Saturday 24 November 2012

eco-shopping : spain style

Beautiful Barcelona. What a delightful city to explore following my African adventure.
My itinerary during my brief stay?

Gaudi. Picasso. Culinary explorations. Eco-shopping.

Getting ready to hit the eco-shopping trail! I was so
happy to be in a city again and took the opportunity to
put on some red lippy and a fave vintage dress.

When I'm home in Sydney, I'm an expert eco-shopper. I know the green shops, which markets have great secondhand finds, my favourite vintage stores, and (perhaps most importantly) the time to wait for online purchases to be delivered to my door. In Barcelona I didn't have the luxury of time, and I had the need of finding winter pieces to bulk up my travel wardrobe as my hubby and I began 3 months of winter weather.

Would I be able to find sustainable fashion with limited time in a new city?

After half an hour of internet research (I love free Wifi) I found a handful of sustainable shops in the Gracia neighbourhood so decided to start the search there. My hubby and I downed a couple espressos and pain au chocolat and were out the door, ready to pound the beautifully-tiled pavement in search of Spanish sustainable fashion.

Olokuti was our first stop. It's a fun little shop with a little bit of everything eco. There was women's fashion (unfortunately most was not my style), a rack of men's clothing, children's toys and clothing, gifts, books, gadgets and even some food items. It was a great shop with lovely staff and I'm sure it would be a 'go-to' for me if I lived in Barcelona.

People Tree
I know, it's UK-based, but I was happy to find this fabulous frock by People Tree in Olokuti.  It is a handmade, Fair Trade, organic cotton dress. Can we get any more feel-good-factor into one flirty dress? Yes we can!* People Tree work with Assisi Garments, a Fair Trade group set up to provide work for underprivileged women and physically and mentally disabled people in India. All I can say is keep up this amazing fashionable, sustainable work, People Tree!

I Owe You
This goosebump-inducing label (watch the short video on their website to get goosebumps of your own), also carried at Olokuti, is responsible for keeping my hubby looking extra fine this season. I Owe You works directly with artisans in India who hand-weave all the fabric. The weavers use very little energy in their shops and weave natural cotton grown locally - it's a great sustainable business partnership.  And even more fun, each piece of clothing has a unique bar code that enables you to track your piece of clothing through it's entire life cycle, including the buyer uploading a photo of themselves wearing the item so the producers can see their finished product in action. Sometimes the world is a beautifully small place.

Nudie Jeans
Again, not a Spanish brand, but I was thrilled to come across this well-known Swedish brand which has this year achieved 100% organic cotton denim. Nudie also fully supports repair (the flagship stores will repair your damaged denim), reuse (selling secondhand denim in flagship stores) and reducing water usage, encouraging consumers to avoid over-washing their denim. I love this fashion-forward denim label with real sustainability cred. My hubby picked up a fab pair of black jeans (and we both picked up a fab restaurant tip for a local lunch hotspot from the friendly shopkeeper).

This beautiful shop brings together a unique collection of ethical European fashion labels featuring high-quality, sustainably-sourced materials like certified organic cotton and recycled fabrics. One line included pieces of upcycled men's trousers crafted into dresses and skirts.  The store was stocked with lovely basics, as well, and if it weren't for the eco-name you'd think you were in any other stylish fashion shop. Lovely.

In the El Born district of Barcelona I stumbled upon a collaborative pop-up store for local fashion designers called Coshop. It is located near the Picasso Museum at Bays Vells, 9. Lots of pretty little things await the curious shopper inside the store, and one brand in particular caught my attention (no prize for guessing why!).

An excellent haven for a rainy evening in Barcelona.

I came across Ecoology inside Coshop and it was love at first sight. The label has a vision "to care and spoil both women and the planet we live on through fashion and design" and a mission to provide women with catwalk trends made with organic and natural fabrics (they also have a few quality basics). Ecology's sustainability standards are high, utilising only materials with eco-certification. The pieces were lovely to the touch and excellent quality, and it's one label I'll definitely be keeping my eye on.

