Anne Therese Gennari and Monica Richards Unite for Sustainability: The Counts in Climate Corporate Workshop

Anne Therese Gennari and Monica Richards Unite for Sustainability: The Counts in Climate Corporate Workshop

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.

Monica Richards & Anne Therese Gennari

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.

Anne Therese Gennari

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! 

Photo of Monica Richards as a kid
Photo Credit: Jean Richards (Mother of Monica Richard)

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!

The climate optimist handbook

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.

Photo Credit: Better Earth Solar

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.

Anne Therese Gennari

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?

Photo Credit: Starky Morillo

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…)

Anne Therese Gennari

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!

Photo Credit: Robyn Lindemann

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

Click to find out more about Monica Richards, Anne Therese Gennari and the Counts in Climate corporate workshop.

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.

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

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

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


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

FaW Tokyo Vision of Sustainability


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

The Genesis of Sustainable Fashion Expo


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

FaW Tokyo’s Impact on Sustainability


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

Japan Leading the World


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

Empowering Sustainable Fashion Brands


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

Introducing Wellness Fashion Expo


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

The Wellness Fashion Experience


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

Addressing Sustainability Challenges


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

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

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

How real is Fast Fashion Addiction?

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

Drug addiction

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

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

Garments worker in Bangladesh protesting on the street

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

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

shopping

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

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

fashion waste dumpsite

Now let’s paint the picture for real

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman thinking

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

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

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

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

Fashion waste dumpsite

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

Let’s Calculate the Numbers for Fast Fashion Addiction

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

Shopping addiction

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

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

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

All the other adverse effects

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

Deforestation

How to overcome the fast fashion addiction

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

Love for earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman wearing a beautiful white dress in the field
Empowering Women Through Fashion: Hayley Beardman on her EFWA Journey

Empowering Women Through Fashion: Hayley Beardman on her EFWA Journey

In the dynamic world of fashion and modeling, Hayley Beardman started her remarkable journey at the tender age of 7. Growing up amidst the ever-evolving trends and styles of the industry, she has honed her craft into something truly extraordinary. As a dedicated member of the Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) family, Hayley has played an integral role in promoting sustainability and empowerment in the fashion industry. Her passion for nurturing emerging talents and empowering young models shines through in every role she takes on.

Hailing from the vibrant city of Perth, Western Australia, Hayley has graced the pages of numerous magazines, showcasing her remarkable versatility across a wide spectrum of genres, from high fashion to artistic expression. Yet, what truly sets Hayley apart is her indomitable spirit and unwavering commitment to making a difference. She’s not just a model; she is an empowering force, a mentor, and a trailblazer.

Explore her inspiring journey and insights in the full interview below, as she shares her experiences and sheds light on the vital intersection of sustainable fashion and mainstream trends. Get ready to be inspired by the formidable Hayley Beardman!

Can you share your remarkable journey with EFWA from its inception? How did you first become involved, and what inspired you to join this movement for sustainable fashion?

The first time I walked for Zuhal wearing Green Embassy was at the Ellington Jazz Club. It was before Eco Fashion Week even evolved in Perth. It was a small event showcasing her work. I honestly fell in love with her designs even more wearing them. Once I understood the story and how they were actually made, I was truly excited to be able to walk and work with Zuhal for Eco Fashion Week Australia when the first show was in 2017. By the end of this show, I knew I wanted more.

Photo of Hayley Beardman with Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, Founder of Eco Fashion Week Australia standing in the garden of Green Embassy
Photo of Hayley Beardman with Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, Founder of Eco Fashion Week Australia

Balancing a full-time job, motherhood, and a modeling career is truly commendable. How have you managed to keep your passion for modeling alive amidst your busy life?

