavilion is Monica Jahan Bose, a member of our Delegation who founded “Storytelling with Saris”. Through this initiative, she uplifts traditional practices in rural Bangladesh, utilizing her own traditional clothing as a tool for movement building, climate action, and empowerment. During COP, Monica will lead a performance and host a workshop at the E+C Pavilion.”
– Organizers at the E+C Pavilion
“The Pavilion also features filmmaker collectives like Mullu, Midia Ninja, and Sauntr representing Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and the US, establishing community- or Indigenous-led media platforms to create fresh content that focuses on community cinema and collective creation while supporting audiovisual sovereignty over their narratives. With over 100 community events and 150 partners, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion represents a diverse array of approaches to intertwining environmental concerns with arts and culture.”
– the organizers further said.
Highlighting Individuals and Talents of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion
The Pavilion boasts an impressive lineup of individuals who have made significant contributions to the intersection of climate action and culture. Dia Mirza, an Indian actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNEP, brings her influence to amplify environmental causes. Climate lawyer, author, and activist Farhana Yamin, along with world-renowned economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, adds depth to the Pavilion’s discussions.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Indigenous Women & People’s Association of Chad, and Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation, represent voices from regions deeply affected by climate change. Their perspectives offer valuable insights into the intersection of culture, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship.
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion also features youth leaders and renowned climate activists like Vanessa Nakate, founder of the Rise Up Movement, and Max Han, co-founder of Youths United for Earth. Their presence underscores the importance of empowering the younger generation in the climate discourse.
Xiye Bastida, co-founder of the Re-Earth Initiative, contributes to the Pavilion’s narrative with her focus on engaging communities and fostering a sense of global responsibility. Laurel Kivuyo, founder of Climate Hub Tanzania, brings a unique perspective from the African continent, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices in the climate dialogue.
Musical contributions come from Nile Rodgers, known for his guitar prowess and influential contributions to the music industry. The Pavilion also hosts a spoken word performance by Isavela Lopez, offering a poignant narrative of environmental injustices in Mexico and the United States.
These talents, along with others, represent a mosaic of experiences, expertise, and creativity. Their collective presence reinforces the Pavilion’s commitment to fostering a truly global and inclusive dialogue on the crucial intersection of culture and climate.
A Vision Unveiled: E+C Pavilion’s Long-Term Impact
In the heart of COP28, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion materializes as more than a spectacle; it’s a visionary force intertwining creativity and climate advocacy. Beyond the dazzling events, the Pavilion paints a vision of collaboration, birthing a promise for a sustained presence in global conversations. This isn’t just an artistic spectacle; it’s a mission to align with the Paris Agreement’s ambitions.
The Pavilion calls for the creative industries to decarbonize, transforming into a stage where the entertainment industry becomes a protagonist in the fight against climate change. It’s a canvas where disciplines intertwine, giving birth to artistic expressions narrating tales of resilience in the face of climate challenges. Here, existing initiatives find a home, converging knowledge to avoid duplication.
The Pavilion acts as a haven for collective wisdom, echoing the argument for the expansion of cultural spaces championing climate causes. Amidst this vision, the Pavilion’s programming themes beat like a heart, each echoing a different facet of the climate story. From the struggle for audiovisual sovereignty to the harmonious blend of music and ritual in service of science-based targets, the themes become threads that create a landscape of climate narratives. As the Pavilion unfolds its programming, it ceases to be just a platform; it transforms into a living, breathing entity — a storyteller in the grand theater of climate action.
In the dynamic realm of sustainable fashion, Talisha Lee emerges as a vibrant thread intricately woven into the narrative of Eco-Fashion Week Australia (EFWA). Her journey, from a transformative experience at an early age to becoming the Face of EFWA Closet of the Anthropocene in 2024, reflects not just a runway showcase but a profound exploration of the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Talisha‘s story embodies personal evolution and a commitment to amplify voices often unheard, making her an ambassador for diversity, equity, and sustainability.
Beyond the glamour, Talisha’s perspective as a medical student adds depth to her understanding of the connection between sustainable fashion and personal well-being. For her, it’s more than a runway; it’s a belief that what we wear should echo the commitment to natural, organic choices in life. Talisha’s artistic flair extends beyond modeling, with her passion for singing and acting enriching her expression on the runway. Balancing a medical career with modeling, she envisions a future where both seamlessly coexist, contributing to a vibrant and sustainable world.
Hi Talisha! You’ve been a part of Eco-Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) since its inception. Could you share your journey with us? How has the EFWA experience influenced your perspective on fashion and sustainability?
My first experience with EFWA was when I was 13 years old, and it was the first large-scale fashion/modelling show that I had ever participated in. I had the lucky opportunity to meet a multitude of different people from different countries and backgrounds and witness their own unique styles of creating sustainable fashion. From designs made of coffee bags and coffee pods, to Merino and alpaca wool, all the way through to up-cycling and redesigning op shop finds. It also opened my eyes to how much of our current fashion consumption is considered fast fashion, and just how damaging this is for the environment. Prior to my experience with EFWA I felt as if I was oblivious to the impacts of fast fashion on our environment, and to what fast fashion actually looked like in our everyday lives.
Being the Face of EFWA Closet of the Anthropocene for EFWA 2024 is an incredible achievement. Can you tell us more about this role and what it means to you?
To me being the face of the EFWA closet of the Anthropocene means not only advocating for sustainable fashion and minimising the impacts of fast fashion, but it also means giving a voice to smaller groups and communities that are often not seen and heard in the media. It means encouraging diversity and giving a voice to those who often do not have one, so that all Australians are given equal opportunity to share their story. It is up to us to use the platform that we have been given to advocate for diversity, equity, and sustainability. Having been a part of EFWA since its inception, I have been able to see the effort that this incredible team has put in to ensure diversity and equity for all of our models, designers, and community members, and I feel as if I have a responsibility to keep promoting these same values.
As a medical student, you have a unique perspective on health and sustainability. How do you see the connection between sustainable fashion and personal well-being?
To me, sustainable fashion is a much more viable alternative to fast fashion, not only for the environment but for us. We know that natural products are always better for an individual’s health, whether that’s organic foods to organic products, what we consume should be no different from the clothes that we put on our bodies.
You’re not only a model but also have a passion for singing and acting. How do these different forms of creative expression complement your modelling career?
Not only did singing and acting improve my confidence and stage presence, but it also gave me the skills required for modelling. A lot of people don’t realise that modelling is an art form, there are so many different styles of modelling and how we choose to compose ourselves on the runway is a form of individual expression. Acting and singing allowed me to explore my own unique style, from body language to facial expression, to perfect my modelling capabilities.
Eco Fashion and traditional fashion can differ in many ways. What do you find most distinctive about modelling for sustainable fashion as opposed to conventional fashion?
With sustainable fashion, you truly uncover the story behind the clothes. You get to listen to designers tell you every single step that they took to create the final piece that you’re wearing. From how they decided which materials to use, to how those materials were sourced and by whom, through to the designing and creating process. You get to listen to designers point out unique spots on their clothes that might have been a mistake when they were sewing or crocheting, and you really get to see the clothes come to life. With traditional fashion, on the other hand, you don’t get the same intimate story. You get to listen to the designing process, then the clothes are often shipped off to a foreign manufacturer before being shipped back for you to wear down the runway.
EFWA is often described as a close-knit community, like a family. How has this sense of belonging impacted your journey as a model?
With EFWA it really made a difference to me starting out my modelling career as a part of this family, because it made the modelling world so much less daunting to me. It showed that there were genuine people out there who would be willing to support me and treat me as their own. I feel like in everyday media and even just as a teenager looking online, we always get told that the fashion industry is one of the most cutthroat and exclusive industries, with everyone being pitted against each other. Being a part of the eco-fashion team, you get to see that that is far from the truth, you get to see everyone treating each other as family, whilst still giving each other the opportunity to shine as an individual.
In your opinion, what kind of impact does EFWA have on the fashion industry and the wider community?
EFWA has opened the door for communication and raised awareness regarding the impacts of fast fashion and how much of the fashion industry participates in fast fashion. It has given a platform to individual community members to raise awareness about sustainable fashion and showcased various different projects in support of our cause.
Balancing a career in the medical field and modelling is no small feat. How do you plan to pursue both these passions simultaneously?
Having studied in such a competitive and intense field, I feel like I’ve developed skills to find a balance between my career endeavours and my passion for modelling, and so I do intend to continue working on both. Modelling to me is a fun environment that allows me to escape from the pressure of studying, and I truly believe it will play a pivotal role in my life as I continue with my career.
The fashion industry plays a significant role in environmental issues. Do you believe models can be influential voices in raising awareness about sustainable fashion and addressing climate change?
100% yes. As models, we are the face of the clothes that we wear so we have a voice, and we have the ability to make an impact. If we keep raising our concerns and keep raising awareness then as models, and even as everyday individuals, we are able to make a change.
What advice do you have for newcomers entering the world of modelling, especially those who are interested in promoting sustainability?
My advice is to be confident in yourself and know that you are worthy of achieving everything that you set out to do and so much more. The industry can be quite harsh, and as much as we are working to change that, and I do believe change and progress are being made, you must be confident in yourself and believe that you will get where you want to be. Regarding promoting sustainability, that is such an important message to be sending out, and just continuously promoting that and believing and fighting for your cause will get you very far.
