Adidas Parley and the War on Plastic

On the 10th of May 2017, Adidas launched a new style in its Parley Series. Alright! So they released new shoes. What’s the big deal?

For those of you who don’t know, shoes in the Parley series are made from recycled and reclaimed ocean plastic. In June 2016 Adidas, who were highly concerned about the amount of plastic being dumped in oceans, collaborated with ‘Parley for the Oceans’ to design products from ocean plastic. This move has received major backing from many all over the world, especially environmentalists.

For those of you who do not understand the significance of this partnership, it is high time you started educating yourself about our planet. We have been using plastic extensively, so much so that its disposal has become a huge problem. For years we have been dumping them in the oceans which has led to the formation of a ‘trash island’ in the pacific. Called the Great pacific garbage patch or the pacific trash vortex, this culmination of plastic in the ocean is causing a lot of harm to aquatic life.

Today, there are multiple viral videos of eco-sailors trying to help marine life. Couple of videos include people trying to remove plastic stuck in a turtle’s nostrils and synthetic fishing net entangled in a tortoise’s neck. People have also found carcasses of sea birds and whales whose intestines were filled with plastic. If this isn’t troubling, then I don’t know what is. Wanting to lead a comfortable life is one thing but living an extravagant life at the cost of multiple lives, especially those of endangered species, is completely unacceptable.

As environmentally concerned people are looking for solutions to clean this mess, Adidas’ initiative seems to be huge step in the right direction.

Since its initiation, the company has been manufacturing shoes and apparels from the waste Parley reclaims. In 2016 alone Parley retrieved over 740 million tons of plastic waste from which Adidas has started manufacturing its products. They aim to convert this waste into one million shoes, which is equal to almost 11 million reclaimed plastic bottles.

Their strategy to eliminate ocean plastic pollution involves three steps – avoid, intercept and redesign. They have started gradually reducing the usage of plastic in all their practices. They collect marine debris and intercept as much plastic waste as possible even before they reach the ocean. Then Adidas and Parley together design high performance sports shoes from the recovered plastic waste.

In today’s world, where organizations are trying to associate themselves with sustainability, Adidas’ move will pay dividends in the coming years, not only to its business but also to the environment.

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Fashion Predicaments of an Organic Thinker

‘Fashion’ – Rachel Green’s greatest passion and my worst nightmare. For years my mum choose what I wore and man she was good at it. Unfortunately for me, I grew up, graduated and had to move out in search of a job. In the two years that I’ve lived alone, you could say I’ve not done so bad for myself bar one thing – clothes. People sometimes have an off day, you know, days when their dressing sense goes all wrong. Not for me. No sir! For me every day was wardrobe malfunction day. I could never get it right. It didn’t bother me initially but gradually I got very frustrated. So I did the two things someone in my place would do – fashion magazines and Instagram celebrities (Hey! I’m a single, lonely man living in a metropolitan. Don’t judge me!)

Real Fashion is Slow

I got a lot of fashion ideas alright. But more importantly, I was enlightened about organic clothing and responsible fashion. I have always been an environmentalist, doing my little part to make the world a little better and this was something I really wanted to do. Many have told me that slow fashion was only for the rich and I could see why. But I knew that if I planned properly, then I could definitely afford it. People may say I am stupid for not choosing the cheaper option, they could brand me ‘a show-off’ but I couldn’t care less because at the end of the day what I wore had a conscience.

I have never bought anything extravagant. Fashion, I learnt, is all about what you want. For me, it has to be simple yet elegant. I looked at major fashion designers, especially those inclined towards slow fashion, and focused not on what they designed but rather on what they wore. These people knew their daily wear very well or they wouldn’t be who they are today. It was always plain and simple, and yet very classy. It was all in the way they wore it – a fold here, a crease there, it was very bustle yet important. It was those small changes that differentiated a dork from a dude.

Fashion, after all, is what you want it to be!

As a millennial I know that most of my peers, or at least those not bitten by the ‘swag’ bug, don’t care much for looks. I personally think they should! Like many of them, I too don’t care much about what others think of me but I have learnt that looking fresh and smart isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Why? It actually helps increase self-confidence.

So dress smartly! Say goodbye to all the big time retailers and start supporting the dress makers at home. Choose organic – it’s good for your skin and nature. Choose handmade – empower the poor. Choose upcycled – say hello to waste and remember, people talk because that’s what people do. The whole wide world is yours, go make your own fashion statement and do make a responsible one.