It’s definitely a juggle, and balancing is a hard word to say already! (Laughs) I do have a loving partner who supports me with everything I do and an amazing family who is happy to help with Austin & Ariela when I am working in the Modeling field. This career I started when I was 7 years old; I was actually a really shy kid & would hide behind my mum’s legs. Modeling is what brought out the sparkle in me and made me passionate about this career. It’s why I truly enjoy doing this. I feel that if you’re passionate about something enough, you never work a day in your life.

You’ve been a steadfast presence even during EFWA’s early days when financial constraints were challenging. What motivated you to continue with EFWA despite the financial hurdles?

It is a passion of mine, modeling and being involved in such amazing projects. Money isn’t everything; this show is more than just a show – it’s a story, and it needs to be told! Zuhal is an amazing woman, and her story is truly courageous. I love supporting Zuhal and honestly cannot wait for the next year 2024 EFWA!

Using your work holidays to practice for EFWA showcases your dedication. How do these events differ from other fashion shows you’ve been a part of, and what keeps you motivated to invest such time and effort?

Participating in EFWA’s showcases feels more like joining a close-knit family than just another fashion event. It’s a unique blend of camaraderie, support, and genuine care. We know we can rely on each other, from fellow models to the dedicated parents who become like our own. It’s a nurturing and welcoming environment, unlike any other show. Even in challenging times, like in 2018 when my son, Austin, was just 3 months old, EFWA’s exceptional support allowed me to return to the catwalk on the Finale show, a gesture rarely seen in most fashion events. This is the essence of EFWA – it’s not merely an event; it’s a family.

How do you manage the dual role of being a model and a mother during such high-energy events?

I am going to say it’s hard work tbh, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I honestly really enjoy Modelling and being able to help others. Keeping the energy levels up is easy when it is something you are already passionate about. I love being on the catwalk and strutting my stuff tbh is honestly a lot of fun, and if I’m behind the scenes doing backstage/ coordinator for the models, it’s a rush to get things done and knowing others are looking at you as a role model too.

You’ve taken on the role of managing young models backstage. Can you share your experiences in this mentorship role? How does it feel to be an older sister figure to these aspiring models?

It’s something I really like doing and being able to help others in this industry is honestly a blessing. To be known in this industry is quite surreal tbh and being asked to help with a lot of modeling events or help train other models for other shows I am involved in is a dream of mine… I started my journey by opening up my own Modeling school – Poise Modelling Academy wanting to teach young models, the safety of modeling and inspire them. I have models I taught in my modeling school who still come to me and ask me questions to this day and it makes it worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s not easy and not everyone wants to pay but doing this opened up a lot of opportunities for me especially mentoring, choreography, and running backstage.

EFWA seems to have become more than just a platform for you. How would you describe your role in the EFWA family, and what does this community mean to you?

It means the world to me, when I found out Zuhal was re-opening up this Project, I was so excited!!! I honestly cannot wait to be back on the catwalk, helping backstage, and being around everyone again.

As someone deeply connected to the sustainable fashion movement, could you share your insights on the differences between fast fashion and sustainable fashion from a professional model’s viewpoint?

Working with a lot of the designers on the runway to photoshoots – the difference I feel personally is creativity in their design. There’s a lot of thought, and effort, and shows truly how designers in “sustainable fashion” are passionate about the environment and the world around them. I am not saying that fast fashion doesn’t have passion as such – I am saying that it’s just that they can sell easily from catwalk to the shelves, while sustainable fashion is usually a once-off piece. This is only my perspective and my thoughts, but everyone thinks differently. Working with and hearing the designers’ stories who work in sustainable fashion shows their willingness to evolve.

EFWA embodies sustainable fashion. Could you elaborate on how this event’s philosophy aligns with your values as a model, and how it differs from typical fashion shows?

It’s very similar in certain ways as typical fashion to sustainable fashion on what happens backstage with catwalk shows, some show it’s just a straight catwalk where you will walk up to the front pose, then walk off, to some it might be a small routine with others on the catwalk. What I do find different is with EFWA they do talk about the actual designer and hear the stories behind the designs coming to life on the catwalk. I feel with Sustainable fashion – some designers want a bit of character on the catwalk where they might want a bit of sass, smiles, and to really show the design off not just a mannequin on the catwalk.