This is 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.
In the vibrant heart of Kenyan ingenuity, a groundbreaking event is set to unfold, promising a week that transcends the ordinary realms of fashion. Welcome to Eco Fashion Week Kenya, a transformative experience conceived by the visionary Belinda Smetana, founder of Sustainable Fashion and Travel. This event, in collaboration with Cleanup Kenya, is not just about runway glamour; it’s a holistic celebration of sustainability, inclusivity, and a profound commitment to healing our planet.
A Visionary’s Dream
Belinda Smetana, the luminary behind Sustainable Fashion and Travel, envisions more than a fashion week; she dreams of a collective journey toward conscious living. Her brainchild, Eco Fashion Week Kenya, is a testament to her commitment to creating a transformative experience that leaves an indelible mark on Kenya’s fashion landscape.
As Belinda puts it, “Our vision is to be the first-ever Fashion Week in the world that focuses more on cleaning up textile waste by creating inclusive intergenerational activities that every human who wears clothes can relate to.”
In a world where inclusivity often stops at diverse models on the runway, Eco Fashion Week Kenya takes a giant leap forward. For them, inclusivity extends beyond the glamour, encompassing intergenerational activities that involve everyone who wears clothes. This commitment to inclusivity goes hand in hand with their core belief that sustainable fashion should be for everyone, breaking traditional beauty standards both on and off the runway.
Belinda emphasizes, “We are not just working with fashion brands; we are including other industry leaders contributing to a better environment. Our transformative experience aims to inspire positive change, making sustainable fashion accessible to all.”
The journey begins at The Artisanal Gallery, Nairobi, with a press briefing and networking day. The venue, known for its unique concept store, sets the stage for what promises to be a fashion week like no other. The welcome drink from official wine sponsors Le Decanter and gifts by JUA add a touch of celebration and community spirit to the event.
As we step into this artistic space, Belinda’s words resonate, “We want to create a Fashion Week where the power of fashion is harnessed to leave a positive imprint on our society and the planet.”
A Tapestry of Experiences
The week unfolds with diverse activities, each day bringing a new facet of sustainable fashion to the forefront. From eco-fashion workshops and the selection of winning pieces to mending, repair, and swap workshops, the event is a rich tapestry of experiences. The emphasis on education through seminars and discussions underlines a commitment to not just showcasing fashion but fostering a deeper understanding of sustainable living.
Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, who is one of the featured designers of the Eco Fashion Week Kenya, adds her perspective, “Embracing Circular fashion systems including recycling and upcycling is crucial. Brands should embrace slow fashion, make quality apparel that will last for generations, and use sustainable and degradable materials.”
JUST FASHION DAY – Challenging Norms
One of the highlights is the “JUST Fashion Day,” a challenge presented by the JUST Fashion team through the Eyes of the Artisanal Gallery, AfroWema, and Seeds & Stories. Delight Fashion and Design School students are tasked with creating one piece each with the theme “No New Clothes.” This bold initiative aims to combat textile waste by using existing clothes that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Belinda expresses her confidence, “We are challenging designers, especially the students, to make a difference. The winning piece will be showcased and auctioned, supporting upcoming designers. It’s about avoiding waste and overproduction, aligning with our commitment to a sustainable fashion future.”
This addition emphasizes the pivotal role of student designers, making their contributions integral to the ethos of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.
An Evening of High Fashion and Responsibility
As the week progresses, the event moves to Lions Eco Resort & Spa for a night fashion show. Designers will showcase collections made from used materials, emphasizing the theme of “No New Clothes.” The emphasis on not purchasing new clothes for the event aligns with the ethos of discouraging overconsumption.
As Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, puts it, “Circular economy – reusing, recycling, and creating new materials and products from already existing materials hence reducing waste.” Julie’s dedication to sustainable materials and practices echoes the broader message of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.
In a world inundated with fast fashion, Eco Fashion Week Kenya emerges as a beacon of conscious choices, a celebration of slow fashion that values quality over quantity. It’s a movement that goes beyond trends, embracing the well-being of the planet and its people above all else.
As we step into the future of sustainable fashion, events like Eco Fashion Week Kenya play a pivotal role. The rising consciousness on the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility is turning it into a norm rather than an exception. More brands are adopting circular fashion systems, becoming accountable and transparent in their product cycles.
Belinda envisions, “It will become the norm rather than the exception. More people will start embracing unique handcrafted artisanal products that are of high-quality finish.”
Embrace the Change
Eco Fashion Week Kenya is more than a fashion week; it’s a call to action. It challenges norms, encourages dialogue, and actively engages individuals in the journey toward sustainable living. Belinda Smetana’s vision extends beyond the glamour of the runway, aiming to weave a sustainable future, one thoughtful choice at a time.
As the fashion world gears up for this groundbreaking event, it’s not just about style; it’s about shaping a future where fashion and responsibility go hand in hand. So, mark your calendars for a week that promises not just runway spectacles but a transformative experience that resonates with the rhythm of a planet in need of healing.
Join the movement, embrace sustainability, and be a part of Eco Fashion Week Kenya – where fashion meets responsibility, and every choice makes a difference.
The journey of Lauren Di Meglio is a testament to the transformative power of passion and dedication. As a recent graduate with a double major in Tourism & Hospitality and Events, her love for the ocean and marine experiences has driven her to make a meaningful impact. Her family’s deep-rooted connection to the shipping industry has given her unique insights and a profound desire to preserve the beauty of our natural world for generations to come.
It was through Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) that Lauren found a platform to marry her love for the environment and her burgeoning interest in fashion. Her initial experiences as a model for EFWA were nothing short of exhilarating. The exposure to sustainable fashion practices, coupled with her growing awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion, ignited a profound shift in her perspective. This journey with EFWA has left an indelible mark, influencing her career path in eco-tourism and shaping her commitment to making conscious choices, supporting local businesses, and promoting sustainability.
Lauren’s story is an inspiration for aspiring individuals seeking to make a positive impact on the environment. It’s a reminder that every small step towards a more sustainable future counts, and when fueled by passion, the possibilities are endless. EFWA, with its focus on sustainable fashion, played a pivotal role in guiding Lauren toward a career dedicated to eco-tourism and environmental preservation. The journey continues, and the influence of EFWA shines brightly in her path ahead.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the eco-tourism and fashion industries?
My name is Lauren Di Meglio, I am 22 years old and have recently graduated from Curtin University with a Commerce degree, double majoring in Tourism & Hospitality and Events. Growing up I’ve always loved the ocean, beaches, rivers, and any body of water. Living in Perth and consistently traveling back and forth from a small fishing island in Italy, Ischia, my family and I have always been lucky enough to surround ourselves with marine experiences almost daily. My immediate and extended family on both sides work within the shipping industry, which has given me the opportunity to learn insights into the industry. As my love for the marine world grows, so does my passion and desire to preserve the experiences it provides for future generations. I intend to use my degree to help conserve and protect tourism destinations and to develop environmentally-conscious experiences for visiting tourists and locals.
How did you first get involved with Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA)? Can you share your initial impressions and experiences?
In 2017, I had been with Dene for 2 years and was confident in front of a camera and up on the runway. She mentioned a modeling call for Eco-Fashion Week Australia, an idea/concept that I hadn’t heard of before. From the moment my mum and I met Zuhal, we knew we wanted to be a part of EFWA! We would go to Fremantle every 2nd weekend to practice walking, try on beautiful garments, and involve ourselves in extra opportunities; Dowerin Field Days, Taylor Winery Events, etc.
The EFWA 2017 event was thrilling! As a 16-year-old, having the opportunity to be photographed, interviewed, and walk the runway in front of a new and growing audience every night for 5-days was incredible. The confidence and pride the experience gave me is something unmatched.
Going into the 2nd year of EFWA, Emily Craig, Taleisha Lee and I (and our mothers) were lucky enough to work closely with Zuhal. We would assist in running the runway training for the EFWA 2018 team, we were involved in numerous “bonus” photoshoots for the Green Embassy and even other international designers. We will always be EFWA’s and Zuhal’s #1 fans.
EFWA is known for its focus on sustainable fashion. How did participating in this event influence your perspective on fashion and sustainability?
I learned so much from Zuhal and the other designers about fashion pollution/fast fashion, up-cycled fashion, natural materials and dying processes, and all of the individual and unique ways that the designers would create their art. Learning these things gave me an appreciation for the designers and their work as it gave me an insight into the thought process behind the end result. It taught me, as a teenager who would regularly shop with friends at fast fashion outlets, the impact that my actions have on the environment around me, socially, economically, and environmentally. This helped me to rethink and reassess;
1. What do I want to support; big corporations who mass produce low-quality items or individual artists who carefully craft their designs with passion and consideration?
2. How can I benefit from buying locally or from slow fashion artists?
I learned that although slow fashion items may come with a bigger price tag, the item would always last in my wardrobe for longer as it isn’t trying to fit into a trend, the quality is better, and the personal connection with the piece. The knowledge that I learned from EFWA has stuck with me and has inspired me throughout my studies to keep conscious of my impact, current and future.
