If you type in ‘Carbon Free African Designers’ Lalesso will immediately jump out at you. In an earlier interview, TDS was able to highlight how this fashion brand was able to create runway worthy clothes but still be kind to the environment. Which got us thinking, who else is making the effort to be carbon neutral / free? Because green is the new black, am I right? And how hard could it possibly be to find brands who talk about it as in-depth as Lalesso.
Well, we’ve found out that it’s quite arduous. When it comes to ethical fashion, social responsibility seems to be in the forefront. Followed closely by energy conservation and wildlife conservation. Which is great, because that means we have a sea of designers to choose from that are anti-fast fashion and pro-fairness. But what about the air, guys? Well, three other names did pop up in the search too.
The sister duo, Natalie and Kim from South Africa created this organic fashion brand that looks at alternative routes for sustainable design. For example, they use design materials such as hemp to reduce their carbon footprint in the local industry. This is because Hemp doesn’t need toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to thrive; it just does. In fact, it does more in giving back by improving soil quality. From this material, they created their latest design known as the Hempsuit.
This designer hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo, before she made the move to the United Kingdom about nine years ago. After graduating from the London College of Fashion, she started her eponymously named brand, where her clothing aesthetic is already being quipped as ‘environmentally conscious chic’. Apart from working with recycled materials, she tries to produce her collection with a limited carbon footprint. However we can’t find solid facts on how she achieves this.
2015 saw Africa’s first carbon neutral, fair trade factory being opened in Kenya. Riding off the momentum of the launch, they shortly thereafter, released the first-ever carbon neutral, fair trade certified t-shirts. These shirts were designed by lifestyle brand, Threads 4 Thought, who then contributed their fair trade premiums directly to the factory workers at Wildlife Works. In addition, profits from the clothes sold are used to fund the flagship conservation project based in Kenya. This provides over 300 employment opportunities to the communities based in the forest, to protect forest land from harmful practices such as destructive farming and mitigate climate change.
Profits from Wildlife Works’ clothing range are used to fund their flagship wildlife conservation project in Kenya, which employs over 300 forest community members such as rangers, greenhouse workers, land managers and seamstresses. Wildlife Works just doesn’t provide carbon-neutral apparel, it also gives companies and individuals a means to offset their carbon through their carbon credits system dubbed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).
So what can you do?
Although the designers do need to play a crucial part in reducing the fashion industry’s carbon emissions, consumers have a responsibility too! There are some small changes you can make here and there that would make you shop more consciously and create a cleaner footprint for you.
It’s encouraged to do some homework on the manufacturers or designers you’re purchasing from. Are they making an effort to be more ethical? More transparent? They may not outright claim to be carbon neutral or carbon free, but it’s their actions that show that they may be on the right path; using more organic material, upcycling or have vibrant CSR unit that gives back to the environment.
We won’t hide the fact that we are big supporters of buying local. But there are some objective points to how this works out positively for the environment too. Because the designers are in closer proximity, you’ve cancelled out the shipping/travel aspect of the transaction, which contributes to the footprint. They are also quite a few designers that are directly or indirectly supporting carbon-positive projects. Plus you’re more likely to be able to grill the designer if you needed to, in person, than trying to get a luxury brand to answer your questions.
Cut your shopping sprees down significantly
I know, it sounds difficult; especially if you’re in an industry that will ridicule you for outfit repeating. But when it comes to a greener, healthier planet, less is definitely more. Try and buy items that you can wear multiple times; so think versatility and better quality. By having clothes that have an extended wardrobe life, even by just three months of active use, this could result in a reduction of up to 10% of carbon, water and waste footprints. Don’t you feel better already? Good On You argued why it’s so imperative to reduce your fast fashion habits:
“The stats back me up on this one. Say you wear a white cotton t-shirt 50 times a year. Well, you could buy 12 shirts and wear each one 4 times, producing 98kg of carbon dioxide emissions, or you could buy one good shirt and wear it 50 times, producing just 15kg of CO2.”
Buying green is only half the journey. It’s how you take care of your clothes and apparel that ensures a reduced footprint:
- Actually wear what you have more often before you decide its time is up
- Don’t wash your clothes after each wear, if you can help it. Of course there are particulars that don’t apply to this rule but things like jeans can go much longer in between washes without looking ratty, down or dirty.
- If you use a washing machine, wash whatever clothes you can with cold water. It allows your clothes to last longer and it reduces the heat consumption.
- If you can, choose to air-dry your clothes as opposed to doing them in the dryer. Natural energy is still the best energy!
Writing this article reminds me of a crucial point made at the state of the Kenyan textile and fashion industry report launch mid this year by Hivos East Africa with Association of Fashion Designers of Kenya (AFAD) and Equity Bank Kenya. (See full report here) Designers need to do more about sharing their stories, and paying more attention to the business and marketing aspects of their business. Information is power and getting it to your existing and soon to be consumers is a win for you. Great inspiration came from Stella McCartney – a British designer that has an entire section on her website with information on the brand’s environmental efforts; including how the consumers can get in on the action. But I digress.
Looking into where your clothes are being made, how they’re being shipped/transported is all fundamental. If all else fails, remember the basic fundamentals of conservation: reduce, re-use, and recycle. All contributions, big or small, add to a cleaner environment. What other ways do you try to reduce the carbon footprint of your clothing habits? Or if you know a designer that has gone above and beyond in the CO2 arena, let us know in the comments!