From your unique perspective, what message do sustainable fashion events like EFWA send to the fashion industry and society as a whole?

Sounds a little crazy, I was speaking with Zuhal having a chai, and talking about how I see fashion with what she is doing with EFWA and how designers are evolving to grow in this way, and then how I see this movement growing not just fashion but to the world – think about, everyone is already trying to go greener slowly as it takes time…

Our area that I live in has a buy nothing group where another person’s unwanted items become someone else’s new toy, new clothes, new kitchen utensils, etc. instead of them just throwing them out they become reused. I just purchased last week some Eco-Friendly kitchen reusable baking mats that can be reused up to at least 100 times and eventually save me money too in my pocket. They are catching on – but it does take time to understand.

How do you see the role of models evolving in promoting sustainable fashion? How can models contribute to raising awareness about ethical practices in the industry?

Social Media has a huge presence for Teens nowadays, they constantly have a phone glued to their hands! I feel this is likely the only way to help evolve and showcase sustainable fashion. If the Teens / Models are talking it gets others talking.

How do you educate yourself about sustainable fashion, and what changes have you personally made in your fashion choices to be more environmentally conscious?

I haven’t really bought any clothes for about 7 years… the BUY NOTHING GROUP is where I shop! Unless it’s underwear of course hahaha!

With your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring models who are interested in pursuing a career aligned with sustainable fashion values?

To give it a go, you have nothing to lose, and might be surprised how much you actually enjoy it!

As EFWA grows and the fashion industry evolves, where do you envision the intersection of sustainable fashion and mainstream fashion in the coming years?

I feel some designers might be willing to take on the challenge eventually, it will take time and it’s already happening in Tafes where they are learning and challenging themselves in “sustainable fashion”. I do feel mainstream will slowly evolve into sustainable fashion on the catwalk even more, especially with how our world is already evolving and talking about climate change to recycling items & reusable goods, why can’t fashion be that as well?

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define success?

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

What’s your mantra for life?

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

How can others support your good work?

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

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

The Art of Activism: Hannah Tizedes on Turning Trash into Environmental Awareness

The Art of Activism: Hannah Tizedes on Turning Trash into Environmental Awareness

In a world fraught with environmental challenges, the synergy of art and activism has emerged as a potent force for change. Meet Hannah Tizedes, an extraordinary artist and environmental activist. Raised amidst the natural splendor of Michigan and the majestic Great Lakes, Hannah witnessed the disheartening sight of litter washing ashore on these pristine beaches. This experience ignited her passion for environmental conservation.

Hannah’s journey epitomizes the transformative potential of creativity. She embarked on a mission to collect plastic debris from beaches worldwide, fashioning these discarded fragments into captivating works of art. Her art serves a dual purpose: raising awareness about plastic pollution and climate change, and inspiring individuals to take concrete actions for a cleaner, more sustainable planet. In this exclusive interview, Hannah shares her inspirational odyssey, the genesis of The Cleanup Club, and her insights on the intersection of art and environmental advocacy.

Dive into her world, where vibrant creativity converges with climate activism, and discover how Hannah is kindling hope amidst the formidable challenges of our time.

Can you tell us about your journey as an environmental activist and artist? How did you become interested in addressing environmental issues through art?


I was raised by creative and resourceful parents. My mom was always crafting or pit-stopping at garage sales and my dad was always entertaining my elaborate clubhouse buildout ideas or building something functional out of scrap materials. But it wasn’t until later in my life that I came to appreciate those acts for who they made me today.

