Entertainment + Culture Driving Climate Action: Conversation with Experts

Entertainment + Culture Driving Climate Action: Conversation with Experts

What is the superpower of any kind of art? It has the unique ability to touch our minds, our hearts in such a way that can be inexplicable in words but so powerful that it can help us understand the complex, and make us achieve the unimaginable. You might ask, how? This year at COP28, we had the first ever Entertainment + Culture Pavilion that is now here to help you understand the answer to that question. Why? Because it is illogical and impossible to act on something meaningful without understanding, and without actions, nothing can be achieved. Achieving a safe future free from the threat of the climate crisis is the answer to that “why”, precisely.

You still might be wondering about how entertainment + culture can play such a significant role, in such a significant mission. We talked to twelve incredible game-changers in their respective fields to try to understand it a bit more clearly.

The Transformative Power of Entertainment + Culture

If you try to go through a little bit of research, it won’t be tough for you to understand that we, all around the globe, are going through a climate crisis. It also won’t be too tough to notice that numerous individuals and organizations from every corner of the world are tirelessly working not just to address the crisis but to overcome it. But still, it is not enough, it does not feel like enough, it does not seem like enough. An authentic global revolution is needed to actually get the job done. 

Such a revolution can only be possible when we all feel like playing our own roles effectively to make that happen. For that to happen, understanding the climate crisis from an empathetic point of view, not just from numbers and graphs and data, is needed. “Getting this conversation started from a more human perspective is extremely important because facts have come out, scientists have come out, but it’s just not sticking. An important side to this is the human side, and I think that’s something that we can all connect on,” said Thai-Swedish model, actress, singer Maria Poonlertlarp who was crowned Miss Universe Thailand in 2017, also reached top five of Miss Universe Beauty Pageant that year.

She further adds,

“We have all, in one way or another, been affected by climate change, some more than others. Clearly, some more than others.  So it’s important to bring these conversations to the table, and I think once this starts happening,  people may start understanding more,  and that’s actually how policies will end up being changed as well.”

Maria Poonlertlarp on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Every form of art surely has the ability to present this scientific reality from an empathetic perspective. The arena of entertainment + culture can not only make that real but also has the ability to help us act on that understanding from a positive mindset.

Anne Therese Gennari on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Renowned climate author, Anne Therese Gennari, known as the Climate Optimist, says,” I believe art in any form is incredibly impactful in inspiring climate action and nurturing a mindset of optimism, possibilities, and change. It’s easy to get stuck believing we must either fight the old or fight to keep the old, but what we really need right now is the courage to dream of something new. What would the world look like if we embraced change and decided to take action? What if we acted on climate change, not because we’re afraid of what might happen if we don’t, but because we’re excited to find out what will happen if we do?” 

Artist and Activist Rick Frausto, who is famous for his unique style of art using pen and ink, believes so too.

According to Frausto, “I see myself as a way-shower. Through my work, I strive to contribute to a shift in consciousness that leans toward a more balanced, harmonious, and compassionate world. In this moment in time, the climate crisis is the fight of our lives. My hope is that my art connects with people universally on a deep intuitive level.”

Rick Frausto on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Every form of artist holds this power of art to bring the cultural shift that is necessary to secure the safe future that we all deserve. There are different roles to be played and different audiences to be reached and inspired, differently.

Dorcas Tang on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Singaporean artist Dorcas Tang Wen Yu who plays her unique role as an artist in this mission says, “I see my art less as telling people what to do, but as creating that space where they can engage with sustainability in a gentle, fun way. For example, getting kids to participate in painting a marine mural. Or create a fun adventure about composting from the perspective of little soil microbes to teach children about our relationship with the environment.”

Helping children to learn about our environment, the climate crisis, and meaningful climate actions is an effective and amazing way to shape cultures and ensure a positive cultural shift, because surely, today’s empathetic children are tomorrow’s conscious empathetic guardians of our planet.

Inspiring Individual Empowerment and Collective Changes through Entertainment + Culture

Artists are the stewards of change, they have the amazing ability to inspire people at an individual level. As we are going through the climate crisis, it is crucial for artists to play their role not only as entertainers but also as that kind of stewards. When millions of individuals, inspired at their own personal levels, start taking action, we get collective changes, and surely that is the kind of change that we all need now.

“All social movements have been strengthened by creatives. Artists help people to process events, to connect emotionally with information, and to feel motivated to stand up and act.”

– said illustrator and educator, Brenna Quinlan, who was the winner of the prestigious Circle Awards in 2022.

Brenna Quinlan on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Qiyun Woo on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Every kind of artist has the power to contribute to this much-needed revolution. In the words of Singaporean climate activist and artist Qiyun Woo,

”Art transforms minds and hearts, and plays a revolutionary role in helping society imagine and visualize the green and just future that we want – can work towards.”

Artists, who are doing their parts know exactly how important the job is. The powerful rapper on the mic for our planet, Hila Perry says beautifully, “Culture is community.”, and artists have the power to shape communities because through their artworks and performances, they can shape cultures, build communities, and bring changes. 

One of the major cultural changes that is needed to overcome the climate crisis is to move away from the toxic culture of hyper-consumerism, convenience culture, and the culture of throwing away. Instead of glorifying these harmful cultures, artists have the power to do the opposite and drive people in the right direction. “My mission really is to make loving the earth and living on earth really trendy and cool,” said Perry. It surely is not an easy job to shift the narrative, but it is surely important to do so to shift the culture, and entertainment + culture can bring that shift.

When we have an earth consciousness attached to us, basically then we can live more in alignment with our planet and have a more harmonious life with animals and plants,” Perry added to emphasize on the mission that artists need to pursue to inspire people culturally and bring the much needed meaningful change for us and for our planet. 

Hila Perry on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

“Everything that you do from your lyrics to your shows, your live shows, to your merch, to your statements, what you put out into the world – you’re influencing people. Your fans are looking to you to know what to wear, what to drink, what to eat, how to be, how to live. So when you model earth consciousness in your art, you’re basically giving a lot of other people permission to think that that’s cool.” said Hila Perry when we asked about what message she wanted to convey to other artists,” Go deep with what it means to be a human being on Earth and discover that also just for yourself.”, she added.

Deciphering the Climate Crisis through Entertainment + Culture

It’s not tough to assume that we get confused and feel lost when things like the climate crisis are described from a scientific point of view. We, the general people, understand that it’s important, but the tough narrative makes us move away from the curiosity of learning about it properly. This is a crucial spot where entertainment + culture can play as a medium between scientists and the general people. Through their art, artists can help us not only to understand critical scientific theories but also to figure out and take proper actions guided by those theories.

Cicely Nagel on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

“Culture and entertainment contribute significantly to inspiring change. The key to making climate science more accessible is clear communication! Simplifying complex scientific findings can help connect scientists to the wider public. By helping the public understand important scientific concepts, we can help increase awareness on climate issues and inspire real change.”

said Marine Biologist Cicely Nagel.

