The philosophy behind Living Yoga, is that the work doesn’t just end the moment we roll up our mats. It’s about embodying the practice in our day to day lives - by taking positive action, and by making conscious decisions; from the products we use, to the food we eat, to the clothes on our backs. This week I caught up with my friend and inspiration Roxy Hempel, founder of The Eco Edit, to find out more about the consequences of fast fashion, and to get her advice on choosing eco-friendly and socially conscious alternatives.
What is The Eco Edit?
The Eco Edit is an eco conscious lifestyle blog, covering everything from fair trade fashion, to vegan beauty products, to sustainably produced children's clothing & children's toys - all with the same theme; of being environmentally friendly and respecting humans, animals and the planet. It's my little space on the web to shout about brands I discover that have ethics at the forefront of their business.
2. What inspired you to start blogging about eco-friendly and socially conscious fashion?
It was after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, which left thousands dead, that I started to pay attention to where my clothes came from. I felt incredibly guilty for the purchases I had made from high street stores - it is all too easy to assume our purchases have no impact, but the truth is, they do.
In addition to that, being vegetarian my whole life I have always been aware of making cruelty free beauty purchases, though I didn’t realise until recent years that even though a product is not tested on animals, it does not mean it is free from animal ingredients. As well as wanting to avoid the exploitation of animals in this way, these animal ingredients are known hormone disruptors, so it makes sense to choose vegan friendly products (see an article I wrote ‘Whats really in your makeup bag’) for health reasons.
I have always felt uneasy about leather too. On my journey to veganism I decided to fully embrace this in all areas - I am really passionate about leather-free fashion and innovative materials like pinnatex (“leather” made from pineapples) and Dinamica, (a “suede” made from recycled polyester and plastic bottles).
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the environmental costs of fast fashion?
Cotton makes up 50 percent of the world’s fibre needs, but the majority of it is grown with toxic chemicals. These pesticides infiltrate local drinking water and land, causing irreversible damage. Crops use intensive irrigation and some estimates say cotton crops are the largest water user among agricultural crops.
In addition to that, the fashion industry is the third most polluting industry after oil and agriculture. That is absolutely huge, especially when you take into consideration that Brits wear only 70% of the clothes in their wardrobe, (and haven’t worn a quarter of them even once!).
And the human costs?
Besides the barbaric treatment of cows in the leather industry (contrary to popular belief, leather is not merely a by product of the meat industry - cows are regularly skinned whilst still conscious), the tanning industry is notoriously dangerous to workers health. The tanning products use are extremely toxic, and adequate protective clothing is rarely supplied.
In many countries, cotton is still hand picked; therefore anyone working in those fields is exposed to extreme amounts of toxic chemicals. The health risks of pesticide exposure include birth defects, reproductive disorders and weaker immune systems - organic cotton of course, does not come with these risks as it is grown without these toxins.
Child labour is another huge issue. It is estimated up to 200 million children, some as young as 5 years old, work in the fashion industry, making clothes for well-known brands and high street stores. That is unacceptable. We have to raise awareness, and something has to change.
What is your favourite vegan beauty brand?
There are loads of choices available now and I'm always testing out new brands for my blog. But my all round favourite is probably Sukin. They are carbon neutral company based in Australia. Their products are all vegan friendly, excellent quality and great value for money. At the moment I am using their cream cleanser and the super greens daily moisturiser.
What is your favourite clothing brand?
I couldn’t choose one specific brand, but I really love what the guys over at Gather and See are doing. They stock a range of ethical sustainable fashion brands which are curated beautifully. For vegan shoes, I love Good Guys Don't Wear Leather. I'm also a huge fan of Veja for their efforts in sustainable, fair trade and fashion forward trainers, and they now have an increased range of vegan options too. The choices are growing, and the revolution is in motion!
What would your advice be for people looking to make more sustainable, ethical fashion choices?
It’s really about questioning your current favourite brands, and looking for sustainable alternatives. In an article I wrote (‘Ten practical and positive things you can do to make the world a better place’) I mention the Fashion Revolution campaign. Ask brands you like about their ethics policies - send them an image on social media for instance, and ask them “Who made my clothes?”.
Sustainable fabrics are considered to have little to no environmental impact and are becoming more and more popular - look out for bamboo and hemp for example, which are grown easily, harvested quickly and free from pesticides. More and more brands are starting to use Organic cotton and leather alternatives too.
It’s easy to feel disconnected from the environmental and moral issues around fashion since geographically, it happens so far away from us, but we can make a difference, by making our voices heard, and showing brands we do care about what is happening behind-the-scenes. The choices are growing, the revolution is in motion!
If you're interested in sustainable fashion and beauty, and would like to follow Roxy's journey, head to her website here and subscribe to her mailing list.
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