At university, I paired my creative studies with sustainability studies, worked at the campus recycling center where I was able to explore fun creative projects, and began collecting trash from my travels around the world & the Great Lakes for art pieces I was brainstorming. After learning more about plastic pollution and seeing it from coast to coast, but especially its impact on my home state’s shorelines, I knew I wanted to use my creativity as a vehicle for change. My hope is and was to create art that makes people take a deeper look – literally and figuratively – at the impact plastic pollution has on the planet. I hope people feel inspired to do what they can, with what they have, wherever they are for a less trashy earth.

You have a very unique style of creating your artworks with plastic, and microplastic. Why did you choose this medium?


I’m from Michigan, so I grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes. These lakes hold ~90% of the US’s freshwater, provide drinking water to 40+ million people, offer endless amounts of beauty, and are home to thousands of plants and animals. They’re so special. And yet every year it’s estimated that around 22 million pounds of plastic pollution enters them. At the same time, I have always been captivated by the rainbow of plastic I find on their shorelines. So I created something with those pieces to help tell the story I was witnessing.

Hannah Tizedes collecting ocean plastic to create her artwork with them.
Photo Courtesy – Tianna Samone Creatives


As the founder of The Cleanup Club, could you tell us more about the initiative and its goals? How do you encourage others to get involved in cleaning up their communities and reducing plastic waste?


The Cleanup Club is a nonprofit dedicated to educating communities on Great Lakes plastic pollution while having fun through cleanups, collaborations, conversations & creativity. I think so often people feel overwhelmed with climate news or plastic pollution news, yet they want to help make the world a better place. And I wanted to help make that super simple while building a community of people that care. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, local barista, or school teacher – everyone is welcome to join in. I also do my best in providing uplifting experiences for everyone so instead of walking away from a cleanup thinking “shit, that was a lot of trash, what now?” people can walk away with resources to local zero-waste shops & refillers, with fun sustainable giveaways in hand, and more. That way, their positive impact doesn’t just stop at the cleanup.

What challenges have you faced as an environmental activist and artist? How do you navigate these challenges and stay motivated to continue your work?


I always try to look at the bright side of things. The little actions add up and it’s really incredible to have people tell me that they’re inspired by my work and because of it, they did X, Y, or Z. I’ve definitely hit bumps in the road where I’ve thought, “what is this all for?” or “does my work even matter?” but then I go outside and I’m reminded of my why. The beauty of this amazing planet we get to call home is the best reminder out there and that’s why I continue to advocate to protect it.

How do you believe art can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about environmental issues? What role do you think art can play in inspiring action and driving positive change?


I believe art is an incredibly important tool in raising awareness about environmental issues. Art makes us feel something. Art is powerful. Whether it’s through music, painting, literature, photography, and so on, art has the ability to story-tell so many different narratives when it comes to issues we feel deeply about. I think that inspiration can then be transformed into action and the art can be used as a vehicle for positive change.

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


There are endless possibilities for artists to collaborate and help convey moving messages regarding climate change. I think we’re continuing to see more collaborations around these topics which is wonderful, however, I think we do need to be aware of greenwashing when it comes to brand collaborations and partnerships and stay true to our ‘why’ in this work (aka Earth).


As an artivist, how do you balance the artistic and activist aspects of your work? How do you ensure that your art remains impactful and thought-provoking while also conveying a message of hope and empowerment?


I love making my work colorful. For me, that’s really important because I think colorful things are joyful. I also do my best at providing context behind materials I use to help educate people on things I’m finding on the beach like microplastics, mesoplastics, etc. while providing ways to take action through policy and local advocacy efforts.


What’s your take on climate optimism?


I think optimism in all aspects of life is a wonderful thing. The world we live in nowadays can be filled with so much doom & gloom, so like José Gonzalez, Founder of Latino Outdoors said, we need more “do and bloom” instead.


What would your advice be to someone in the climate movement who feels hopeless and burned out?


The weight of the planet does not need to sit on your shoulders. It is a collective effort towards a better future for all. Whenever you’re feeling down, get outside. Kick off your shoes and go play in nature. Then, find a local organization making a positive impact and get involved. A community can be so healing too – to both ourselves and the planet.