What aspects of EFWA’s sustainable fashion ethos resonated with you the most, and why?
I love that EFWA stands to educate, promote, and entertain its audience, both through physical events and media content, on the importance of shopping quality, and slow fashion. It teaches you to shift your perspective of fashion, reconsider your shopping habits, and make a more conscious and educated decision when it comes to shopping. The knowledge and moral value that EFWA passes on to its audience plants a new way of thinking that will ultimately benefit the individual, the fashion industry, and the environment around us.
In your opinion, how do sustainable fashion and eco-tourism intersect, and what role do they play in promoting environmental consciousness?
In my view, I wouldn’t be able to work for an eco-industry while ignoring another. I chose to venture into the eco-tourism industry because I want to preserve and conserve the natural environment around us, although my work may not directly correlate with the fashion industry, they ultimately have impacts on each other in the long run. The overarching ideologies of eco-fashion and eco-tourism overlap, for example, the simple idea of supporting local businesses is always a great way to ensure you are getting quality products and/or services.
How has your involvement with EFWA influenced your career path and aspirations, particularly in the field of eco-tourism?
The knowledge I gained from being a part of EFWA has assisted me throughout my studies and my day-to-day decision-making. During my time with EFWA I have traveled to many WA towns and locations, learning about their agricultural practices and the different ways of living (rural vs. city living), I learned about small, conscious decisions that people make in their everyday lives that benefit themselves and their environment. Through learning these behaviors and seeing the impacts that these could have on a community, I became intrigued by the small changes I could make to benefit other towns and individuals. This sparked an interest in tourism development and helped me throughout my studies by relating to these experiences.
You have just obtained a bachelor’s degree in commerce, majoring in tourism, events, and hospitality. How has your education complemented your passion for eco-tourism?
Throughout my degree, my favourite units were always the ones that covered tourism development and tourism conservation. I felt as though these units taught me the most about how I could make an impact through eco-tourism and allowed me to fuel my passion. I used my assignments as a means to put my ideas of conservation to the test, and I often reflected on my years of travel and experiences abroad. I would tailor my assignments to marine-based destinations when possible to keep my engagement high and use my knowledge of the shipping industry and individual companies to my advantage. Eco-tourism allowed me to find an industry that incorporated all of my interests and aspirations.
What advice would you give to aspiring individuals who are looking to make a positive impact on the environment through their careers, whether in fashion or eco-tourism?
Through my studies, I was often overwhelmed with the facts of how much damage has been caused by the fashion industry, how difficult it can be to make a conscious decision, and how I would be able to make a difference. It is important to remember that all you can do is take a step in the right direction, and then another, and another. Throughout my assignments, I would make conscious decisions about the destinations I was researching to make them relevant to the field in which I aspire to work. I would suggest to do the same, study and research the areas that you are passionate about. Take lessons that you learn through your studies and apply them to everyday living, and vice versa, take lessons and experiences from your years of living and apply these to your studies. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey, your passion for eco-tourism, or the influence of EFWA in shaping your path?
EFWA has made a massive impact on my personal journey, it has taught me so many life lessons and has given me the opportunity to meet incredible individuals from all around the world. The years of getting to meet and know Zuhal, her family, and the other amazing friends that we still hold close to this day, was an incredibly valuable experience that I am so grateful for.
This is 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.
In the enchanting realm of eco-conscious visionaries, Melissa Tan shines as a captivating force, effortlessly intertwining her profound love for nature with a multifaceted career that spans the worlds of media and entertainment. In this exclusive encounter, we embark on a remarkable journey through Melissa’s extraordinary life story. We delve into her origins as a “Recycle Junkie,” a title earned in her youth, and explore her transformative experiences, including a remarkable Antarctic Expedition with the esteemed marine biologist, Dr. Sylvia Earle.
With a background in acting and a passion for storytelling, Melissa brilliantly articulates her mission to weave environmental advocacy into the very fabric of our daily lives. Join us in this compelling exploration of Melissa Tan‘s unique fusion of media influence and environmental passion, where she reveals her ingenious strategies for fostering sustainability within communities and inspires us to embrace a more aspirational, eco-conscious way of living.
Melissa, as an environmentalist with a background in acting, could you share your journey and how you became deeply involved in both of these fields?
The story I often share traces back to my childhood. I grew up as a nature-loving kid, always concerned about animals and the environment. My affection for animals is closely tied to my love for nature because even as a young child, I grasped the concept that preserving habitats meant safeguarding the lives of these creatures. I did everything within my power to be eco-conscious. I recycled diligently and stayed updated on environmental news. It was always heart-wrenching to come across those hard-hitting headlines, yet it felt like I was just a kid, and all I could do was recycle. So, I earned the title of a “Recycle Junkie.”
Fast forward, as I grew up, I ventured into modeling, hosting, presenting, and producing. Working within the entertainment and fashion industries exposed me to intense consumerism. I, in a way, became part of the mass advertising machine, encouraging people to buy and consume more. Even as a fashion model, I would change in and out of 150 dresses in a single day. Over the years, I noticed that trends kept repeating, the items were essentially the same, and the quality continually declined. This process led to a certain desensitization towards material possessions.
Simultaneously, due to my contracts, I found myself living out of a suitcase for a few years, which turned out to be incredibly liberating. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle almost happened by accident. When I stumbled upon the concept of zero-waste living, it ignited a spark within me. It brought back those childhood feelings of deep environmental concern. It made me realize that caring about the environment was so significant that what I had been doing all along, like recycling, was hardly enough. In fact, it was a flawed approach from the start. I began to question, “What do you mean I can prevent waste? What do you mean I can avoid harm? What do you mean I can opt-out entirely by redefining how I live my life?” My perspective underwent a profound transformation.
This was a revelation for me, as I wondered why I hadn’t seen it earlier. It took someone introducing me to the concept of zero-waste living for me to truly grasp its significance. It felt glaringly obvious, and I questioned why I hadn’t recognized it before. It became evident that people needed their eyes opened to these ideas. I stumbled into minimalism, and someone else opened my eyes to zero-waste living.
Gradually, by adopting these two perspectives on life, I managed to untangle myself from the clutches of consumerism and relentless marketing. This is how I found a way to fuse my passion for both fields. Now, knowing the aspirational allure of social media and the world of entertainment, and being a self-proclaimed clothes enthusiast, I thought, “What if we could make environmentalism more appealing? What if it became aspirational in its own right?” We need to dispel the myth that taking responsibility for the environment means missing out or shortchanging ourselves when, in reality, it’s quite the opposite. “Less is more.” Consuming less, owning less, and freeing ourselves from consumerism truly liberates us, providing greater freedom. That’s how I united these two worlds.
How do you leverage your career in the media and your commitment to environmental advocacy to make a significant impact?
Building on the previous question, it’s about using your platform to promote a more meaningful way of life and an alternative perspective. The reality is that most platforms, including social media, are often used for advertising. Much of the content we consume, even unbranded content, tends to glorify consumerism and a certain lifestyle.
However, we can utilize these same platforms to convey a different message. It’s about living a life with purpose and disconnecting from consumerism. I firmly believe that everyone possesses influence, regardless of their role – whether they’re business owners, employees, homemakers, or kids. It’s about illustrating to people the link between their actions in their own lives, offering new ideas, broadening their horizons, and highlighting opportunities. This process slowly fosters a unique perspective and intuition that enables them to identify these opportunities for themselves.
You recently participated in an Antarctic Expedition with Dr. Sylvia Earle. Could you share your insights from this experience and how it has impacted your environmental activism?
The Antarctic Expedition was profoundly transformative for me. As someone deeply connected to terrestrial environments like forests and jungles, this journey shifted my focus to the vital role of the ocean in preserving our planet’s health and climate. It was eye-opening to be surrounded by passionate ocean conservationists, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our world. It made me realize that the solutions aren’t limited to what we’re most familiar with.
The expedition reinforced the idea that it’s not about one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, many focus on planting trees as a carbon offset strategy, but this might not be the most effective approach. Ocean conservation, a part of the bigger picture, deserves more attention. While terrestrial conservation is vital, there’s already significant emphasis on it, and initiatives like reforestation and carbon offsets may not be the most efficient means of addressing climate change.
Preserving what’s already in existence is critical. Damage to the ocean, the primary climate buffer, is irreversible, unlike planting more trees. Another aspect I admired was Dr. Sylvia Earle‘s unwavering stance on ocean conservation and avoiding seafood consumption. It’s a firm, some might even say extreme, approach, leaving no room for half-measures.
She’s unapologetic about it, unlike many conversations that sugarcoat reality. Climate solutions require drastic actions, just like the shift to a plant-based lifestyle that rejects meat consumption. I appreciate the expedition’s imperfections, characterized by diverse perspectives and, at times, egos. It highlighted that even people passionate about the planet can have misalignments when working toward a common goal. Imperfections are natural, but they don’t hinder great people from achieving great things.
In the realm of climate solutions, we must understand that perfect answers rarely exist. Solutions are transitional, and constantly evolving. The Antarctic Expedition showed me that progress involves continuous improvement, even if the path is imperfect.
You’re actively involved in various environmental initiatives. Could you share more about these projects and how they align with your vision for a more sustainable future?