Natural, Organic and Herbal – The Difference

In recent times, I have noticed a rather larger number of people talking about organic or natural or herbal products. The terms are so misleading that I thought they were one and the same. I wasn’t one for checking the ingredients of a product. If someone I knew told me it was natural and good, I blindly went for it.

Now, if there is one good habit I possess, it has got to be reading. I love reading Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Fredrick Forsyth, John Grisham and the list goes on. What I also like is stumbling upon random, interesting articles when I am aimlessly surfing.

It so happens that the other day, while on my online adventure, I landed on an article which spoke about the difference between organic, natural and herbal. Me, being the misinformed genius that I am thought, “Is there a difference?” I started reading and blimey! Not only are they different from each other, they are so different, I wonder how many people notice it. So I decided it was time I took matters into my own hand to educate my fellow ‘lovers of the natural’ about the obvious differences.

First up – natural. As the name suggests, products in this category are supposed to be fruit-basket-391414_960_720.jpgmade from completely natural products like flowers, vegetables and fruits. None of the ingredients are supposed to be synthesised in labs. The catch is, the raw materials can be subject to synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals. But in reality, not all natural products comprise of completely natural ingredients. Since there is no regulation on the word ‘natural’, even products that contain just 1% of natural ingredients can be termed as natural. I sincerely advice you to check the ingredients before a purchase. As you can see, names can be deceiving.

Moving on to organic. “Organic” is the buzzword of the century. Organic products are similar to natural products in many ways. Many argue that they are the best of the rest, since no chemicals, not even synthetic fertilizers can be used to manufacture organic products. The
y simply can’t contain any chemical additives. Companies are required to follow stringent rules and regulations to get an organic certificate for their products. To gain the ‘organic label’, a product must comprise of at least 70% organic ingredients. Certifying agencies, be it government or private, are very particular about this number. Organic farming encourages soil and water conservation and reduces pollution.

Finally, there is herbal. The term ‘herbal’, is usually associated with medicine. These are products that are made from herbs and plant extracts which have specific medicinal properties. In countries like India, China and Egypt, herbal medicines have existed for many millennia. Herbal products can be chemical free, but more often than not, they aren’t. There are no rules dictating the percentage of herbs an herbal product should contain. Most of the herbal products in existence comprise of a large number synthetic chemicals and just a handful of herbs. Again, it is highly essential that you go through the ingredients of any herbal product before you purchase. It is always better to research about such products rather than walking into a shop and picking one up, without really knowing what you are buying.

So that’s the difference between the much coveted organic, natural and herbal products. Hope you find it informative, and make responsible and sustainable choices henceforth.

The Handloom Weavers of India

For centuries, India has been renowned for its textiles. Back in the day, the Europeans sailed all the way to the subcontinent for its regal apparels as much as for its spices.

The fabled weavers of Kancheepuram and Banaras created attires of such grandeur and magnificence, their work was deemed as magic.

Those were times when machines were still just ideas. Each and every piece of garment was crafted by hand, with a lot of dedication and effort. The weavers were held in very high regard by everyone in the courts of Kings.

But time is an unpredictable friend. You never know what lies for you in the future. For the handloom weavers it wasn’t all cheer and merriment. The industrial revolution came around and people started inventing machines for various purposes.

In reality, it wasn’t the advent of machines that hit the weavers, it was the wars. The traditional weavers did fare pretty well until the First World War or as it was called back then, the Great War.

Britain, who was a part of the Allied forces, exploited Indian resources to support the armed forces. Handloom weavers were not efficient enough to produce clothes to match the demand, hence new machines took their place. The machine spun clothes turned out to be a profitable trade for the colonial powers, especially England. With clothes being manufactured at home in Manchester and in India, the crown had a steady influx of coin.

This went on, until the freedom struggle gained real momentum. Under M.K.Gandhi’s leadership, many Indian’s gave up “western” clothes and started donning hand woven, khadi clothes instead.

Post freedom, the trend changed again. Poverty was at large and the population was steadily on the rise. Powerlooms seemed the most viable option as production rates were high and price of garments was relatively low. In the last 40 odd years, fast fashion has almost completely taken over the textile business, pushing the traditional artisans out of business and into hardship.