How do you envision your future?


Filled with gratitude and love for the people, places, and spaces I get the opportunity to know, explore, and nourish. I’m less focused on how I want the future to look and more focused on how I want it to feel.


Who are your biggest inspirations?


There are so many but at the end of the day, I love watching people thrive and grow doing what they love. Those are the people who inspire me most, people who follow their passions – and bonus points when it’s an earth-friendly passion, of course.


How can others join you in the climate movement or support your work?


People can feel free to follow my work on Instagram, @hannahtizedes, (where I share the majority of my art & advocacy), and/or follow my nonprofit’s work and learn more about Great Lakes plastic pollution and our efforts to protect them at www.thecleanupclub.org.

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.

Weaving Dreams: Emily Craig on her Path from EFWA Model to Designer

Weaving Dreams: Emily Craig on her Path from EFWA Model to Designer

In the realm where fashion intertwines with sustainability, a captivating narrative unfolds – that of Emily Craig, a beacon of inspiration within Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA). In this exclusive interview, we embark on a voyage through time, tracing Emily’s transformative journey from her first steps onto EFWA’s runway to her present role as a visionary fashion designer. 

From the early days of EFWA, where Emily first graced the stage, to her current position as the inaugural designer for EFWA 2024, her story reflects the very essence of what EFWA stands for – a harmonious blend of creativity, innovation, and a profound commitment to sustainability. Join us as we unravel the chapters of Emily’s evolution, each page adorned with insights into her experiences, inspirations, and aspirations within the realm of sustainable fashion.

Can you take us back to when you first started with Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) as a model in 2017? How did you get involved, and what was your initial experience like?

I was 15 when I went to a model casting for EFWA’s first show in Fremantle in 2017. It was an eye-opener into what fashion and design could be – this was my first runway experience and I felt part of a bigger purpose and felt at home. 

EFWA has a strong focus on sustainable fashion. How has being a part of this event influenced your perspective on fashion and sustainability?

Before EFWA I was aware of the effects of the fashion industry and its cost on the environment.  When I was introduced to EFWA and met Zuhal and other designers, hearing them talk about their practice and seeing their collections opened my eyes to how diverse sustainable fashion can be whilst being unique and fashionable.  I’ve really tried to embed this into my practice, viewing multiple aspects, not just what fabrics are used, but storytelling, design concepts, and how to present your collection.

As a young fashion design graduate, how has your journey with EFWA shaped your career aspirations and design philosophy?

The EFWA ethos has always been with me throughout my studies –  sustainability being the core of any of my decisions. There is an emphasis on having your own individual voice but also being a part of a team and a larger conversation. EFWA has a profound balance of that and has shaped how I balance that within my own design philosophy. 

What specific aspects of EFWA’s mission and values have resonated with you the most, and how have they inspired your work as a fashion designer?

Not being afraid to be non-traditional. Adapting and having the confidence to do so and be better, for the sake of our environment. 

EFWA has been known to provide a platform for emerging designers to showcase their talent. How has this opportunity impacted your growth and development as a designer?

It’s amazing to have this event in Australia. EFWA has always placed emphasis on emerging designers and I’ve seen that from the very start. EFWA gave me the courage and the dedication to start my growth as a designer. EFWA inspired me to focus my studies on fashion way back in high school where I made a garment from recycled materials as a canvas for my painting.  I showed this, my first piece, with EFWA at Dowerin Field Days. It gave me the confidence to say  ‘Yes I can actually do this’, and I applied to study a Bachelor of Design, majoring in Fashion at ECU.

Could you share a memorable moment or experience you’ve had during your time with EFWA that stands out as particularly inspiring or influential?

I remember after our show in 2019, we all got on the stage to celebrate the week-long event and everyone behind the scenes – models, designers, volunteers – the energy of the EFWA family was and is always so high!  So much support and love was on that stage that night – it still inspires me today. 

As the first designer for EFWA 2024, how does it feel to be a part of the event from both the modeling and now design perspectives?