My focus is primarily on community engagement because I firmly believe that effective climate action begins at home. To create true advocates who can influence change within families, workplaces, and positions of power, it’s essential to instill a personal mindset shift. Many of my projects are designed to involve people in climate solutions and change their perspective on their relationship with the environment. These initiatives include talks, environmental festivals, climate reality discussions, workshops on zero-waste living, and urban reforestation activities with the Free Tree Society.
The common thread in all of these projects is placing people at the heart of climate action. By doing so, they can bring their determination and mindset to any role they hold or may move into. You never know who might attend a community event – it could be a student or even a high-ranking executive in a large corporation. Such individuals can profoundly influence their respective spheres with a clearer, more sustainable perspective, furthering the cause of environmental change.
As an actress and environmentalist, you clearly understand the power of storytelling in raising awareness about environmental issues. Could you share specific projects or campaigns where you’ve successfully combined storytelling and environmental advocacy?
It’s widely recognized that people connect best with stories that evoke human emotions. They need relatable narratives because statistics and facts often fail to engage. The climate crisis and environmental news can be overwhelmingly negative and frightening, causing many to turn away from these emotions.
It’s more comfortable to ignore these issues and focus on other aspects of life, creating a kind of sub-reality where we can find peace. To truly connect with people, we must find points of resonance and storytelling is the ideal tool. It allows us to relate environmental concerns to elements in people’s lives that matter to them.
Whether individuals live in cities or rural areas and interact with nature daily, they may not always perceive the connection between their lives and the environment. Reminding them of their shared humanity is essential, and storytelling is the most effective approach. In fact, storytelling is integral to all aspects of my work, making it an intrinsic part of every project and campaign.
I often provide training on this topic, drawing from my own journey in zero-waste living and minimalism. I frame it as seven distinct ways to build a zero-waste wardrobe, emphasizing that you rarely need to buy new clothing because the world already holds an abundance of garments. In fact, owning fewer items can strengthen your sense of style. Rather than relying on a credit card, you’ll discover that creativity becomes your primary tool in fashion.
Sustainable fashion isn’t about consuming more; it’s about understanding what suits you best and getting creative to achieve your desired looks without buying new items. This includes practices like swapping, second-hand shopping, borrowing, restyling, shopping within your own wardrobe, embracing capsule wardrobes, and exploring so-called sustainable fashion brands.
It’s essential to note that no fashion or product is entirely sustainable, although some brands demonstrate improved practices. Even so, consuming from these “sustainable” brands should be a last resort. I use myself as an example, considering my role as a public figure who often needs to look good. I’m in entertainment, and I have a visible presence in various spaces. My aim is to show people that looking great without buying new clothing is entirely achievable. I encourage individuals to challenge themselves and set boundaries around their approach to fashion, as boundaries can be a source of inspiration, leading to more sustainable choices rather than opting for the quick fix of swiping a credit card.
Melissa, how do you incorporate sustainability into your daily life?
I lead a zero-waste lifestyle, which means I generate minimal waste. I’m committed to not purchasing new items. Moreover, I utilize my platform and my voice to influence the people around me by simply being myself. My actions and choices serve as a source of inspiration and a testament to the possibilities of sustainable living.
What’s your perspective on climate optimism as an artist and environmentalist?
Climate optimism is a personal struggle for me, and I believe many environmentalists share this challenge. When you’re deeply involved in environmental causes, you’re constantly bombarded with grim news and stories of environmental issues. We often find ourselves immersed in discussions about negative events, which can be disheartening. The reality is that, as climate advocates and storytellers, we’re exposed to a constant stream of distressing information.
For those of us in this field, we have to work diligently to foster and maintain climate optimism. We have to find new and engaging ways to convey our message, even though it can feel like we’re saying the same thing over and over. Sometimes it’s frustrating because the change seems slow. We’re exposed to the often daunting reality of climate issues more than the general public, which can lead to climate anxiety and pessimism.
We are acutely aware of the complexities involved in shifting our course toward a more sustainable future. We understand the many layers of change required, and it can feel disheartening when we don’t see all the pieces coming together as we’d like. Unlike some who may be encouraged by surface-level green messaging, we know there’s more to the story.
To address this, we must cultivate our own climate optimism. Without it, we risk burnout and can’t contribute effectively. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals and engaging in inspiring projects keeps our spirits high. Achieving positive results from our efforts feeds our souls and sustains our motivation. Despite the challenges and the world’s ongoing struggles, the sense of fulfillment from our work keeps us moving forward.
What’s your favorite Malaysian food, and does climate change affect it?
I have to say Durian is one of my favorite Malaysian foods. However, the love for Durian, not just mine but globally, is leading to deforestation and monoculture. I’ve witnessed fields being cleared to make way for durian plantations. This beloved Malaysian fruit is contributing to climate change while also being influenced by climate change in the near future.
Regarding the specific impact of climate change on durian plantations, I’m not entirely sure at the moment. What’s clear is that its cultivation is contributing to deforestation, which is a significant environmental concern.
Being a Malaysian, tell us about a practice(s) in your culture that is actually very sustainable and good for the planet.
In Fashion Revolution Malaysia, we created a series of documentaries during Fashion Revolution Week that highlighted sustainable practices in fashion rooted in our culture but often forgotten. One notable practice is the tradition of mending and reusing our clothes, especially when it comes to making festive wear for celebrations like New Year, Hari Raya, and Chinese New Year. In the past, our mothers’ generation would have one set of clothing made new each year, often crafted by our grandmothers. These garments were treasured, passed down, and cherished for generations. While this practice isn’t unique to Malaysia, it reflects a mindset from a couple of generations ago that valued sustainability, which is sadly less common today.
Another sustainable tradition, although not as prevalent as before, is the use of tiffin carriers for food deliveries. Families would order weekday meals, and the food delivery person would transport the food in tiffin carriers containing two to three dishes. After delivering the food, they would collect the previous day’s tiffin carriers and exchange them. This practice is more common among those in landed houses because they could hang the tiffin carriers above their post boxes for easy exchange. While it’s less common now, it’s a practice we should strive to bring back and make more widespread, especially as it’s being replaced by less sustainable food delivery and takeaway options.
In your journey as an environmentalist, what are some of the major challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?
One of the major challenges I encountered on my journey as an environmentalist was dealing with climate anxiety and climate doomism. For a period, I grappled with these feelings, and it became challenging to stay motivated and continue my advocacy work. It often felt like a tremendous task to keep showing up. To overcome this, I realized the importance of surrounding myself with like-minded individuals and immersing myself in spaces where I could draw energy and enthusiasm from others who shared my passion. Being with people who believed just as strongly as I did helped me rekindle my own motivation.
It’s crucial for those of us who are champions of sustainability and change to remember that in mainstream society, we often stand as beacons, and we might be the only person within our social circles or workplaces who are deeply committed to reshaping processes and systems. When we constantly encounter resistance to change, science, and our messaging, we must take the time to return to spaces that replenish our souls. This renewal allows us to continue facing the broader world and work on pulling others in the same direction we’re heading.
So when you constantly face resistance to change and science and your messaging, you need to then continuously put yourself back into spaces to feed your soul again.
Are there any specific moments or accomplishments that stand out to you?
There have been several moments and accomplishments on my journey, although I can’t recall all of them at this moment. One standout experience was the opportunity to visit Antarctica. Initially, it seemed like an unattainable dream because I didn’t have the means to make such a journey. However, two years later, I took a chance and entered a competition. I presented myself to individuals who recognized my potential to convey their message, and I was selected.
This experience was incredibly validating for me. A lot of the work we do, both you and I, often happens behind the scenes and goes unnoticed. Yet, it can be emotionally taxing and challenging. For us to consistently operate behind the scenes, it takes a significant emotional toll. So, it was truly heartening to have our peers and those we admire acknowledge and appreciate our efforts.
What advice would you give to individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start?
My advice for individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start is this: Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just take that first step. Begin by doing something small, and then let your curiosity guide you. Explore various paths and continuously find ways to use your voice, your influence, the space you occupy, and your daily decisions to instigate change in the culture around you.
Even if it seems like a minor change, every time you make a conscious choice, you are not only transforming yourself, but you’re also becoming a role model for those around you. People notice your passion and your ability to make a difference. They will start turning to you, seeking your insights and solutions. As a result, new opportunities will naturally open up. The next time someone says, “This could be improved,” they might say, “You’re the right person to ask about this.”
Absolutely, I admire Carolyn Lau, the current president of the Free Tree Society in Kuala Lumpur. Carolyn is a true inspiration. She’s a naturalist and landscape architect with a deep connection to the forest. Even in her late 50s, her enthusiasm for her work is boundless. Whether she’s talking about the trees in our urban forests or conducting workshops, her genuine passion for sharing her love of the natural world and educating others is infectious. What impresses me most about Carolyn is her character. She demonstrates that it’s not just the big actions that matter; it’s also how a person shows up in small and large roles. When I look at Carolyn, I see someone I aspire to be when I’m 59, still carrying that same fire, unwavering passion, and unbridled joy for the environment. She’s dedicated to bringing people along on the journey to nurture their love for our planet.
This is 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.