British Actress and BBC New Creative Amelie Edwards agrees to this by saying, “We hear all the stuff from scientists, which is so, so useful, but it can be quite overwhelming and hard to unpack and really complicated as well. Whereas seeing a story unfold from a human perspective is often easier for people to connect with and therefore easier to take action and see how you can change things within your own life and in your own world.” Edwards added further by saying, ” I feel like the best way to contribute to a message is through displaying it in our work because otherwise no one’s ever going to see it and no one’s going to know it exists or talk about it. And I feel like having a conversation is often the start of being inspired to take action and to make changes.”

Amelie Edwards on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Artists through their specialties can reach millions of people, and the science behind the climate crisis is crucial for everyone to understand to take action, to ensure a safe future.

Joelle Provost on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

We need those that feel the strongest to create, to make meaning of this messy time and to decipher it.”

– said artist Artist and the Director of Sarcophagus Project, Joelle Provost while sharing her perspective about the role that artists need to play to make the science of climate accessible for all.

She also added, “Artists play a critical role in the reimaging of a better future. Artists push society along, just as Kandinsky said. All of this is vital; the difficult topics presented through visual and performing arts, and the dreaming of a better future.”

There are already many artists all around the globe who are actually doing this job if you’re wondering whether artists are playing their roles in it or not. Qiyun Woo said, “As someone who combines climate science and art, I hope to inspire action by quelling the panic, and fear and providing the tools to get things done.” Brenna Quinlan is also someone who continuously tries to educate her audience about the climate crisis and give them ideas to take action through her artworks. When we asked her about the knack of her artworks, she said, “My particular passion has been in making abstract information more accessible, and in changing the narrative on climate change from one of doom and gloom to one of positivity.

Art can surely be the most effective force in transforming culture in the right direction and bringing meaningful changes. Amelie Edwards reminds us that by mentioning, “I think in the eighties, there was a hole in the ozone layer. And in this country, there was a soap opera that had a conversation between two girls about hairspray just whilst they were getting ready; and they discussed the fact that the hairspray was creating this hole in the ozone layer and all contributing to it. And it was through that that obviously, people started to think, “Oh my gosh, we need to actually do something about this.” And then the government started to ban aerosols that were contributing to the hole. And when you remember that things like that have happened, you think, oh yeah, we really can do something about this with the stories that we tell. And it’s so important to tell stories.” 

Optimism and Inspiration for Positive Change:

It is undeniable that climate change as a topic can be really depressing. It will surely not be very effective if entertainment + culture just brings up the narrative of doom and gloom. In fact it has a chance to backfire because no one can take effective actions while feeling scared or depressed. 

So it is important for artists not just to make scientific information accessible to mass people through their arts, but also and more to instill hope in them and inspire them to take meaningful actions. “Climate optimism is a mindset that nurtures that curiosity. It’s not about sitting back and hoping for the best to happen but about sparking the inspiration and courage needed to let go of the old and build something new. We know what to do to reverse global warming. We have the science, the tools, and much of the technology. What we need now is our shared willingness to accept and embrace the changes needed for us to get there. Art in any form, may it be written, painted, or through music, has the ability to transport our minds to those new places. It helps us imagine new realities and spark a feeling of both joy and excitement.”, said author Anne Therese Gennari. 

Artists like Hannah Tizedes who is also the founder of the nonprofit The Cleanup Club agree with Gennari by saying,

“Art is an incredibly important part of creating change and the world we want to live in. Creativity has a way of connecting with people and right now, that’s what we need most. We need people to care, to come together, and to understand why raising their voices for a better planet matters. Art empowers people and because of that, art can help create positive change.”

Hannah Tizedes on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Inanna on Entertainment + Culture for Climate Action

Talented musician Inanna also believes in the power of creative expression to inspire positive changes. ” Our creative expressions have the power to transcend, to connect with people on a profound level, and spark durable change. As performers, we are entrusted with a unique platform to influence hearts and minds. In this crucial time for our planet, it is fundamental to recognize and embrace the profound impact we can have on the global conversation surrounding climate action. It’s time to recognize the interconnectedness of all life on Earth and the role we play in shaping the narrative around environmental stewardship.”

However, it is understandable that artists might also find scientific theories tough to understand. It won’t surely be possible for them to educate others and inspire actions if they don’t get it properly. But it is surely not impossible, rather it can be fun. 

Maria Poonlertlarp shares her perspective on this from her own experience. She said,” For those who don’t know much about it,  who feel like it’s too big of a topic to chew or it’s too serious,  I just want to say I totally understand. I just also want to say that there are so many sources out there where we can get to, where we can learn,  whether it’s through documentaries or blogs or just joining groups.”

She further adds, “I want everyone to ask themselves first and foremost what they care about.  What is it on this planet that they care about?  Maybe it’s fashion, maybe it’s food,  maybe it’s art,  and then from there see,  okay,  that’s what you care about.  Now, what are you good at? And then third,  what organizations or what groups or communities are working on this?  And once you start getting involved,  it’s beautiful because you get to work on something that you’re already interested in,  and you get to utilize something that you’re good at to contribute to fighting for our world.

So I think it’s possible to do something about it.  It doesn’t have to be big.  You just need to start.  And once you start,  you’re going to be connected to more and more people who are doing this.  And from my own experience, I can just say that it feels great.  And I would want all my other friends in the entertainment industry to feel this feeling as well.”

So it can surely be very empowering for artists too, to learn, get involved, and share the lesson with mass people, and drive them in the right direction with an optimistic mindset to build the future that we all dream of, that we all deserve, that is possible. 

The Universal Language of Art

Now you might wonder, why do artists have to carry out this responsibility to educate and inspire others. If you take a minute to think properly, you will find out that the answer is not only easy but logical too. It is because art is surely a form of global language that has the power to connect us all.

Inanna acknowledges the power of art from her perspective as a musician by saying, “Music has a global reach, transcending linguistic and cultural barriers. This universality provides an opportunity to create a shared understanding of environmental challenges and global solutions.

She further adds, “Art is a potent catalyst for change. Through music, film, poetry, visual arts, and more, we can elevate the environmental conversation, raise awareness, inspire action on a global scale, and contribute to a collective cultural shift that is essential for addressing the challenges our planet faces.” 

Brenna Quinlan adds her thoughts on this by saying,” Artists help people to process events, to connect emotionally with information, and to feel motivated to stand up and act.”, and they surely need to use their platforms to make the climate conversation mainstream. 

Artists can undoubtedly go beyond their art to play their roles. To reflect on her thoughts on this, Hila Perry said, “It’s important to make sustainability the norm. When you see what artists are wearing, when you see the production, you’re thinking, what if everything they did was very sustainably minded? They would be influencing so many people and their whole production would actually be a message, or it would have this bigger impact beyond just the music and their dancing and all the things that they already give on top of that.” 

By using the power of the global language of art, artists have the ability to reach every corner of our planet and inspire people. That can surely bring cultural changes, and changes in the policies and how we do business. It is important for artists to realise the power they have. Just like Maria Poonlertlarp realized it and said, “For me in the entertainment business,  I think it’s mainly about the fact that I can use my platform and try to make it mainstream.

All of us love our families, our friends, our surroundings, and ourselves – and our planet is the home that holds these that we care about dearly. We need to understand that we all can play our parts to overcome the climate crisis through entertainment + culture. Some of us might not feel like we have an artist inside of us but that surely does not mean we don’t enjoy arts, so what we can do at least is to listen to the artists and share their message with others. Those of us who know that there is an inner artist, we need to step up now, not only because that would be an incredible experience but also it would mean something to contribute to the movement that matters, and it can surely give us a calm feeling of peace too.