Surreal! I feel like I’m growing alongside EFWA, and I’m so honoured to continue to be a part of it! 

Sustainability is at the core of EFWA’s ethos. How do you plan to incorporate sustainable practices and values into your designs for EFWA 2024?

Through my studies and time with EFWA, I believe the most fundamental way to start to view cloth is through meaningful storytelling –  to essentially make and wear with purpose. My inspiration for my collection is a reflection, a memory of my childhood. I revisit my memories as a child along the coast of the West.  Subtle imagery of shells, seaweed, and organic silhouettes alludes to a liminal space.

My garments are a ‘pod’ that carries these memories of childhood and are between time.  They envelop me and connect then and now- yet it is continuously moving, growing, transforming. Same with how I spend time with my garments – I manipulate them and enhance them – the act of devoree,  printing multiples of my imagery back over-dyed cloth, laser cutting intricate patterns, stitching over print, and stitching beads. All of these make me spend time with my garments, strengthening an act of habitus – my connection with cloth and my own collection.

What message or impact do you hope to convey through your designs at EFWA 2024, both in terms of fashion and sustainability?

A message being the making and consuming with purpose and the integrity to reuse and reimagine. That has always been an integral message with EFWA and applies to both fashion and sustainability.

As someone who started with EFWA as a young model and is now a designer for the event, what advice would you give to aspiring young designers who wish to make a positive impact in the fashion industry?

Think kindly and be brave! You have to be true to yourself in every aspect of this industry, keep your uniqueness, treat and respect fellow artists and resources, and don’t be afraid to be innovative. 

How do you see your future evolving within the sustainable fashion space, and how will your journey with EFWA continue to influence your path ahead?

Within the sustainable fashion space, always adapting and growing is fundamental but also staying true to your roots and your own story, to keep creating with purpose and not lose that. This is how the circular mind works, always revolving and morphing from one center point. To be a part of the EFWA family and see other designers work like this, and to learn and share with them is always going to continue to influence my path ahead. 

EFWA aims to inspire and promote young designers. What do you hope your involvement in EFWA will bring to the next generation of fashion enthusiasts and eco-conscious individuals?

I hope my involvement in EFWA as a designer, adds to the urgency for a change in the way we view fashion. I hope that the next generations see EFWA’s family and strong ethos living in the people involved and inspire them the way it inspired me from first being involved when I was 15. 

Click to learn more about Emily Craig and Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you define success?

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

How do you envision your future?

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

What’s your mantra for life?

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

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

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

Empowering Change: Reflecting on Plastic Free July 2023

Empowering Change: Reflecting on Plastic Free July 2023

As the Plastic Free July campaign comes to a close, we find ourselves filled with inspiration and gratitude for the incredible community of climate activists, sustainable lifestyle enthusiasts, and eco-conscious individuals who came together to make a difference. Throughout this transformative month, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from a diverse group of inspiring individuals, including climate activists, sustainable lifestyle content creators, conscious entrepreneurs, and more. Their valuable insights have shed light on the importance of reducing plastic consumption and the positive impact it can have on our planet and our lives. It’s now time to recollect what we’ve learned throughout the month, so we can continue to make conscious choices every day to protect our planet and create a greener, healthier future for generations to come.

The Impact of Plastic Pollution

Tania Roa, a passionate climate activist, reminds us of the undeniable truth that plastic pollution is a result of the overuse of fossil fuels. From production to consumption, the entire lifecycle of plastic generates excessive pollution that our planet struggles to bear. Plastic waste infiltrates waterways, endangers wildlife, and even finds its way into our bodies. However, Tania also instills hope, urging us to remember that humans once lived without plastic and that we can reclaim our lives from plastic’s grip. She advocates for reuse, upcycling, and opting for plant-based materials whenever possible to make a positive difference.