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Textile Minister Smriti Irani dons a hand woven silk saree from Bihar

Although the handloom industry is the second largest employer in India, over the years the number of hand loom weavers has dwindled drastically. The high cost of the yarn and decrease in demand meant that the weavers don’t make even minimum liveable wages through their trade. Many have given up their traditional business and resorted to doing other jobs to earn their daily bread. As per the Ministry of Textiles, there were 43 lakh handloom weavers in 2015, less than half of what it was ten years ago.
Research by The Indian Express showed that, as of 2015, powerlooms accounted for nearly 60% of the fabrics manufactured, with handloom making up just over a tenth of the total fabric production. But of late, many responsible entrepreneurs have started investing in the handloom business. Even though power looms produce apparels at much cheaper costs, they do not have the uniqueness the hand woven clothes possess. Each piece of garment is hand crafted intricately and to perfection. Not for nothing is it called slow fashion. Take saris for example. It may take anywhere between a few months to almost years to craft one, based on the design and material. The hard work and dedication that goes into making these saris can be clearly visualized when compared with those made by machines.

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Actress Vidya Balan graced a charity event in a simple yet graceful hand woven cotton saree

The government, NGOs, and certain national and international private organizations have now taken an interest in reviving the trade and improving the lives of the practitioners. The Make in India initiative is playing a major role in this process. It is an opportunity not only to create something which is gorgeous, but also to create more job opportunities, especially in the rural sector.

Reviving this trade is significant because it is a part of the Indian culture. Passed down for generations, this art and its traditional techniques cannot be allowed to fade away. Each piece of art, each square foot of garment has its own unique story which needs to be retold.

Natural Cosmetics: Beauty and Health do go Hand in Hand

The cosmetic industry is a very old one. The usage of beauty products can be traced back to the Egyptians in 4000BC. One of the more famous personalities from that era, who is associated with beauty and cosmetics is Queen Cleopatra herself.

Back in those days they derived oils and scents from exotic plants and used kohl to line their eyes. The industry over the centuries has seen drastic changes.

As more and more chemical substitutes were discovered, the cosmetics industry started growing leaps and bounds. Today, the industry is worth a whopping $425 billion dollars. With major companies bringing in famous celebrities to endorse their brands, millions of people spend huge sums of money on their products without actually researching about them.

Although synthetic cosmetics provide short-term beauty solutions, they have a lot of drawbacks. Artificial cosmetics are a complex combination of various chemicals which have adverse effects on the skin. Most, if not all, synthetic cosmetics contain parabens. These are parahydroxybenzoates, used as preservatives in the synthetic cosmetic products. Reseach conducted by the United States National Center for Biotechnology Information shows that parabens, depending on the type and sensitivity of the skin, can cause irritation, breast cancer, skin ageing and DNA damage to name a few. They have also been known to disrupt oestrogen production.

People tend to forget that it is important to let the skin ‘breathe’. Synthetic cosmetics clog the pores in the skin. This hinders precipitation and the skin becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. This is a major cause of pimples and acne.

Over the past decade, due to increasing awareness about the harmful effects of artificial cosmetic products, the demand for natural cosmetics has gradually increased. Organic and natural cosmetics are made from completely natural ingredients. They are synthetic chemical free and are equally effective.

One of the most important things about natural cosmetics is that they don’t contain any parabens. Since there are no artificially synthesized chemicals involved, they rarely cause any irritation to the skin and don’t really have any side effects. Another advantage of using natural cosmetics is that they contain only natural scents that are rather mild. Hence users get a soothing aroma instead of the heavy, usually annoying tang.

People should be aware of the fact that the skin assimilates more than 60% of the products applied on it. So people should be cautious about the cosmetics they use. Using products that contain only natural raw materials and natural derivatives, nourishes the skin, giving it a youthful and radiant look.

With people slowly shifting towards more natural options, Grand View Research has estimated that the organic beauty industry would be worth around $15.98 billion by the year 2020.

Even today, people all over the world use contemporary, lab synthesized, artificial and potentially harmful cosmetics. It is high time they switched to natural alternatives for a better health.

 

Ahimsa Silk: All Lives Matter

Taken from Sanskrit, the word ‘Ahimsa’ means peace or non-violence. It was Mahatma Gandhi and his followers’ ideology during the Indian freedom struggle.

Silk is a one of the more luxurious fibres chosen especially to make clothes of grandeur. Although many different species of insects produce silk, it is the larvae of the moth caterpillars that is chosen for textile manufacturing.