In the words of artist Joelle Provost, “My aim is to express this admiration for Planet A and humility in the process, via paint and text. If my work is able to impact just a few lives then I can sleep well at night.

Eco Fashion Week Kenya – A Symphony of Fashion, Sustainability, and Transformation

Eco Fashion Week Kenya – A Symphony of Fashion, Sustainability, and Transformation

In the vibrant heart of Kenyan ingenuity, a groundbreaking event is set to unfold, promising a week that transcends the ordinary realms of fashion. Welcome to Eco Fashion Week Kenya, a transformative experience conceived by the visionary Belinda Smetana, founder of Sustainable Fashion and Travel. This event, in collaboration with Cleanup Kenya, is not just about runway glamour; it’s a holistic celebration of sustainability, inclusivity, and a profound commitment to healing our planet.

A Visionary’s Dream

Belinda Smetana, the luminary behind Sustainable Fashion and Travel, envisions more than a fashion week; she dreams of a collective journey toward conscious living. Her brainchild, Eco Fashion Week Kenya, is a testament to her commitment to creating a transformative experience that leaves an indelible mark on Kenya’s fashion landscape.

As Belinda puts it, “Our vision is to be the first-ever Fashion Week in the world that focuses more on cleaning up textile waste by creating inclusive intergenerational activities that every human who wears clothes can relate to.”

Inclusivity Beyond Glamour

In a world where inclusivity often stops at diverse models on the runway, Eco Fashion Week Kenya takes a giant leap forward. For them, inclusivity extends beyond the glamour, encompassing intergenerational activities that involve everyone who wears clothes. This commitment to inclusivity goes hand in hand with their core belief that sustainable fashion should be for everyone, breaking traditional beauty standards both on and off the runway.

Belinda emphasizes, “We are not just working with fashion brands; we are including other industry leaders contributing to a better environment. Our transformative experience aims to inspire positive change, making sustainable fashion accessible to all.”

The Artisanal Prelude

The journey begins at The Artisanal Gallery, Nairobi, with a press briefing and networking day. The venue, known for its unique concept store, sets the stage for what promises to be a fashion week like no other. The welcome drink from official wine sponsors Le Decanter and gifts by JUA add a touch of celebration and community spirit to the event.

As we step into this artistic space, Belinda’s words resonate, “We want to create a Fashion Week where the power of fashion is harnessed to leave a positive imprint on our society and the planet.”

Photo of The Artisanal Gallery, Nairobi
The Artisanal Gallery, Nairobi

A Tapestry of Experiences

The week unfolds with diverse activities, each day bringing a new facet of sustainable fashion to the forefront. From eco-fashion workshops and the selection of winning pieces to mending, repair, and swap workshops, the event is a rich tapestry of experiences. The emphasis on education through seminars and discussions underlines a commitment to not just showcasing fashion but fostering a deeper understanding of sustainable living.

Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, who is one of the featured designers of the Eco Fashion Week Kenya, adds her perspective, “Embracing Circular fashion systems including recycling and upcycling is crucial. Brands should embrace slow fashion, make quality apparel that will last for generations, and use sustainable and degradable materials.”

Photo of Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, Kenya
Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles

JUST FASHION DAY – Challenging Norms

One of the highlights is the “JUST Fashion Day,” a challenge presented by the JUST Fashion team through the Eyes of the Artisanal Gallery, AfroWema, and Seeds & Stories. Delight Fashion and Design School students are tasked with creating one piece each with the theme “No New Clothes.” This bold initiative aims to combat textile waste by using existing clothes that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Belinda expresses her confidence, “We are challenging designers, especially the students, to make a difference. The winning piece will be showcased and auctioned, supporting upcoming designers. It’s about avoiding waste and overproduction, aligning with our commitment to a sustainable fashion future.”

This addition emphasizes the pivotal role of student designers, making their contributions integral to the ethos of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.

An Evening of High Fashion and Responsibility

As the week progresses, the event moves to Lions Eco Resort & Spa for a night fashion show. Designers will showcase collections made from used materials, emphasizing the theme of “No New Clothes.” The emphasis on not purchasing new clothes for the event aligns with the ethos of discouraging overconsumption.

The week culminates in a beach cleanup day in Malindi, symbolizing the event’s commitment to actively contribute to environmental well-being.

A Collective Effort – Partnerships and Venues

Eco Fashion Week Kenya is not a solitary endeavor. It’s a collaborative effort with Cleanup Kenya, Delight Tailoring Fashion & Design School, Fashion Takes Action, Trashion Kenya and many more. The choice of venues, from The Artisanal Gallery to Lions Eco Resort & Spa, adds a layer of uniqueness to each event, creating an immersive experience for participants.

As Belinda emphasizes, “We are uniting Style, Sustainability, and inclusivity while disrupting the ‘Normal’ Fashion Week.”

The Power of Conscious Fashion Choices

As Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, puts it, “Circular economy – reusing, recycling, and creating new materials and products from already existing materials hence reducing waste.” Julie’s dedication to sustainable materials and practices echoes the broader message of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.

In a world inundated with fast fashion, Eco Fashion Week Kenya emerges as a beacon of conscious choices, a celebration of slow fashion that values quality over quantity. It’s a movement that goes beyond trends, embracing the well-being of the planet and its people above all else.

Looking to the Future

As we step into the future of sustainable fashion, events like Eco Fashion Week Kenya play a pivotal role. The rising consciousness on the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility is turning it into a norm rather than an exception. More brands are adopting circular fashion systems, becoming accountable and transparent in their product cycles.

Belinda envisions, “It will become the norm rather than the exception. More people will start embracing unique handcrafted artisanal products that are of high-quality finish.”

Embrace the Change

Eco Fashion Week Kenya is more than a fashion week; it’s a call to action. It challenges norms, encourages dialogue, and actively engages individuals in the journey toward sustainable living. Belinda Smetana’s vision extends beyond the glamour of the runway, aiming to weave a sustainable future, one thoughtful choice at a time.

As the fashion world gears up for this groundbreaking event, it’s not just about style; it’s about shaping a future where fashion and responsibility go hand in hand. So, mark your calendars for a week that promises not just runway spectacles but a transformative experience that resonates with the rhythm of a planet in need of healing.

Join the movement, embrace sustainability, and be a part of Eco Fashion Week Kenya – where fashion meets responsibility, and every choice makes a difference.

The Environmental Odyssey of Melissa Tan: An Exclusive Interview

The Environmental Odyssey of Melissa Tan: An Exclusive Interview

In the enchanting realm of eco-conscious visionaries, Melissa Tan shines as a captivating force, effortlessly intertwining her profound love for nature with a multifaceted career that spans the worlds of media and entertainment. In this exclusive encounter, we embark on a remarkable journey through Melissa’s extraordinary life story. We delve into her origins as a “Recycle Junkie,” a title earned in her youth, and explore her transformative experiences, including a remarkable Antarctic Expedition with the esteemed marine biologist, Dr. Sylvia Earle.