Long-Term Thinking for Sustainable Change

Inanna, a musician and climate advocate, sheds light on the urgency of long-term thinking in tackling plastic pollution. She sees plastic as a symbol of a throwaway culture that prioritizes short-term convenience over the planet’s well-being. Recognizing that the Earth’s resources are finite, Inanna calls for a collective shift towards sustainable, ecological, reusable, and compostable alternatives to single-use plastics. By embracing change and questioning our habits, we can drive a vital transformation toward a greener, cleaner future.

The Multi-Faceted Importance of Reducing Plastic Consumption

Winnie Cheche, a dedicated climate activist, articulates the multiple benefits of reducing plastic consumption. By minimizing plastic waste, we protect our environment, preserve resources, and combat climate change. Plastic pollution has far-reaching consequences, affecting human health, wildlife, and the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Winnie’s call to action is an urgent reminder that protecting our planet is a collective responsibility.

Taking Charge of Our Health and Environment

Natalie Chung, a passionate climate advocate, eloquently highlights the suffocating reality of plastic pollution on our planet. From microplastics in Antarctica to the farthest reaches of our oceans, plastic waste knows no boundaries. Natalie’s message is clear: we must take control of our plastic addiction before it takes control of us. By reducing plastic consumption, we secure a safer, healthier environment for current and future generations.

Addressing Climate Change and Promoting Conservation

Lamech Opiyo, a driven climate activist, stresses the crucial role of reducing plastic consumption in mitigating climate change. The life cycle of plastic, from fossil fuel extraction to disposal, contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing our plastic footprint, we can champion sustainable waste management and conserve valuable resources. Lamech’s message resonates strongly with the idea that a safe and healthy environment is essential for our well-being and that of our planet.

Holding Corporations Accountable and Creating Ripple Effects

Niha Elety, an influential climate advocate and eco-entrepreneur, calls for collective action to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their plastic waste. By driving demand for eco-friendly materials and reusable alternatives, individuals can inspire systemic change and transition towards a circular economy. Her powerful message is that, as a collective force, we can challenge corporate practices and spark a wave of sustainable innovation.

Puja Mishra, an eco and slow-fashion advocate also emphasizes the power of individual actions in creating a ripple effect for positive change. Each small step we take towards a plastic-free lifestyle contributes to a monumental shift in behavior, ultimately leading to a more sustainable world. Puja’s lesson reminds us that every eco-conscious choice matters and inspires us to be catalysts for collective change.

Empowering Change Through Education and Advocacy

Margarita Samsonova, an influential eco-advocate and eco-entrepreneur, emphasizes the power of education and community engagement. By sharing our plastic-free journey and advocating for sustainable choices, we can inspire others and drive the collective change needed to protect our planet.

Celebrating Sustainable Fashion and Empowering Change

Clementina Martinez, a multifaceted sustainable fashion designer, and filmmaker, passionately advocates for reducing plastic consumption. She reminds us that the harmful impact of plastic waste goes beyond environmental damage; it affects our DNA, infiltrating our unborn babies and jeopardizing future generations. Embracing history as our guide, Clementina encourages us to reject the notion that we need plastic in our lives and instead, pave the way for a plastic-free future.

Alex Standley, a sustainable fashion stylist, also sheds light on the importance of making fashion more sustainable to combat plastic waste. By supporting eco-friendly and ethical fashion choices, we can significantly reduce the fashion industry’s plastic footprint. Alex’s lesson shows us that embracing sustainable fashion can be a powerful way to protect the environment.

Tackling Microplastics and Minimalism

Monica Richards, an eco-advocate and TV personality focuses on two crucial aspects of a plastic-free lifestyle: tackling microplastics and embracing minimalism. By switching to laundry and dishwasher pods, she ensures that microplastics do not leach into the water system. Additionally, adopting a minimalist mindset allows us to avoid unnecessary plastic consumption. Monica’s lesson shows that conscious choices can have a significant impact on reducing plastic pollution.

