Dressed and Fed: Striving to responsibly source what we eat and wear in the 21st century
TSA 2nd annual lecture 24th January 2017
The Sustainable Angle recently hosted its second annual lecture as part of our work focusing on the edible environment, with an aim to strengthening our connection with where our food comes from and fostering a better understanding of sustainable food and agriculture systems.
The specific aim of this year’s lecture was to show that the drive towards sustainability, not just in terms of food, but in fashion as well, is a force for good. It is an opportunity to engage with our broader surroundings and is the forerunner of greater diversity and choice – not less. It is not so much about pointing a finger at all that has gone wrong in the food and clothing industry; but rather a discussion and demonstration of how we can change our ways for the better, how we can better protect and nurture life. While fashion shapes and reflects society and communities, their culture and diversity, it is both personal and ubiquitous. It is an everyday phenomenon, as stated by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. But we need to question current patterns of excessive consumption and disconnection and reinforce fashion’s ability to connect, delight and identify individual and collective values. The same is equally, if not more, true of food. It too has the power to define us personally and culturally. It too is an everyday phenomenon. But not just a phenomenon; it is a necessity. We must eat. The challenge, then comes with how we interact with our food culture. For inevitably the way in which interact, the choices we make about what we consume, how much we consume, how it is packaged, where it is sourced, how it is grown… will either inherently harm or nurture the soils that we depend upon for life.
The morning’s lecture proved to be both entertaining and informative as Tracy Worcester shared her passion for the welfare of pigs and encouraged us to eschew all industrially raised pork (and any other industrially raised animal) and to consume only organic pork as it is the only pork not systematically treated with antibiotics and where the animals in question are allowed to behave as instinct would dictate, rather than penned up without access to earth in which to root and nest. When animals are kept in unnatural conditions, crowded and weaned too early, sickness becomes the norm and antibiotics used as routine. Read more about it here.
By avoiding meat produced in this manner and instead seeking out that meat which comes from smaller mixed farms where animals are allowed to freely graze, nurture their young and feel the sun on their backs, we are supporting a healthier environment. We are providing more jobs for those who work on the farm.
But it is not only the overuse of antibiotics that we need to concern ourselves with, but also the overuse of pesticides and fertilisers used to grow our crops. Peter Melchett policy director for the Soil Association explained the devastating impact of these chemicals on the health of our soils and the quality of our water. Not to mention the wildlife, the birds and insects we depend upon for seed distribution and pollination.
As a prime example, he highlighted the vast difference between organic and non-organic cotton. If we need to buy something made of cotton, he encouraged us to to seek out and support those products that use 100% organic cotton.
Yet, when we shift our focus from food to fashion – the actual sourcing of our clothing and the textiles they are made of – we recognise the importance of provenance, but surprisingly for many, it is how we wash and dry our clothes that actually has the biggest environmental impact across a garment’s life Kate Fletcher, sustainable fashion pioneer thus challenged us all to first rethink our current wardrobes and to simply consume less, wash less, wear more wool!. She added that we should only buy “what we love” as that garment will have a long and useful life.
For those of you who wish to implement change on a very practical level, we suggest the following:
One way is by supporting organisations that seek to create a more sustainable culture. Thus we would encourage you all to join the Soil Association.
Sign up to an organic vegetable delivery box scheme such as Riverford.
Become a regular at your local London Farmers’ Market.
When it comes to eating out. Make an effort to ask about where the food comes from. You can also consult the Soil Associations Restaurant league table here.
Seek out those restaurants serving local, seasonal, organic fare.
Eat less meat. Eat organic meat. Or eat no meat.
There is not a black and white answer as to what is a better fibre. It is a very complex question that involves many different points in a long and complex supply chain of fashion and textiles. But when Kate was pushed to answer, she went for wool.
Most importantly when caring for those garments that we wear with such love, wash only what is needed and stained. And at lower temperatures.
Don’t tumble dry if possible. Use line drying instead!
Avoid putting harsh chemicals down the drain that contaminate our water, use an ecofriendly brand like Ecover instead.
To find out more about fashion and fibres, visit the resource pages of The Sustainable Angle. To find fabrics with a lower environmental impact find a selection of what is shown in the annual showcase of The Sustainable Angle’s Future Fabrics Expo on http://www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com