In the glitzy, ever-dazzling Dubai, where innovation and extravagance are the norm, a new kind of elegance is taking shape. Dubai is renowned for luxury and extravagance, but amidst the high-end boutiques and bustling markets, a different sort of fashion is finding its voice. The Sustainable Fashion Expo is set to grace this metropolis, where fashion isn’t just about looking good; it’s about doing good.
A Fashionable Prelude to COP28
As the Expo City in Dubai gears up for the grand Sustainable Fashion Expo, it’s not just another event – it’s a movement. Dubai, being the host of COP28, plays a significant role in shaping the global sustainability narrative. The fashion industry, with its vast reach and deep impact on the planet, must be a part of this conversation. This expo acts as a precursor to COP28, ushering fashion into the sustainability discussion. It’s a stage for the fashion community, both professionals and consumers, to discover and embrace sustainable choices. The significance is immense, as it lays the foundation for decarbonizing the industry and reducing waste. The expo positions Dubai at the forefront of fashion sustainability, where style meets responsibility.
Unveiling the Concept of Sustainable Fashion Expo
The concept of the Sustainable Fashion Expo is simple yet profound: shift the fashion paradigm to embrace sustainability. By bringing the community together under one roof, this expo aims to demonstrate that sustainable fashion is not only possible but beautiful and accessible. It’s a platform where professionals and consumers, united by a common cause, can explore sustainable choices. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, with COP28 just around the corner. This expo ensures that fashion is not left out of the conversation when it comes to decarbonizing the industry and reducing waste.
An Array of Engaging Experiences
Visitors to the Sustainable Fashion Expo can look forward to a packed schedule of events that offer a deep dive into the world of sustainable fashion. From insightful panels that dissect the issues and challenges to interactive workshops that allow you to learn and participate actively, there’s something for everyone. But that’s just the beginning. The expo boasts an extensive area where you can explore brands that prioritize the planet and its people. It’s a journey to discover products that are more than just fashionable; they are statements of conscious consumerism. The highlight of the event is undoubtedly the sustainable fashion catwalk. It’s not just about showcasing the latest styles; it’s a declaration that fashion can be both trendy and sustainable.
Designing Change with Graphic Tees
One of the standout features of this event is the competition to design the best graphic tee with sustainability messages. Sustainability has many facets, and this competition allows participants to express their passions. Each design has a unique message that contributes to a more sustainable future. It’s a reminder that the journey towards sustainability is a canvas, and everyone has a unique brushstroke to add.
Pioneering Sustainability in the Middle East
The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a noble mission – to become the Middle East’s hub for innovation and education in sustainable fashion. It aspires to catalyze the change that the fashion industry desperately needs. This isn’t just about hosting an annual event; it’s about nurturing the designers and brands that are pioneering and bringing palpable change to the fashion scene.
Key Partners and Collaborators of Sustainable Fashion Expo
No event of this scale is possible without strong partnerships and collaborations. The Sustainable Fashion Expo is fortunate to have partners who share its vision and mission. The University of Wollongong provides not only a dynamic venue but also education in sustainability. It’s a space where academic knowledge merges seamlessly with practical applications. Sustainability is not just a concept; it’s a way of life.
Fashion Revolution, a global not-for-profit organization, is one of the pillars of support. With chapters around the world, it has been relentlessly addressing the issues in the fashion industry. The UAE chapter is one of the strongest in the region, working closely with universities and schools to educate the public through a series of events and initiatives.
Goshopia, another prominent partner, is the biggest online marketplace working solely with slow, sustainable, and socially responsible brands. It’s pioneering the art of making sustainable fashion both accessible and stylish.
The Sustainable Souk, renowned for its ability to create communities around eco-friendly events, has lent its expertise in managing and coordinating this expo. It takes more than just good intentions to create an event of this magnitude; it requires skill, expertise, and a deep commitment to sustainability.
The event has also received support from influential individuals like Sonya Vajifdar and various media publications. Media plays a pivotal role in amplifying the message and reaching a broader audience with the right information and options. The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a powerful ensemble backing it, and together, they’re crafting a narrative of change.
Changing the Fashion Landscape
Consumer demand plays a pivotal role in changing the fashion industry. As the tagline goes, “The Fashion industry will only change if we, as consumers, demand that change.” Brands listen to consumers. If consumers demand sustainable choices, the industry will follow. It’s a reminder that while the fashion industry has immense power, consumers have the ultimate say. It’s not just about creating beautiful clothing; it’s about creating a beautiful future. And this future begins with the choices we make.
An Expo with Festive Spirit
As we gear up for the festive seasons of Diwali and Christmas, it’s essential to remember that these are some of the most shopping-intensive times of the year. The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a message that aligns perfectly with the spirit of these festive seasons. It’s about choosing gifts that have a beautiful story behind them, not just something random from a quick stop at a mall.
The Sustainable Fashion Expo is the perfect place to find thoughtful, handcrafted presents. It’s about pieces crafted by skilled artisans and dedicated designers. The supply chains here are short. You know who is doing the work, understand the inspiration behind the creations, and know how their lives would be impacted if their income were to disappear. It’s a conscious choice, a statement of support for those who dare to be different in a world of mass-produced conformity.
When we were looking for a name for the event, one of the options was the Sustainable Fashion Festival. The objective was clear – to make it a celebration of what has been achieved so far. The name might have changed, but the spirit remains. It’s a celebration of all the people and brands who have dared to make a difference. The celebration goes beyond just fashion; it’s about music, live performances, and activities for the whole family.
Be Part of the Change
The Sustainable Fashion Expo invites you to be part of the change. Your support matters, and in the world of sustainability, every effort counts. If you can’t make it to the region, spread the word. It’s all about creating awareness and starting conversations. In sustainability, we often say, “It is better to have 1 million people doing sustainability imperfectly than 100 people going all the way.” This is a numbers game. If you are not in the region, share with your friends and family. It helps open up conversations and bring awareness.
Join the Conversation with the Sustainable Fashion Expo
Stay connected with the Sustainable Fashion Expo and its partners:
As we countdown to COP28 and the festive seasons of Diwali and Christmas, the Sustainable Fashion Expo reminds us that the change we seek begins with us. It’s where fashion meets sustainability, and the world changes for the better.
Adding to a cart is one of the most fulfilling clicks in most of our lives. Especially when there is a 70% off sale on Shein, and with Black Friday coming up in a few short weeks, fashion brands like H&M and Zara will be sure to give the people what they want – clearance sales, and major discounts. The holiday season means new outfits to buy, and matching family sweaters to seek out – clothes have always been such a primal part of the celebration, but also everyday life.
But how often do we really stop to think before clicking “Add to Cart?” Serious questions like – how is this brand offering such a huge percentage off for the holiday season and still making profits? If they are not making profits, then why are they running their business? If they are making profits even after those significant discounts, how cheap are these clothes? What is the secret behind such low prices of these clothes – are the materials used in these clothes cheap or low-quality? If these materials are below quality, how long will we be able to use them – is it a good investment? What will happen to these clothes made from low-quality materials after we won’t be able to use them anymore? If the materials are not low-quality, then how come the prices are so cheap? If you are someone who thinks these are serious or at least interesting questions to be asked, then you are in the right place. It’s time to learn about fast fashion before clicking “Add to Cart” this holiday season. So, buckle up and brace yourself.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a phenomenon that has been noticed over the past 30 years, one that spread globally and quickly. According to the UN, fast fashion is a business model “of quick turnover, high volume, and cheap prices.” It is basically where fashion brands – to keep up with current trends and styles – mass produce their items at a low manufacturing cost to supply high demand. Fast fashion has been a booming industry since the late 1900s and the early 2000s, and these retailers include Zara, H&M, and Shein.
What customers usually notice is that clothing items in fast fashion brands are relatively cheap, with a magnitude of vast options.
Why does fast fashion exist?
Shopping for clothes was once considered an event. This means that people would save up throughout the year and purchase new clothes at specific times. Style-conscious people would be well aware of the latest trends and designs through the fashion shows that showcased clothing pieces months before they were available in stores. People were used to shopping for clothes once or twice per year, in the regard that it was an occasion.
However, in the late 1900s, that began to change. Shopping quickly changed into a form of entertainment and leisure, which consequently meant that people bought clothes more often, at a higher pace. This was what set off the concept of fast fashion – retailers could mass-produce clothing pieces at low prices, which made consumers feel they were up to date with the latest trends in real time. Fast fashion items were never made with the intention of lasting multiple years or wears – its goal was to manufacture cost-effective clothing directly satisfying the shifting demands of the consumer.
The fashion industry is one of the largest working industries globally, with a value of 2.5 trillion dollars, providing employment for over 75 million people worldwide, as stated by UNECE. In theory, and from pure definition, fast fashion sounds harmless – a company is mass-producing clothes, for a cheaper price, which people can afford. If anything, this can be seen as a strategy that grants people easier access to clothes due to their affordable price. However, the consequences of fast fashion are ones that aren’t easy to notice, but hard to ignore. Fast fashion directly contributes to waste colonialism and exploitive labor practices – which consumers are unaware of during their purchases.
How does fast fashion negatively affect the environment?