Embracing Imperfect Environmentalism and Meaningful Changes

Anne Therese Gennari, an eco-advocate and climate writer, invites us to view Plastic Free July as an opportunity for transformation. Rather than aiming for perfection, she encourages us to recognize our habits and seek sustainable alternatives. Embracing this challenge with transparency, patience, and understanding, we can embark on a journey of meaningful change.

Kate, an eco-advocate, encourages us to avoid overwhelm when transitioning to a plastic-free lifestyle. Her advice is simple but powerful: focus on one change at a time, allowing for gradual progress. By being patient with ourselves, we can build sustainable habits that last.

Linna, a passionate eco-advocate, promotes the idea of imperfect environmentalism. She reminds us that embracing sustainable practices, even in small steps, contributes to a monumental shift in the collective mindset. By upcycling and reusing items at home, we can reduce waste and make a positive impact.

Embracing Sustainable Swaps and Mindful Choices

Kate Hall, a dedicated eco-advocate, shares her favorite tip for avoiding plastic – utilizing beauty bar concentrates. By transitioning to reusable and home-compostable packaging, Kate eliminates plastic bottles from her shower and skincare routine. Her sustainable choices not only benefit the planet but also prove that satisfaction can coexist with eco-consciousness.

Michelle Sabado, an eco-advocate, encourages us to adopt a conscious approach to consumption. By considering the resources used in the production and disposal of products, we can make informed choices that prioritize sustainability and ethics.

Hannah Tizedes, an artivist, exemplifies the power of preparedness. Armed with a reusable bag, water bottle, and other essentials, she demonstrates how simple swaps can significantly reduce plastic consumption in our daily lives.

Laura Raffin offers sustainable solutions for the kitchen and home, highlighting the impact of replacing cling wrap with reusable wax wraps and silicone lids. By making these simple swaps, Laura significantly reduces plastic waste in her daily routines. Her lesson encourages us to seek out practical alternatives that align with our commitment to a plastic-free lifestyle.

Bulk Buying for a Greener Future

Taylor Ganis, a climate activist advocates for bulk buying as a means to reduce plastic packaging and overall environmental impact. Making bulk purchases replaces numerous small packages, resulting in less plastic waste. Taylor’s lesson encourages us to make mindful choices in our consumption patterns to minimize plastic use and waste.

Abdy, an eco-advocate, advocates for buying items in bulk, reducing the product-to-packaging ratio, and ultimately saving on plastic waste. Taylor Ganis, another climate advocate, echoes Abdy’s sentiment, urging us to make mindful choices by opting for bulk purchases to reduce plastic consumption.

Creative Solutions and Sustainable Habits

Karen Maurice, an eco-advocate, shares the impact of shopping at a more affordable zero-waste shop. By refilling household products with reusable and refillable containers, Karen significantly reduces her plastic waste output. Her journey towards a sustainable lifestyle serves as an inspiration to others.

Lacie Wever, an eco-advocate and busy mom, showcases the power of creative solutions. By cloth diapering her children and making mindful choices in daily life, she exemplifies how small changes can lead to significant impacts in reducing plastic waste.

Sara Docarmo, an eco-advocate and content creator, leads by example in her plastic-free journey. From using a menstrual cup to natural deodorant and shampoo bars, Sara shows that adopting sustainable swaps can lead to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Her lesson inspires us to take actionable steps and lead the way toward a plastic-free future.

The Plastic Free July Campaign brought together all these inspiring voices united against plastic pollution. From climate activists and eco-entrepreneurs to sustainable fashion designers and eco-advocates, these individuals showcased the power of individual actions and collective efforts in reducing plastic consumption. Their stories and favorite tips demonstrated that small steps when combined, create a powerful force for change. By collectively embracing sustainable practices, holding corporations accountable, and being mindful of our plastic consumption, we can pave the way toward a cleaner, greener, and plastic-free world. Together, we can turn the tide against plastic pollution and create a cleaner, greener planet for generations to come.

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