With a background in acting and a passion for storytelling, Melissa brilliantly articulates her mission to weave environmental advocacy into the very fabric of our daily lives. Join us in this compelling exploration of Melissa Tan‘s unique fusion of media influence and environmental passion, where she reveals her ingenious strategies for fostering sustainability within communities and inspires us to embrace a more aspirational, eco-conscious way of living.

Melissa Tan at the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition
During Dr. Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

Melissa, as an environmentalist with a background in acting, could you share your journey and how you became deeply involved in both of these fields?

The story I often share traces back to my childhood. I grew up as a nature-loving kid, always concerned about animals and the environment. My affection for animals is closely tied to my love for nature because even as a young child, I grasped the concept that preserving habitats meant safeguarding the lives of these creatures. I did everything within my power to be eco-conscious. I recycled diligently and stayed updated on environmental news. It was always heart-wrenching to come across those hard-hitting headlines, yet it felt like I was just a kid, and all I could do was recycle. So, I earned the title of a “Recycle Junkie.”

Fast forward, as I grew up, I ventured into modeling, hosting, presenting, and producing. Working within the entertainment and fashion industries exposed me to intense consumerism. I, in a way, became part of the mass advertising machine, encouraging people to buy and consume more. Even as a fashion model, I would change in and out of 150 dresses in a single day. Over the years, I noticed that trends kept repeating, the items were essentially the same, and the quality continually declined. This process led to a certain desensitization towards material possessions.

Fashion Revolution Week 2022 at REXKL - Fashion Waste Installation
Fashion Revolution Week 2022 at REXKL – Fashion Waste Installation

Simultaneously, due to my contracts, I found myself living out of a suitcase for a few years, which turned out to be incredibly liberating. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle almost happened by accident. When I stumbled upon the concept of zero-waste living, it ignited a spark within me. It brought back those childhood feelings of deep environmental concern. It made me realize that caring about the environment was so significant that what I had been doing all along, like recycling, was hardly enough. In fact, it was a flawed approach from the start. I began to question, “What do you mean I can prevent waste? What do you mean I can avoid harm? What do you mean I can opt-out entirely by redefining how I live my life?” My perspective underwent a profound transformation.

This was a revelation for me, as I wondered why I hadn’t seen it earlier. It took someone introducing me to the concept of zero-waste living for me to truly grasp its significance. It felt glaringly obvious, and I questioned why I hadn’t recognized it before. It became evident that people needed their eyes opened to these ideas. I stumbled into minimalism, and someone else opened my eyes to zero-waste living.

Gradually, by adopting these two perspectives on life, I managed to untangle myself from the clutches of consumerism and relentless marketing. This is how I found a way to fuse my passion for both fields. Now, knowing the aspirational allure of social media and the world of entertainment, and being a self-proclaimed clothes enthusiast, I thought, “What if we could make environmentalism more appealing? What if it became aspirational in its own right?” We need to dispel the myth that taking responsibility for the environment means missing out or shortchanging ourselves when, in reality, it’s quite the opposite. “Less is more.” Consuming less, owning less, and freeing ourselves from consumerism truly liberates us, providing greater freedom. That’s how I united these two worlds.

How do you leverage your career in the media and your commitment to environmental advocacy to make a significant impact?

Melissa Tan collecting beach plastic waste and nets with the community

Building on the previous question, it’s about using your platform to promote a more meaningful way of life and an alternative perspective. The reality is that most platforms, including social media, are often used for advertising. Much of the content we consume, even unbranded content, tends to glorify consumerism and a certain lifestyle.

However, we can utilize these same platforms to convey a different message. It’s about living a life with purpose and disconnecting from consumerism. I firmly believe that everyone possesses influence, regardless of their role – whether they’re business owners, employees, homemakers, or kids. It’s about illustrating to people the link between their actions in their own lives, offering new ideas, broadening their horizons, and highlighting opportunities. This process slowly fosters a unique perspective and intuition that enables them to identify these opportunities for themselves.

You recently participated in an Antarctic Expedition with Dr. Sylvia Earle. Could you share your insights from this experience and how it has impacted your environmental activism?

The Antarctic Expedition was profoundly transformative for me. As someone deeply connected to terrestrial environments like forests and jungles, this journey shifted my focus to the vital role of the ocean in preserving our planet’s health and climate. It was eye-opening to be surrounded by passionate ocean conservationists, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our world. It made me realize that the solutions aren’t limited to what we’re most familiar with.

The ship of Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023
Dr. Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

The expedition reinforced the idea that it’s not about one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, many focus on planting trees as a carbon offset strategy, but this might not be the most effective approach. Ocean conservation, a part of the bigger picture, deserves more attention. While terrestrial conservation is vital, there’s already significant emphasis on it, and initiatives like reforestation and carbon offsets may not be the most efficient means of addressing climate change.

Preserving what’s already in existence is critical. Damage to the ocean, the primary climate buffer, is irreversible, unlike planting more trees. Another aspect I admired was Dr. Sylvia Earle‘s unwavering stance on ocean conservation and avoiding seafood consumption. It’s a firm, some might even say extreme, approach, leaving no room for half-measures.

She’s unapologetic about it, unlike many conversations that sugarcoat reality. Climate solutions require drastic actions, just like the shift to a plant-based lifestyle that rejects meat consumption. I appreciate the expedition’s imperfections, characterized by diverse perspectives and, at times, egos. It highlighted that even people passionate about the planet can have misalignments when working toward a common goal. Imperfections are natural, but they don’t hinder great people from achieving great things.

In the realm of climate solutions, we must understand that perfect answers rarely exist. Solutions are transitional, and constantly evolving. The Antarctic Expedition showed me that progress involves continuous improvement, even if the path is imperfect.

Melissa Tan at the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition
Dr. Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

You’re actively involved in various environmental initiatives. Could you share more about these projects and how they align with your vision for a more sustainable future?

My focus is primarily on community engagement because I firmly believe that effective climate action begins at home. To create true advocates who can influence change within families, workplaces, and positions of power, it’s essential to instill a personal mindset shift. Many of my projects are designed to involve people in climate solutions and change their perspective on their relationship with the environment. These initiatives include talks, environmental festivals, climate reality discussions, workshops on zero-waste living, and urban reforestation activities with the Free Tree Society.

The common thread in all of these projects is placing people at the heart of climate action. By doing so, they can bring their determination and mindset to any role they hold or may move into. You never know who might attend a community event – it could be a student or even a high-ranking executive in a large corporation. Such individuals can profoundly influence their respective spheres with a clearer, more sustainable perspective, furthering the cause of environmental change.

As an actress and environmentalist, you clearly understand the power of storytelling in raising awareness about environmental issues. Could you share specific projects or campaigns where you’ve successfully combined storytelling and environmental advocacy?

It’s widely recognized that people connect best with stories that evoke human emotions. They need relatable narratives because statistics and facts often fail to engage. The climate crisis and environmental news can be overwhelmingly negative and frightening, causing many to turn away from these emotions.

It’s more comfortable to ignore these issues and focus on other aspects of life, creating a kind of sub-reality where we can find peace. To truly connect with people, we must find points of resonance and storytelling is the ideal tool. It allows us to relate environmental concerns to elements in people’s lives that matter to them.