Alright, so what about clothes during the holiday season? According to USA Facts, clothing, and accessory retailers have the highest jumps in sales during the holiday season. Statista found that in 2022 47% of Gen Z purchased new fashion items for themselves to wear on Christmas, while Millennials were at an astounding 50%. This shows that there is a high intent for purchase and paired with the high discounts available in fast-fashion brands, it explains why people tend to buy more new clothes during the holiday season. Since fast fashion utilizes low-quality fabrics, that means the clothes purchased during the holiday season would have a life span of only a few months – and when that life span is over, people do what they always do when something has served its purpose – they throw it away.
Fast fashion relies on a business model that depends on “recurring consumption and impulse buying, instilling a sense of urgency when purchasing.” This business model has clearly succeeded, with global consumption rising to 62 million tons of apparel per year, and by 2030, it is expected to reach 102 million tons.
Fast Fashion’s Global Impact
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation – a UNEP partner – estimates that a truckload of abandoned textiles is discharged into landfills or incinerated every second. This is why it is estimated that people are buying 60% more clothes and wearing them for half as long. According to The Business Insider, 85% of all textiles go to dumps every year. The textiles in landfills have the capacity to contaminate soil. Countries such as Uganda, with high rates of agriculture and farmers, export contaminated food and resources to other countries. This can lead to major health risks and dangers, alongside negative side effects to animals and plants in their ecosystems.
This means that fast fashion contributes directly to waste colonialism. Most fast fashion exports are from developing countries across Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Cambodia etc. This means that the Global South is not only the one with the highest production of fast fashion but is also the one that suffers its consequences the most after it gets thrown out. The BBC reported in 2022 that more than half of the clothes imported to Chile end up in the Atacama Desert. On Jamestown Beach, located in Accra – Ghana’s capital – you must walk between mountains of shoes, pants, and tattered t-shirts. These used textiles come from Western countries and Asia to be dumped and dealt with in Ghana.
These discharged textiles contribute to microplastics found in the water, which can then affect marine food chains – which means that the Ghanaian people eat contaminated fish. Discharged textiles are often brought into the Global South without warning, leaving them to deal with methods to get rid of these clothes. Because the quality is so low, merchandisers can’t even sell discharged textiles – therefore, it is another burden of waste that they are responsible for getting rid of, or facing the consequences it brings – most of the time, it is both.
Fast Fashion and Climate Change
Besides the littering and waste of fast fashion, it directly affects global warming. Producing clothes requires natural resources, which emit greenhouse gases. According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, surpassing aviation and shipping industries combined. The World Bank suggests that global clothing sales are to increase to 65% by 2030. A higher percentage in global sales indicates more discharged textiles to deal with – putting even more pressure on the Global South to manage the waste provided by the Global North.
Some may argue that the average consumer isn’t aware of the negative connotations that come with fast fashion. According to Nayab Sohail, a Pakistani Slow Fashion ambassador, consumers must be educated about the issues fast fashion causes. Once consumers are educated on the link between fast fashion and climate change, that would allow for a change in their approach towards fast fashion. Merlina Carolina, the Global Creative Lead of the Slow Fashion Movement and founder of Slow Fashion El Salvador, believes that the average consumer is “so caught up in routine and system that they probably don’t have the energy to question or consciously think about how the environment works.”
Others argue that consumers are aware – to a small degree – of the link between fast fashion and the environment. Grace Kemp, another ambassador of the Slow Fashion Movement, believes that a “majority of people” are aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. Kemp claims that because of the sudden uprise of “green” campaigns in recent years, this must correlate to the level of awareness existing amongst consumers.
How can you reduce your fashion footprint?
Kemp mentioned how people might be aware of the negative link between fast fashion and the environment; however, they feel as though “it is too big for them to be able to do anything, so they carry on.” The typical solution to fast fashion has always been slow fashion. But slow fashion brands are usually expensive – the biggest disadvantage that fast fashion solves.
Even then, there are solutions to fast fashion that don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Karen James Welton, a slow fashion stylist, advises to wear what you own. Purchasing clothing pieces for the sake of a current, temporary trend usually means it won’t be worn again. Welton also advises shopping vintage and second-hand. Swapping clothes with your family members and friends, or borrowing clothes isn’t shameful in any way – it is a direct solution to make sure you aren’t buying too many clothes. Kristīne Čeirāne, an ambassador’s coordinator of the Slow Fashion Movement, says, “The most sustainable wardrobe is the one people already have. Look after your clothes and wear them for as long as you can. The greenest purchase is the one you didn’t make.” Welton also recommends that for new purchases, you save up for investment pieces that you will be able to wear for years. Timeless, classic pieces that will always look good regardless of the current trend going around.
A Joint Effort for a Sustainable Future
The solution to fast fashion isn’t reserved for individual consumers only. The UN initiated the #ActNow Fashion Challenge, which aims to show individuals and industries how to improve the environmental impact that fashion leaves. Limiting and decreasing the carbon footprint that the fashion industry leaves is a key factor in reducing global warming, which is why NGOs have pointed out fast fashion’s harmful business model. Greenpeace and other groups have urged the sector to slow down the trend of mass-producing clothes that are thrown away so quickly. In COP-27 in Egypt, the fashion sector did promise a net-zero carbon footprint, but giant clothing retailers still struggle to manage their own emissions, considering the high demand for fast fashion now.
It is essential that there is a joint effort – between the consumer and the industry – to work towards a less wasteful, more sustainable style of fashion. Looking good and trendy shouldn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. There is work towards sustainable fashion, and as long as there is work, there is always a way.
The holiday season doesn’t need to be ugly for everybody. You can still look wonderful in the clothes you have – maybe styling it differently will give it a new look! Remember the consequences of clicking “Add to Cart” from a fast fashion brand – no one should spend their holiday season struggling through mountains of discharged clothes for the sake of fashion.
In the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, a transformational fashion event is on the horizon, one that promises to challenge the very essence of the industry. Kibera Fashion Week, scheduled for October 14, 2023, is not just another typical fashion extravaganza; it’s a profound narrative of sustainability, community empowerment, and a refreshing perspective on the art of fashion.
Kibera: More Than Meets the Eye
Often depicted as a place of despair in need of help, Kibera is far from a one-dimensional story. It’s a bustling metropolis, a cradle of creativity, constantly evolving and innovating. It’s within this vibrant community that Kibera Fashion Week finds its roots, challenging the neo-colonial realities of the fashion industry.
The organizers of the Kibera Fashion Week, expressed their vision, “Kibera Fashion Week envisions a future where fashion transcends borders and becomes a unifying force for positive change. It aims to create a global fashion ecosystem that celebrates diversity, empowers local talent, and challenges the conventional norms of the fashion industry.”
With 11 designers set to grace the runway, Kibera Fashion Week stretches far beyond a one-night event. It is, in fact, a year-long program with a mission to fundamentally reshape the narratives and dynamics within the fashion world.
The organizers of Kibera Fashion Week share a collective vision – to redefine how the world celebrates its heroes. In Kibera, they’ve found everyday heroes, individuals who’ve risen from the depths of unemployment, homelessness, and adversity. These heroes have not just overcome their challenges; they’ve become role models for the youth in their community.
Kibera Fashion Week breathes life into this vision, using the power of arts and creativity to challenge the notion that only certain professions are worthy of applause. It’s a platform where the legitimacy of artisanal work, tailoring, and craftsmanship is celebrated. These vocations provide not only sustainability but also hope, guiding the younger generation towards more meaningful pursuits.
The Impact of Kibera Fashion Week on the Local Community
Since its inaugural show in November 2022, Kibera Fashion Week has left a significant impact on individuals and groups within the community. It’s not just about fashion; it’s about transformation and empowerment.
Emerging designers like Moom Jay Designs kicked off their journey at the November 2022 event. Today, they’ve evolved into established fashion brands, contributing substantially to the growth of the local fashion scene.
But it’s not just designers who’ve been touched by the magic of Kibera Fashion Week. The event has actively collaborated with local artisans and craftsmen, giving rise to a unique fashion experience that spans fashion accessories and garments. Victorious Crafts, talented jewelry designers from Kibera, now have a sustainable source of income and a means to preserve their traditional crafts and livelihoods.
The local models and performers have also thrived, gaining exposure and opportunities in the entertainment and modeling industries. Beyond the runway, the event’s various activities, including runway shows, exhibitions, and workshops, have had a positive economic ripple effect throughout Kibera. Local businesses, including food vendors and artisans, have experienced increased foot traffic during the event, translating into tangible economic benefits for the community.
Sustainability at the Heart of Kibera Fashion Week
Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Kibera Fashion Week; it’s a way of life. The event’s commitment to sustainability is evident in every facet of its planning and execution.
Sustainable sourcing and fabric maximization: Designers are encouraged to champion sustainable, locally sourced materials for their collections, minimizing the carbon footprint associated with sourcing materials from distant locations. Textile waste is minimized through efficient patternmaking and the innovative reuse of materials.
Ethical production: A strong emphasis is placed on ethical production practices, ensuring fair labor conditions and equitable wages for artisans and workers engaged in crafting fashion collections.
Community engagement: Kibera Fashion Week forges vital connections with the local Kibera community through strategic partnerships with organizations and skilled artisans, fostering social inclusion and presenting valuable economic opportunities for community members.