Although this fine fibre is loved by many, the story of how it is manufactured is a sad one. Traditionally, silk farmers breed the moths, which lay their eggs on specially prepared paper. Once they hatch, the caterpillars are fed mulberry leaves until they are heavy and ready to start spinning its cocoon. Once it reaches its pupae stage, it is immersed in boiling water to kill it and then the fibre is removed.

Over the years, many have tried to find alternatives means of procuring the silk, without killing the insects. It was Mr Kusuma Rajaiah form Andhra Pradesh, who was finally able to patent a sustainable method of extracting the silk in 2002.

He called the silk Ahimsa silk or peace silk. The process is very different from regular silk. In case of Ahimsa silk, either the pupae is allowed to hatch and the left over cocoon is used or the pupae is cut open, without hurting the larvae inside. This method also protects the
silk from contamination through moth urine.

The ahimsa silk is kept away from all forms of chemical fertilizers. Even the larvae is fed wild mulberry leaves, which are not polluted by chemicals.

Although slightly more expensive than regular silk, the material comes with a conscience. The rising demand for Ahimsa silk is a testament to the amount of hard work put in to save the lives of the insects.

 

Greenstitched Film Festival: Bengaluru’s first ever screening of Sustainable Fashion Documentaries

Bangalore’s first ever film festival around sustainable fashion will be held on the 18th of February, 2017. At the GFF, they will be screening a series of documentaries on the importance of responsible and sustainable fashion. The event is organized by sustainable apparel blogging portal, GreenStitched in collaboration with EcoFolk and NIFT Bangalore.

The objective of the event is to create awareness about the textile industry. Today, the textile industry is a major contributor to the rising environmental pollution, second only to the oil industry. Even with ongoing research for sustainable fuel alternatives, the textile industry already has viable options in the form of organic clothes. We as consumers need to embrace it and give up fast fashion.

Sustainable fashion isn’t just about tackling pollution. It also involves creating job opportunities to traditional weavers on handlooms and designing clothes that are cruelty-free, i.e., where no animals are harmed during the procurement of the fibre, mainly wool, silk and leather.

The films, apart from the environmental issues, will also talk about the issues faced by the handloom weavers and the upsides of using organic fibres.

The event will bring together students, professionals and anyone who is curious about sustainable fashion. The films that will be screened include Weaves of Maheshwar, Unravel and Frontline Fashion among others. Some of the critically acclaimed movies are being screened in India for the first time.

 

Sustainable Clothing: Fashion isn’t just a Style Statement Anymore!

The only constant in fashion is ‘change’. Over the last few centuries, no particular trend has had a lasting impression for more than a decade.

People love clothes. From Paris to Pune, everyone has their own sense of style and suave. But among the lot, not many are aware of their negative effects on the environment.

One may wonder how clothes, which are bio-degradable in nature, are harmful to the environment. Before we delve into history and statistics to answer that, there is one disturbing fact everyone should be aware of. Forbes survey shows that the fashion industry is the 2nd largest cause of pollution in the world.

Are you surprised? Don’t be. When you analyse the entire process of cloth manufacturing in the contemporary world, it is not really shocking to find out that fast fashion is indeed a bane.

Now, it is common knowledge that cotton dominates the apparel world. The astonishing thing is, cotton cultivation requires the largest quantity of fertilizers. Almost 60% of the inorganic fertilizers produced are used in manufacturing cotton. They are harmful to all life forms and the earth itself.

But like the old saying goes, all bad things must come to an end. The beginning of the end of modern, unethical fashion started in the 80’s when big names like Patagonia and ESPRIT started incorporating sustainability into their business.

This gave rise to the so called eco-fashion or sustainable fashion – a design philosophy that adheres to the principles of sustainability – making use of products and techniques that reduce the footprint and the negative impact humans have on the earth.

Sustainable fashion sounds like a novel idea which would make fashion a responsible industry. Albeit the latter part is true, sustainability in apparels is not a new idea. We have gone a full circle, back to our ancient ways, when farming was organic, clothes were hand woven and dyes were mostly extracted from vegetables.

India has been renowned all over the world for its expertise and grandeur in the textile industry. Although natural cotton, linen and jute ruled the roost for long extended periods, it is hemp that has the distinction of being one of the first plants ever to be spun into usable fibre. Archaeological findings show that hemp clothes could have been in existence almost 10,000 years back.

It is no great wonder to see that today, socially responsible companies are migrating towards our old, natural ways in a bid to save the earth and humankind.