Whether individuals live in cities or rural areas and interact with nature daily, they may not always perceive the connection between their lives and the environment. Reminding them of their shared humanity is essential, and storytelling is the most effective approach. In fact, storytelling is integral to all aspects of my work, making it an intrinsic part of every project and campaign.

As the country coordinator of Fashion Revolution Malaysia, how do you personally define and practice sustainable fashion?

I often provide training on this topic, drawing from my own journey in zero-waste living and minimalism. I frame it as seven distinct ways to build a zero-waste wardrobe, emphasizing that you rarely need to buy new clothing because the world already holds an abundance of garments. In fact, owning fewer items can strengthen your sense of style. Rather than relying on a credit card, you’ll discover that creativity becomes your primary tool in fashion.

Sustainable fashion isn’t about consuming more; it’s about understanding what suits you best and getting creative to achieve your desired looks without buying new items. This includes practices like swapping, second-hand shopping, borrowing, restyling, shopping within your own wardrobe, embracing capsule wardrobes, and exploring so-called sustainable fashion brands.

It’s essential to note that no fashion or product is entirely sustainable, although some brands demonstrate improved practices. Even so, consuming from these “sustainable” brands should be a last resort. I use myself as an example, considering my role as a public figure who often needs to look good. I’m in entertainment, and I have a visible presence in various spaces. My aim is to show people that looking great without buying new clothing is entirely achievable. I encourage individuals to challenge themselves and set boundaries around their approach to fashion, as boundaries can be a source of inspiration, leading to more sustainable choices rather than opting for the quick fix of swiping a credit card.

Melissa, how do you incorporate sustainability into your daily life?

I lead a zero-waste lifestyle, which means I generate minimal waste. I’m committed to not purchasing new items. Moreover, I utilize my platform and my voice to influence the people around me by simply being myself. My actions and choices serve as a source of inspiration and a testament to the possibilities of sustainable living.

What’s your perspective on climate optimism as an artist and environmentalist?

Melissa Tan at the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition
Dr. Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

Climate optimism is a personal struggle for me, and I believe many environmentalists share this challenge. When you’re deeply involved in environmental causes, you’re constantly bombarded with grim news and stories of environmental issues. We often find ourselves immersed in discussions about negative events, which can be disheartening. The reality is that, as climate advocates and storytellers, we’re exposed to a constant stream of distressing information.

For those of us in this field, we have to work diligently to foster and maintain climate optimism. We have to find new and engaging ways to convey our message, even though it can feel like we’re saying the same thing over and over. Sometimes it’s frustrating because the change seems slow. We’re exposed to the often daunting reality of climate issues more than the general public, which can lead to climate anxiety and pessimism.

We are acutely aware of the complexities involved in shifting our course toward a more sustainable future. We understand the many layers of change required, and it can feel disheartening when we don’t see all the pieces coming together as we’d like. Unlike some who may be encouraged by surface-level green messaging, we know there’s more to the story.

To address this, we must cultivate our own climate optimism. Without it, we risk burnout and can’t contribute effectively. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals and engaging in inspiring projects keeps our spirits high. Achieving positive results from our efforts feeds our souls and sustains our motivation. Despite the challenges and the world’s ongoing struggles, the sense of fulfillment from our work keeps us moving forward.

What’s your favorite Malaysian food, and does climate change affect it?

I have to say Durian is one of my favorite Malaysian foods. However, the love for Durian, not just mine but globally, is leading to deforestation and monoculture. I’ve witnessed fields being cleared to make way for durian plantations. This beloved Malaysian fruit is contributing to climate change while also being influenced by climate change in the near future.

Regarding the specific impact of climate change on durian plantations, I’m not entirely sure at the moment. What’s clear is that its cultivation is contributing to deforestation, which is a significant environmental concern.

Photo of a Durian

Being a Malaysian, tell us about a practice(s) in your culture that is actually very sustainable and good for the planet.

In Fashion Revolution Malaysia, we created a series of documentaries during Fashion Revolution Week that highlighted sustainable practices in fashion rooted in our culture but often forgotten. One notable practice is the tradition of mending and reusing our clothes, especially when it comes to making festive wear for celebrations like New Year, Hari Raya, and Chinese New Year. In the past, our mothers’ generation would have one set of clothing made new each year, often crafted by our grandmothers. These garments were treasured, passed down, and cherished for generations. While this practice isn’t unique to Malaysia, it reflects a mindset from a couple of generations ago that valued sustainability, which is sadly less common today.

Another sustainable tradition, although not as prevalent as before, is the use of tiffin carriers for food deliveries. Families would order weekday meals, and the food delivery person would transport the food in tiffin carriers containing two to three dishes. After delivering the food, they would collect the previous day’s tiffin carriers and exchange them. This practice is more common among those in landed houses because they could hang the tiffin carriers above their post boxes for easy exchange. While it’s less common now, it’s a practice we should strive to bring back and make more widespread, especially as it’s being replaced by less sustainable food delivery and takeaway options.

In your journey as an environmentalist, what are some of the major challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?

Photo of Melissa Tan at a Dumping site full of Plastic Waste

One of the major challenges I encountered on my journey as an environmentalist was dealing with climate anxiety and climate doomism. For a period, I grappled with these feelings, and it became challenging to stay motivated and continue my advocacy work. It often felt like a tremendous task to keep showing up. To overcome this, I realized the importance of surrounding myself with like-minded individuals and immersing myself in spaces where I could draw energy and enthusiasm from others who shared my passion. Being with people who believed just as strongly as I did helped me rekindle my own motivation.

It’s crucial for those of us who are champions of sustainability and change to remember that in mainstream society, we often stand as beacons, and we might be the only person within our social circles or workplaces who are deeply committed to reshaping processes and systems. When we constantly encounter resistance to change, science, and our messaging, we must take the time to return to spaces that replenish our souls. This renewal allows us to continue facing the broader world and work on pulling others in the same direction we’re heading.

So when you constantly face resistance to change and science and your messaging, you need to then continuously put yourself back into spaces to feed your soul again.

Are there any specific moments or accomplishments that stand out to you?

Photo of Melissa Tan at a Clothing Swap
Clothes Swap – DDY01743 – Photo by Dedy Andrianto

There have been several moments and accomplishments on my journey, although I can’t recall all of them at this moment. One standout experience was the opportunity to visit Antarctica. Initially, it seemed like an unattainable dream because I didn’t have the means to make such a journey. However, two years later, I took a chance and entered a competition. I presented myself to individuals who recognized my potential to convey their message, and I was selected.

This experience was incredibly validating for me. A lot of the work we do, both you and I, often happens behind the scenes and goes unnoticed. Yet, it can be emotionally taxing and challenging. For us to consistently operate behind the scenes, it takes a significant emotional toll. So, it was truly heartening to have our peers and those we admire acknowledge and appreciate our efforts.

What advice would you give to individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start?

My advice for individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start is this: Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just take that first step. Begin by doing something small, and then let your curiosity guide you. Explore various paths and continuously find ways to use your voice, your influence, the space you occupy, and your daily decisions to instigate change in the culture around you.

Even if it seems like a minor change, every time you make a conscious choice, you are not only transforming yourself, but you’re also becoming a role model for those around you. People notice your passion and your ability to make a difference. They will start turning to you, seeking your insights and solutions. As a result, new opportunities will naturally open up. The next time someone says, “This could be improved,” they might say, “You’re the right person to ask about this.”