Education and awareness: The event serves as an educational hub, hosting workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions that encourage conversations on sustainability, inclusivity, and ethical fashion practices.
Spotlight on local talent: Kibera Fashion Week passionately prioritizes local talent, spanning models, performers, and designers, nurturing the growth of the local fashion industry.
Designers: The Heartbeat of Kibera Fashion Week
Let’s hear from the designers themselves, each with a unique story and vision:
“I am passionate about transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. My journey is all about giving new life to thrifted garments and crafting them into beautiful designs that radiate uniqueness.”
“The brand saw opportunity in involving raw bones and horns as unique resources that could solve the lack of our region’s identity in designs and again using it as locally sourced raw materials to represent the region’s creations to the global platform.”
“The more my outfits are seen and appreciated, the more bamboo is known more in my country. Bamboo as a sustainable, resilient, and hardy grass is very beneficial in carbon sequestration which is an important process in cleaning the atmosphere.”
Many designers at Kibera Fashion Week are embracing upcycling, a practice that breathes new life into old materials. Millicent Adhiambo Oluoch, founder of Simply Milly, is passionate about upcycling. She skillfully reimagines thrifted garments into fashionable pieces, minimizing waste and demonstrating the beauty of sustainability.
Unique Materials for Unique Designs
Jack Nyawanga, founder of Victorious Bone Craft, takes a different route with his brand. He uses raw bones, horns, and metal to create unique designs such as costumes and jewelry. He believes that using locally sourced materials can represent the region’s creativity on a global platform.
Fashion with a Positive Impact
Joseph Ganda, founder of Bolla Footwear Designer, saw an opportunity to create fashionable shoes while simultaneously reducing waste. His brand repurposes old clothes, used car tires, and waste materials from local tailors into distinctive, stylish footwear. Ganda’s goal is to create job opportunities for the youth living in Kibera.
Championing Sustainability in Fashion
Kibera Fashion Week isn’t just an event; it’s a movement aimed at transforming the fashion industry. It places a strong emphasis on sustainability, ethical production practices, and inclusivity. Through workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions, designers, participants, and attendees gain valuable insights into sustainable fashion practices.
By spotlighting local talent, fostering economic growth, and promoting social empowerment, Kibera Fashion Week challenges the status quo of the fashion industry. It sends a powerful message that fashion excellence and innovation can emerge from unexpected places.
A Vision for the Future
As Kibera Fashion Week approaches, these designers are not just focused on the runway. Their vision extends beyond the event itself. They aspire to expand the use of sustainable materials and practices, advocate for ethical production, and create job opportunities within their communities.
Together, they hope to change the way we view fashion and demonstrate that sustainability is not just a buzzword but a way of life. They encourage consumers to buy consciously, promote sustainable brands, and actively contribute to a cleaner, greener world.
Kibera Fashion Week is proof that fashion can be a force for good, a platform for change, and a symbol of hope. It’s an event that transcends traditional runway shows, inviting us all to be part of a movement towards a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry. As Beth Kariuki from Lina Yarn aptly puts it, “We only have one world to live in, let’s keep it clean and green for our next generation to come.”
So, mark your calendars for October 14, 2023, as Kibera Fashion Week promises to take you on a journey where sustainability meets style, and fashion becomes a catalyst for positive change.
In the heart of New York City, where the concrete jungle meets the green revolution, two visionaries are teaming up to catalyze a corporate sustainability movement. Anne Therese Gennari, renowned as ‘The Climate Optimist,’ and Monica Richards, the dynamic ‘Ecobabe,’ have embarked on a mission to redefine corporate responsibility through their innovative Counts in Climate workshop. This transformative initiative is poised to equip companies with the tools, mindset, and passion required to make sustainability a core part of their ethos.
As we journey through this exclusive interview, we uncover the extraordinary stories of Anne and Monica, delve deep into the ‘Counts in Climate’ workshop, and explore the profound impact of climate optimism. Join us in this unique narrative as we witness how these two exceptional individuals are igniting a sustainability revolution, one company at a time.
Anne, you are surely an all-rounder when it comes to sustainable living, climate optimism, and action. Could you please tell us your backstory? From where did it all start?
Anne: I wish I could tell you this one moment when it all began for me but honestly, I think I’ve been dedicated to work for the planet my whole life. Thinking back at my childhood I remember days spent outdoors and I learned early on how to respect and care for nature. However, I do have what I call my “climate optimist awakening” which I also talk about in my book. I was in my early twenties and had so far tried to change the world, so to speak, from a place of anger and despair. I thought that if only I could make other people as angry and concerned as I was, surely they would join me in wanting to make a change.
But when I found myself on the floor of my parent’s guest room, crying over a silly conversation with my brother at the dinner table and feeling like no one in the world but I cared, I had my awakening. What came to me was that I was doing it all wrong and that if I wanted to truly have an impact on the world, I needed to change my ways moving forward. I received my mission as a climate optimist that night and what followed was a decade of understanding just what living life as a climate optimist means.
Monica, as a media personality who is also an environmentalist, could you tell us your backstory? How did you become passionate about both fields?
Monica: I became passionate about environmentalism before I knew it had even been termed, as I was raised on a small farm in South West Michigan. There, my chores included collecting chicken eggs, tending to our gardens and fruit trees, and caring for our animals. From a very young age, I experienced how humankind is nature. And that pillar of life has always stayed by my side. I’m blessed in that my upbringing funded Earth as my biggest interest, investment, and asset. It’s the thread of everything I do in life!
Media-wise, I also started modeling at a young age, which developed comfort and a love for being in front of the camera. After graduating in interior design and working in the UK and LA, I pivoted and returned to media as a TV Host, starting with hosting classes and then, reporting on red carpets, press junkets, and for an online news show. From there, I tucked back into my roots and founded Ecobabe, a lifestyle brand that marries environmentalism and media together to make sustainable living second nature with credence that what we do matters.
Anne, you are known as ‘The Climate Optimist’. Could you please tell us in your own words what Climate Optimism means to you and why we all need to be climate optimists?
Anne: Absolutely! And this right here is what it took me all those years to figure out. In the beginning, I thought that if I could only ignore the negative climate news and focus passionately on the few but very inspiring pieces of good news out there, I could lead with light and invite others to join in on this journey. But then, in a couple of years, I experienced climate anxiety more intensely than I ever had before, I knew something wasn’t quite right.
What I learned was that the body is always paying attention and even if you try to close your eyes or look the other way, your subconscious is picking up the clues and storing it for another day. Then one day when you least expect it, those feelings of anxiety and fear will come crashing down, and completely unguarded, you find yourself breaking apart.
I broke apart many times during those early days as a climate optimist and I started to feel more and more like a fake, like this mission of mine was built on dreams and wishful thinking. But then Paul Hawken’s Drawdown was released and for the first time, there was real scientific evidence that what I wanted to believe so badly – that we can reverse global warming – was possible! It reignited me to keep trying but I also understood that relying on this outside source of reassurance wasn’t sustainable, not in a world that’s filled with so much doom. So I began the work of figuring out what a grounded and sustainable life as a climate optimist would look like and I learned pretty quickly that it starts with you. To be and remain an optimist, you must create that optimism for yourself, but in doing so you not only fuel your optimism engine, you are what is making a better world possible.
My book, The Climate Optimist Handbook, is a guide on how to become that resilient change maker and the book I wish I had alongside me all those years. I hope to help people build emotional resilience and recognize the greatness of the times we’re living through. We are the change and to fully recognize that is an incredibly beautiful thing!
Shifting gears, Monica, let’s talk about climate optimism. How do you define climate optimism?
Monica: Climate Optimism is to view climate change – and act – from a place of opportunity and hope, not responsibility and fear. Hopefully, Anne will be proud of my answer. *smiles*
Monica, how do you integrate your career in media and environmental advocacy to create an impact?
Monica: For me, TV and media hosting is a form of education and I sincerely love raising awareness in this way! My favorite job in the world is using my voice to spread the truth. So, I consistently used my skills – talking – to create environmental advocacy. In fact, I’ve recently launched the Ecobabe 101 series: a weekly video where I share my key tips and tricks for taking the gray areas out of sustainable living. I also believe the way we communicate sustainability goals, climate, and social equality is essential to making a collective difference. So, I’ve really worked hard to be able to choose my words wisely from a neutral place that bridges extreme viewpoints while translating them from scientific jargon to language we all (including me!) can understand. I believe that’s how we can most efficiently activate people to start making a difference on their own. Because once you’re informed, you’re empowered. And once you’re empowered, you want to take action. And luckily, my host training has really supported this side of my environmental advocacy.
We are so used to learning about terrible news related to climate change and nature, almost every day. It seems like the mainstream media either focuses on climate change as ‘just another weather update’ or does not focus on it at all. Most people either tend to avoid such updates or they tend to give in to climate doomism.
So, Anne, what do you think is needed to shift our focus from these to become climate optimists?
Anne: I couldn’t agree more and that right here is what the problem stems from. It’s how we talk about climate change and more specifically – what we leave out. If people keep learning how climate change is affecting our world but the article lacks to offer ways that they can get involved, or at least deliver examples of solutions already on their way, a feeling of overwhelm will seep in. As a reader and individual, you should be aware of this so that you can intentionally limit your negative intake (no you don’t have to read every climate article) while also making sure you actively seek out positive news too. Furthermore, find ways to get involved in climate action in an area that interests and ignites you. Participating in the change is the foundation of being a climate optimist.