Do you have an idol?

Absolutely, I admire Carolyn Lau, the current president of the Free Tree Society in Kuala Lumpur. Carolyn is a true inspiration. She’s a naturalist and landscape architect with a deep connection to the forest. Even in her late 50s, her enthusiasm for her work is boundless. Whether she’s talking about the trees in our urban forests or conducting workshops, her genuine passion for sharing her love of the natural world and educating others is infectious. What impresses me most about Carolyn is her character. She demonstrates that it’s not just the big actions that matter; it’s also how a person shows up in small and large roles. When I look at Carolyn, I see someone I aspire to be when I’m 59, still carrying that same fire, unwavering passion, and unbridled joy for the environment. She’s dedicated to bringing people along on the journey to nurture their love for our planet.

Click to find out more about Melissa Tan and find her on Instagram.

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

From Discounts to Detriments: Holiday Influence of Fast Fashion and Remedies

From Discounts to Detriments: Holiday Influence of Fast Fashion and Remedies

Adding to a cart is one of the most fulfilling clicks in most of our lives. Especially when there is a 70% off sale on Shein, and with Black Friday coming up in a few short weeks, fashion brands like H&M and Zara will be sure to give the people what they want – clearance sales, and major discounts. The holiday season means new outfits to buy, and matching family sweaters to seek out – clothes have always been such a primal part of the celebration, but also everyday life.  

But how often do we really stop to think before clicking “Add to Cart?” Serious questions like – how is this brand offering such a huge percentage off for the holiday season and still making profits? If they are not making profits, then why are they running their business? If they are making profits even after those significant discounts, how cheap are these clothes? What is the secret behind such low prices of these clothes – are the materials used in these clothes cheap or low-quality? If these materials are below quality, how long will we be able to use them – is it a good investment? What will happen to these clothes made from low-quality materials after we won’t be able to use them anymore? If the materials are not low-quality, then how come the prices are so cheap? If you are someone who thinks these are serious or at least interesting questions to be asked, then you are in the right place. It’s time to learn about fast fashion before clicking “Add to Cart” this holiday season. So, buckle up and brace yourself. 

A girl struggling with her piles of excessive clothing in her closet

What is fast fashion? 

Fast fashion is a phenomenon that has been noticed over the past 30 years, one that spread globally and quickly. According to the UN, fast fashion is a business model “of quick turnover, high volume, and cheap prices.” It is basically where fashion brands – to keep up with current trends and styles – mass produce their items at a low manufacturing cost to supply high demand. Fast fashion has been a booming industry since the late 1900s and the early 2000s, and these retailers include Zara, H&M, and Shein.  

What customers usually notice is that clothing items in fast fashion brands are relatively cheap, with a magnitude of vast options.  

Why does fast fashion exist? 

Shopping for clothes was once considered an event. This means that people would save up throughout the year and purchase new clothes at specific times. Style-conscious people would be well aware of the latest trends and designs through the fashion shows that showcased clothing pieces months before they were available in stores. People were used to shopping for clothes once or twice per year, in the regard that it was an occasion. 

However, in the late 1900s, that began to change. Shopping quickly changed into a form of entertainment and leisure, which consequently meant that people bought clothes more often, at a higher pace. This was what set off the concept of fast fashion – retailers could mass-produce clothing pieces at low prices, which made consumers feel they were up to date with the latest trends in real time. Fast fashion items were never made with the intention of lasting multiple years or wears – its goal was to manufacture cost-effective clothing directly satisfying the shifting demands of the consumer.  

A woman looking at a store showing their items on sale

The fashion industry is one of the largest working industries globally, with a value of 2.5 trillion dollars, providing employment for over 75 million people worldwide, as stated by UNECE. In theory, and from pure definition, fast fashion sounds harmless – a company is mass-producing clothes, for a cheaper price, which people can afford. If anything, this can be seen as a strategy that grants people easier access to clothes due to their affordable price. However, the consequences of fast fashion are ones that aren’t easy to notice, but hard to ignore. Fast fashion directly contributes to waste colonialism and exploitive labor practices – which consumers are unaware of during their purchases.  

How does fast fashion negatively affect the environment? 

Alright, so what about clothes during the holiday season? According to USA Facts, clothing, and accessory retailers have the highest jumps in sales during the holiday season. Statista found that in 2022 47% of Gen Z purchased new fashion items for themselves to wear on Christmas, while Millennials were at an astounding 50%. This shows that there is a high intent for purchase and paired with the high discounts available in fast-fashion brands, it explains why people tend to buy more new clothes during the holiday season. Since fast fashion utilizes low-quality fabrics, that means the clothes purchased during the holiday season would have a life span of only a few months – and when that life span is over, people do what they always do when something has served its purpose – they throw it away.  

A poster that says 'the cost of fast fashion'

Fast fashion relies on a business model that depends on “recurring consumption and impulse buying, instilling a sense of urgency when purchasing.” This business model has clearly succeeded, with global consumption rising to 62 million tons of apparel per year, and by 2030, it is expected to reach 102 million tons.  

Fast Fashion’s Global Impact 

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation – a UNEP partner – estimates that a truckload of abandoned textiles is discharged into landfills or incinerated every second. This is why it is estimated that people are buying 60% more clothes and wearing them for half as long. According to The Business Insider, 85% of all textiles go to dumps every year. The textiles in landfills have the capacity to contaminate soil. Countries such as Uganda, with high rates of agriculture and farmers, export contaminated food and resources to other countries. This can lead to major health risks and dangers, alongside negative side effects to animals and plants in their ecosystems.  

This means that fast fashion contributes directly to waste colonialism. Most fast fashion exports are from developing countries across Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Cambodia etc. This means that the Global South is not only the one with the highest production of fast fashion but is also the one that suffers its consequences the most after it gets thrown out. The BBC reported in 2022 that more than half of the clothes imported to Chile end up in the Atacama Desert. On Jamestown Beach, located in Accra – Ghana’s capital – you must walk between mountains of shoes, pants, and tattered t-shirts. These used textiles come from Western countries and Asia to be dumped and dealt with in Ghana. 

At the fishing port of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on February 19, 2023. The beach is littered with used clothes from industrialized countries that arrive there every week. 
At the fishing port of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on February 19, 2023. The beach is littered with used clothes from industrialized countries that arrive there every week. JEAN-FRANÇOIS FORT / HANS LUCAS

These discharged textiles contribute to microplastics found in the water, which can then affect marine food chains – which means that the Ghanaian people eat contaminated fish. Discharged textiles are often brought into the Global South without warning, leaving them to deal with methods to get rid of these clothes. Because the quality is so low, merchandisers can’t even sell discharged textiles – therefore, it is another burden of waste that they are responsible for getting rid of, or facing the consequences it brings – most of the time, it is both. 

Fast Fashion and Climate Change 

Besides the littering and waste of fast fashion, it directly affects global warming. Producing clothes requires natural resources, which emit greenhouse gases. According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, surpassing aviation and shipping industries combined. The World Bank suggests that global clothing sales are to increase to 65% by 2030. A higher percentage in global sales indicates more discharged textiles to deal with – putting even more pressure on the Global South to manage the waste provided by the Global North.  

Consumer Awareness 

Some may argue that the average consumer isn’t aware of the negative connotations that come with fast fashion. According to Nayab Sohail, a Pakistani Slow Fashion ambassador, consumers must be educated about the issues fast fashion causes. Once consumers are educated on the link between fast fashion and climate change, that would allow for a change in their approach towards fast fashion.  Merlina Carolina, the Global Creative Lead of the Slow Fashion Movement and founder of Slow Fashion El Salvador, believes that the average consumer is “so caught up in routine and system that they probably don’t have the energy to question or consciously think about how the environment works.” 

Conscious consumers

Others argue that consumers are aware – to a small degree – of the link between fast fashion and the environment. Grace Kemp, another ambassador of the Slow Fashion Movement, believes that a “majority of people” are aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. Kemp claims that because of the sudden uprise of “green” campaigns in recent years, this must correlate to the level of awareness existing amongst consumers.  

How can you reduce your fashion footprint? 

Kemp mentioned how people might be aware of the negative link between fast fashion and the environment; however, they feel as though “it is too big for them to be able to do anything, so they carry on.” The typical solution to fast fashion has always been slow fashion. But slow fashion brands are usually expensive – the biggest disadvantage that fast fashion solves.  

Even then, there are solutions to fast fashion that don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Karen James Welton, a slow fashion stylist, advises to wear what you own. Purchasing clothing pieces for the sake of a current, temporary trend usually means it won’t be worn again. Welton also advises shopping vintage and second-hand. Swapping clothes with your family members and friends, or borrowing clothes isn’t shameful in any way – it is a direct solution to make sure you aren’t buying too many clothes. Kristīne Čeirāne, an ambassador’s coordinator of the Slow Fashion Movement, says, “The most sustainable wardrobe is the one people already have. Look after your clothes and wear them for as long as you can. The greenest purchase is the one you didn’t make.” Welton also recommends that for new purchases, you save up for investment pieces that you will be able to wear for years. Timeless, classic pieces that will always look good regardless of the current trend going around.  

A girl wearing a green dress dancing in a lush green field

A Joint Effort for a Sustainable Future 

The solution to fast fashion isn’t reserved for individual consumers only. The UN initiated the #ActNow Fashion Challenge, which aims to show individuals and industries how to improve the environmental impact that fashion leaves. Limiting and decreasing the carbon footprint that the fashion industry leaves is a key factor in reducing global warming, which is why NGOs have pointed out fast fashion’s harmful business model. Greenpeace and other groups have urged the sector to slow down the trend of mass-producing clothes that are thrown away so quickly. In COP-27 in Egypt, the fashion sector did promise a net-zero carbon footprint, but giant clothing retailers still struggle to manage their own emissions, considering the high demand for fast fashion now.  

It is essential that there is a joint effort – between the consumer and the industry – to work towards a less wasteful, more sustainable style of fashion. Looking good and trendy shouldn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. There is work towards sustainable fashion, and as long as there is work, there is always a way.  

The holiday season doesn’t need to be ugly for everybody. You can still look wonderful in the clothes you have – maybe styling it differently will give it a new look! Remember the consequences of clicking “Add to Cart” from a fast fashion brand – no one should spend their holiday season struggling through mountains of discharged clothes for the sake of fashion. 

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.

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
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.

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.

Finding Hope in a Changing Climate: Strategies for Coping and Thriving

Finding Hope in a Changing Climate: Strategies for Coping and Thriving

Did you know that climate change is not only affecting our planet, but it’s also affecting our mental health (IN A BIG WAY)? It’s fair to feel overwhelmed knowing how often natural disasters occur. However, other factors that can leave us feeling depressed and hopeless include things like deforestation, water pollution, and the loss of biodiversity. Moreover, thousands of people are left homeless, forcing them to relocate and seek refuge elsewhere due to climate-related issues like droughts and increasing sea levels, which can exacerbate anxiety and despair. 

There is no doubt that climate change is deeply affecting our well-being. But have you ever stopped to think about how the environment can help improve our mental health?  Yes! It turns out that our environment is the most powerful (AND FREE) tool for better mental health and well-being. Let’s dive into some of the most common, yet effective practices for connecting with the environment for mental well-being:

Identify Eco-Anxiety

Photo of a depressed or anxious person sitting facing a river

Eco-anxiety is a relatively new term used to describe the feeling of helplessness, dread, or hopelessness about the future of our planet. Always remember that this is very normal to feel daunted by the intensity of climate events, but we can take definitely act on it. Feeling helpless or despondent, having difficulties sleeping, experiencing changes in appetite, and feeling tense or irritated are some typical signs of eco-anxiety. Also, you might discover that you’re preoccupied with thoughts of global warming or a sense of impending doom. If you or any of your friends and family are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to take care of them by seeking support from loved ones, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help if needed. Remember, you’re not alone in feeling this way, and it’s okay to ask for help. 

Practice Eco-therapy

Just as the term suggests, eco-therapy refers to connecting with nature to promote mental and emotional well-being. One of the simplest and most effective things we can do is practice self-care. This can be literally anything! Taking time for ourselves to sleep, eat well, meditate, or engage in any fun outdoor activity. And the best part? It does not cost a thing! And as suggested by many psychologists, it is important we connect with nature, be it a quick walk in the park, or enjoying the rain. 

Photo of a woman meditating in nature near trees and hills

  • ‘Earthing’ or ‘Grounding’: Imagine walking barefoot on green grass while enjoying the sun on a Sunday morning. Relaxing, right? But did you know there is actually a term for that? Several studies have shown that ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’ can influence several physiological measures, including improved heart rate, respiration, and metabolism. It also normalizes our stress hormone, cortisol, which helps us function better with reduced stress and anxiety. 
  • Forest Bathing: If you are wondering if you really need to bathe openly in the wilderness, the answer is no. You don’t have to; unless you want to try (wink!). “Forest bathing” is simply about immersing oneself in nature to genuinely connect with the environment. It helps one’s physical and emotional health to reduce stress hormones, enhance mood, and enhance cognitive performance. According to one study, taking a forest bath can significantly reduce stress hormone cortisol levels and balance sympathetic nerve activity, which is linked to the fight-or-flight response. Hence, give spending time in nature a try if you’re seeking a natural way to improve your mental health.
  • Green Exercise: We all know how physical exercises can improve our health. But did you know that exercising, particularly in nature can be great for your mental health? Yes, it’s called “green exercise” and as the term suggests it’s basically just any physical activity that takes place in natural environments like parks, forests, or mountains. Studies have shown that green exercise can improve mood, decrease stress levels, and even boost self-esteem. Plus, it’s a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature while getting some exercise. Need more adventurous choices to explore? Here are some ideas for green exercise activities: hiking, walking or running in a park, doing yoga outside, or even just gardening or tending to some plants.
  • Eco-Art Therapy: Simply put, “eco-art therapy” is a therapeutic approach that incorporates creativity and nature. It entails making art outdoors using random natural elements like rocks, leaves, and flowers. This practice has demonstrated benefits in lowering stress, anxiety, and depression while also enhancing general mental health. According to research, practicing environmental art therapy can boost happy feelings, lessen bad ones, and enhance overall life satisfaction. Also, this therapy can promote a sense of environmental responsibility and help people connect with nature. Considering the benefits of eco-art therapy, many therapists have adopted this practice as a healing process for their patients. So if you are looking for a creative and all-natural way to explore and improve your mental health, this is for you!