When it comes to the media outlets I think they need to become aware of how big of a part they actually play in our chances of getting this right. They may think they’re innocently covering the “truth,” but the truth is that they are constantly comparing data and seeing what kind of headlines get the most clicks. And sadly enough, doomsday messaging will always win the prize! Ironically enough, consuming negative news releases dopamine, hence making us “addicted” to a negative news cycle. But I believe that we can play the click-bait game and also weave in some empowering optimism. This kind of grounded optimism, as I like to call it, leads with sharing some alarming facts but then makes sure to also include ways of how we can make it better. It’s time the media starts using their power to ignite people, instead of just alarming and overwhelming them.
Monica, can you tell us a bit about why you felt the need to start the journey of purpose-driven entrepreneurship?
Monica: Throughout my journey from living off country land to adjusting to bright city lights, I’ve seen a huge gap in society’s connection with nature and with one another. I am certain that bridging this gap is the passe-partout (the master key) to unlocking climate change solutions. So, I established my North Star: to connect people with nature, and with one another, to support the healing of our Earth and all who reside here. From hosting opportunities and consulting projects to ecobabe products and brand collaborations, I always follow my North Star – to help support in bridging that gap.
Throughout your journey what are some of the most significant challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome them to continue advocating for climate optimism and sustainable change?
Anne: Oh, there are so many… But what comes to me right now is the constant challenge in believing that I can make a difference, that what I’m doing is enough, and that we do have a chance at actually getting this right. As mentioned earlier, your optimism will quickly fall flat unless you actively work to keep it alive but it can be hard to keep showing up for that work if you don’t think it actually matters.
That is why I’ve developed some guidelines that I come back to on those more difficult days and I share them all in my book. I have reminders of why our individual actions matter (they mean anxiety, building character, shifting norms and culture, and planting seeds) as well as how to think about this “work” as a journey that we’re traveling together. When viewed this way, it’s easier to accept the hard days as well as the times when we need to slow down and take a break. I keep reminding myself that this movement is only as sustainable as we are and that we’re not alone in this work. Finding community and sticking to what I believe is possible, no matter how silly and impossible it may seem at the moment, is what fuels my optimism and keeps me going.
Monica: It’s important to remember the high level of evolution to which one’s brand and oneself can be capable. And to be honest, I’m still sorting out which of my services will stick. One of my biggest challenges is my creativity. I’m an IDEAS girl. So, focus and refinement have been monumental in my evolution, both as an individual and a brand. I do this by going into inner space; a place where I am quiet and still and can ask myself where I truly want to focus, what will most resonate with my community, and what will bring the most joy. By refining with this lens, it allows you to keep evolving, flowing, and letting go of old ideas, services, and stories that will no longer serve you.
Because I’m a solopreneur of sorts, time is a constant challenge for me. There are so many tasks and projects I’d love to get done in a day, to make the most impact as possible. But oftentimes, all those to-do’s aren’t possible at all. So, I’ve become a pro at priority! Where I once would complete the tasks most inspiring to me that day, I now dive into what must be completed first. Sounds like common sense, but if you’re creative, you surely know the struggle! I also received the best productivity advice I’ve ever been given by a dear friend in LA: complete one non-work related task per day. Whether that’s laundry, food prep, paying bills, getting a massage, etc… this ‘one extra’ method keeps your life more organized and your person feeling more productive overall!
Last but not least, I’ve experienced massive intensity in the climate space. The intensity is essential, but the delivery can oftentimes be more harmful than not. I am challenged with these extremes constantly, where I have good days and can brush it off and where I have bad days and call Anne! I’ve handled these intensities, where blaming, shaming and separations lie, in two ways:
1) I know that every person and every idea counts in climate. We need everyone on board, no matter how they choose to advocate or activate. We need union! Therefore, I stay true to myself, and to my truth, and to how I choose to advocate, no matter what anyone else says. I choose to remain fiercely loyal to myself. And it definitely helps to align with a friend where you both truly listen and support one another.
And 2) I stay in the ascension attitudes of praise, hope, gratitude, love, and trust. When you adjust your perspective to arrive from these attitudes, your reality will instantly change. From that new reality, I’m able to stay grounded, happy, and humble and can therefore create a long-lasting impact. I highly recommend you try it!
Let’s discuss your collaboration on the Counts in Climate corporate workshop. What motivated you to develop this workshop together?
Anne: Monica and I have both been hosting workshops on sustainability and climate optimism for a while and we decided that it would be so fun and empowering to merge the two and start pitching something together. We’ve also been hosting workshops mainly online and this one we aim to do in person as much as we can. We believe there to be a great deal of untapped potential when it comes to enacting positive climate change inside companies. When you ignite their employees to not only believe something can be done from within the company but actually create a culture that encourages creativity and excitement, we believe that BIG stuff can be made. And let’s face it, companies “run” the world today and we DO need them. Imagine the impact when we activate those companies from within and make them powerful climate forces to be reckoned with!
Monica: When we heard that 50% of employees are currently considering quitting their jobs due to a lack of alignment with their values (data by Kite Insights), Anne and I sprung into action! We had been hosting corporate workshops on climate optimism and sustainable living separately and knew we could make a deeper impact by joining forces. So that’s what we did!
Approximately 70% of the total emission reductions needed to avoid dangerous climate change lie in the hands of government, utilities, and businesses (data by Drawdown Labs). Our Counts in Climate Workshop integrates climate into company culture by teaching climate optimism and sustainable living to every business’s greatest asset – their employees! We aim to shift the overall mindset and yield purpose and agency in climate from within, no matter where a company stands on the sustainability spectrum. Can you imagine the possibility for positive change throughout a company’s processes, products, and output if its employees are educated, inspired, and activated in climate? It’s for this reason, as mentioned above, that every job counts in climate. And we’re here to prove it.
While the Counts in Climate corporate workshop is only available for businesses in New York City, such a valuable workshop is really needed for businesses from all around our planet. Do you have any plans to make that happen in the future?
Monica: You have read our minds! We would be over the moon to take our workshop on the road, as long as the travel method and stays are as sustainable as possible!
What advice would you give to individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start?
Anne: I always say this – start by slowing down. Yes, we need to activate and accelerate right now and do all we can (as fast as we can) to make a shift to a sustainable and net-zero or net-positive future. However, we can only make that reality come true if we act from a place of clarity and intentionality. That requires slowing down so that we can create space in our busy minds to reflect and think again. It’ll take a lot of courage to change our way of thinking – about life, society, the world – and that courage can only grow if we take a moment to just breathe.
So start there. Find ways to implement a bit more slow time in your day, if that means taking yourself to a park bench for 20 minutes to just jot some thoughts on a piece of paper. Dare to be still! And then, ask yourself: what is one thing I can do right now? One simple switch in my daily routine that would allow me to live with a smaller (negative) footprint? After you pick one, choose to go about that mission with passion. Fuel excitement into what you do and recognize that by adopting this new habit and mindset, you’re part of fueling the revolution! (And if you want tips and mindset tools of how to continue on that empowering journey, I guess I have to plug my book…)
Should you struggle with picking something to get going with, I’ll give you composting as an example. To me, it’s one of the most rewarding climate actions and a simple way of significantly reducing your carbon footprint while at the same time increasing your positive footprint. By composting, you not only remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere but you also enrich the soil, hence enabling it to grow better foods, hold more water, and sequester more carbon. A win in so many ways!
Monica: The vastness of sustainability is one of the most difficult parts of this movement, as everything we touch (literally!) is connected to climate. Every single action we take as humans has an output that affects our planet. But vastness is also the best part; because this gives you the opportunity to pick your passion. Meaning, pick what you’re most interested in (think fashion, animals, beauty, food, oceans, etc.) and start there. Start making eco swaps, research bit by bit, and follow educators on social media, share this information organically with your community, sign petitions, and call Congress to request support for bills, and start integrating this part – your passion! – of sustainability in your daily life. You’ll be surprised by how much wisdom you acquire and how much impact you can make when you start from a perspective of focus, just like this.
Now, if you’d like to make a positive impact specifically throughout the home, go from micro to macro. Begin inside the home and make eco swaps room by room, not starting the next room until you’ve mastered the first. Then, graduate to bigger pieces of sustainable living like rainwater collection, composting, green energy, cleaner transportation, community tree planting, and so on and so forth. By integrating sustainable living on a micro-to-macro scale, overwhelm is avoided and the process is filled with attainability, longevity, and fun!
Do you have an idol?
Monica: My lifelong idol is Dr. Jane Goodall. I studied Biological Anthropology in college and all I really wanted to do was work with the Great Apes. I admire her for her bravery in taking risks, for educating while advocating, and for communicating climate impact and animal empathy in a way that everyone can comprehend.
Anne: I have a few. But the one that comes to mind right now is Dr. Jane Goodall!
What’s your mantra for life?
Anne: Keep your room in your heart for the unimaginable. You never know what’s waiting around the corner…
Monica: When you connect, you care. When you care, you help. So get outside and tap in! X
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.