Support Mental Health Services

Photo of a wet hand dripping water on a river

Supporting mental health services that concentrate on distress and trauma associated with climate change is one of the things we can do to combat climate change and care for our mental health. For anyone suffering from eco-anxiety or dealing with the fallout from natural disasters and extreme weather occurrences, these services can be a true lifesaver. We can also contribute by supporting laws that encourage renewable energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Consider devices like solar and wind energy systems. Also, we may support measures like erecting flood barriers or expanding tree planting programs to improve air quality that helps mitigate the effects of climate change. Educating people about how climate change affects mental health is also very essential. By discussing it with our friends and family, we can help remove the stigma associated with mental health problems caused by climate change and motivate more people to take action to protect our world and ourselves.

Building Community Support

Building and participating in community support could be an awesome way to improve both individual and community well-being. Have you ever felt a sense of belonging and being a part of something bigger than yourself? That’s exactly what community involvement can help us with. Just imagine being a part of a like-minded community group that is enthusiastic about making positive changes and building a safe environment for all. Together, we can bring about change, which will improve our mental health while giving us a sense of direction and significance in life.

Photo of a community in front of sunset

Participating in community projects can also help lessen the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourage open discussion while raising awareness. For individuals who require it, this may boost access to services and help. So why not take a baby step now and find out what local community groups are available, or build one of your own? It’s important to recognize that we have the power to make a difference. By taking action to reduce our carbon footprint, promoting ecotherapy, and investing in mental health services, we can create a brighter, healthier future for ourselves and our planet.

When it comes to tackling climate change, it’s important to remember that taking action is only part of the equation. It’s totally normal to feel anxious or overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. This is why seeking professional support when necessary is just as important. There’s no shame in asking for help if you’re struggling with eco-anxiety or any other mental health challenge. Mental health professionals are trained to help you manage your feelings and develop coping strategies that work for you. And guess what, by taking care of our mental health, we’re not only improving our own well-being, but we’re also better equipped to take action on climate change. So let’s step up and take care of ourselves AND the planet!

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

In a world where fashion is often synonymous with fast-paced trends and fleeting styles, there are passionate individuals who are reshaping the industry’s narrative. Meet Nivi Murthy, the visionary founder of IKKIVI, an online marketplace dedicated to sustainable and ethical Indian fashion. With a mission to provide a platform for talented designers who champion mindful practices, Nivi has transformed IKKIVI into a global destination that blends artistry, culture, and consciousness.

Amidst the bustling streets of the Indian fashion landscape, Nivi recognized the need for a space that showcased sustainable and ethical designs, amplifying the voices of those dedicated to making a positive impact. IKKIVI, the result of her unwavering commitment, has become a beacon of hope for designers and conscious consumers alike.

The birth of IKKIVI

Nivi’s journey began with a profound awakening when she watched the eye-opening documentary ‘The True Cost.’ The film shed light on the dark underbelly of the fashion industry, compelling her to take action and assume a greater responsibility. No longer content with being a mere platform, Nivi and her team at IKKIVI set out to raise awareness and actively contribute to the development of sustainable and ethical fashion.

Since its inception in 2015, IKKIVI has blossomed into a trusted marketplace, connecting conscious consumers with designers who embody the values of handcrafted excellence, use of natural and organic fabrics, fair trade practices, minimal waste, utilization of traditional techniques, and a commitment to vegan fashion. The platform has recently expanded and opened their headquarters in New York. With over 45 designers on board, IKKIVI is bridging the gap between the past and the present, fusing India’s rich cultural heritage with contemporary aesthetics.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the inspiring story behind IKKIVI and gain insights from the visionary herself. Join us as we explore Nivi Murthy’s unwavering commitment to sustainable fashion, the challenges she has faced, and the remarkable strides she has made in creating a better, more ethical future for the Indian fashion industry.

What inspired you to come up with the idea of IKKIVI?

The richness and depth of the fashion industry in India along with the talented growing number of independent contemporary designers made me want to create awareness and bring these brands to international markets.

What does sustainability in fashion mean to you as a conscious entrepreneur?

Quality, care and use for a long period of time is what sustainability means to me in the fashion industry. 

IKKIVI supports more than 45 brands from India. What makes these brands stand out to be a part of IKKIVI?

Unique aesthetic, quality and their strong values.

Having run IKKIVI for more than half a decade, what do you think is the current state of conscious consumerism in comparison to the time when you had just started your journey with IKKIVI?

Yes, a lot has changed over the years. The concept of sustainability in fashion hadn’t yet reached enough people. Now, consumers are a lot more aware and are thinking twice about making purchasing decisions. We see Gen Z being more conscious with thrifting being at the helm of it all. We are seeing a lot more brands reconnecting and redefining their visions and wanting to make a change with the power they have as conscious brands. There is still a long way to go but we are headed in the right direction.  

From your point of view, what is the current situation of the fashion scene in India right now?

Everyone has their eyes on India, looks like. It’s a great time to be in the fashion industry and wanting to take Indian brands international. There is more recognition and awareness beyond the stereotypes which is exciting. The amalgamation of traditional crafts and techniques with modern/international aesthetics is so beautiful and I’m excited to see that through the brands both established and young.

India is a big name when it comes to the global garments industry. But we know that the fast fashion industry still does not treat the garment workers with the fair living wage and respect that they deserve for their work. What do you think as a conscious entrepreneur needs to change?

I really appreciate the work that Fashion Revolution does with their ‘Who Made Our Clothes’ campaign. I feel such movements will put these large brands under the spotlight and scrutiny forcing them to change systemically. It is not going to be overnight but consumer awareness will increase a demand for change along with changemakers at the forefront demanding this systemic change.

Does the climate crisis affect your business? If yes, then what measures are you taking to mitigate and adapt?

I think it affects us all. As a small business we are taking small steps individually as well as creating awareness through our platforms with our community. But as an ecommerce business, our biggest footprint is shipping and packaging and we are slowly working on it step by step. First was using packaging that has the least negative impact and now we are working on grouping shipments for our international orders so as to avoid sending them individually.

What are the challenges that you had to overcome while trying to turn your incredible idea into a business?

One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between doing business for profit  and being a conscious business (and the decisions that go with it). Still something we are trying to work on.

Photo of Nivi Murthy, founder of IKKIVI, a sustainable Indian ethical fashion marketplace

As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with negative emotions like self-doubt, criticism, or burnout and keep yourself motivated?

A strong support system, podcasts and the innate desire to solve problems and tackle challenges.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become a green entrepreneur?

Take it a step at a time, there is no rush to have it all check marked the day you start. It all takes time to figure out. Start and slowly work through the aspects of being a green business. We are still a work in progress and I think progress should be given more importance and recognition.

How do you define success?

When you are able to define the way you spend your day and live it as fully as you want to

What’s your mantra for life?

Do more of what makes you happy and excited.

Learn more about IKKIVI or connect with them on Instagram.

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

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