I.M. by Eme
After leaving Barcelona I headed to the gorgeous Basque country and stayed in San Sebastian. I found this fantastic necklace (which attracts multiple compliments each time I wear it!) in the Patagonia store - just another reason for me to crush on Patagonia.  It's made by a local skater-girl artist who makes the necklaces out of used skate decks. I love beautiful upcycling! You can order online through  IM by Eme's Facebook page.

This aqueous-minded menswear label - founded in San Sebastian - was created for "the gentleman sharing our devotion to the ocean" and was perfect for my surf-loving hubby.  TwoThirds reminds us to protect and respect the 2/3 of our planet that is water; it thinks of itself not as a green fashion label, but a blue one. TwoThirds has partnered with Oceana, a global ocean conservation organisation, and gives 10% of its proceeds to Oceana. The clothing is made of sustainable fasbrics and they use plant-based 'plastic' when shipping that dissolves in - you guessed it - water. I loved much of the fashion in the shop, it was perfectly in line with the nautical trend I saw throughout European fashion, and my only complaint is that they don't have a women's line!

Sorry the photo is crooked and that I cut off the branding!

* * * *

Okay, full disclosure. Not everything I purchased in Spain was truly sustainable fashion. I blame my time constraints (a horrible excuse but it's the truth!). I made sure to follow some 'better' shopping guidelines, though, and didn't cave for the many fast-fashion labels available. My 'better' guidelines included:
  • Natural fibres
  • No viscose (it is everywhere!)
  • Quality over quantity
A couple of the tops made of natural fibres which are keeping me warm!

I also ventured into H&M but was unable to locate any of their sustainable fashion pieces. Truthfully, it was the usual nightmare of overflowing racks and tables of disposable fashion and I didn't have the patience to hunt through the store. I know H&M has lofty eco- and ethical-goals, but I'm not celebrating this brand just yet.
* * * * 

Eco-shopping on the spot was an excellent exercise for me. I've become so comfortable eco-shopping at home that I'd forgotten how awkward it can be when you're learning the ropes.  Of course I'll frequent my favourite haunts again once I get home, but I'm glad to have brushed up on my skills, explored new territory and discovered more sustainable fashion labels. Besides, what better way to experience a new city than wandering in and out of shops?

I loved Spain, and had a blast shopping and chatting with the local shopkeepers, and at the end of the day my eco-shopping advice remains the same as ever - take your time, read every label (preferably before you try it on, so you don't fall in love with something you shouldn't), choose sustainable fabrics, and don't buy anything you don't absolutely love.


*I couldn't help this small tribute to my favourite re-elected president, especially since he finally addressed climate change in his acceptance speech. Go Obama!

Monday 19 November 2012

I can create that style sustainably : summer 2012/13

Despite a few cloudy days, spring has sprung for my Aussie friends, summer is right around the corner, and you know what that means - time to get busy building your summer wardrobe.

As a gal who loves colour, I'm thrilled to report that 2012/13 is set to continue the trend of all things bright and bold. The Spring/Summer runways featured colour-blocking, neon highlights, crisp whites, layered patterns and asymmetric hemlines. It also seems our passion for peplum is as strong as ever.

As a fashion- (and summer-) lover, I can't wait to pull together some fabulous, on-trend summer looks; as an environmentalist, I'll make sure I do it sustainably. Here are some amazing pieces I've discovered to create a fabulous, sustainable summer wardrobe.

Bright colours
Reuse jeans, made of 80% recycled materials, available in a range of neon and pastel hues and varying styles.

available at FashioningChange

Montree Designs neon top made of upcycled lace, bamboo and organic cotton.

available at FashioningChange

Bold patterns
Afia shorts, made by local artisans in Ghana who are paid a fair wage for their efforts. As Afia eloquently puts it: Sustainability means creating prosperity for all people involved in the process. Well said.

Nearfar jacket, a West African ethical fashion label.

Available at Indigo Bazaar

Asymetric hemlines
Auralis dress made of silk, hemp and organic cotton, hand-dyed with tumeric.

Another trendy number by Afia.

Exquisite reuse with this beaded vintage top from Dear Gladys, the fundraising arm of Fitted for Work, helping disadvantaged women get into the workforce.

This top may no longer be available, but
remember to check vintage shops in your
summer wardrobe quest!

Minna dress made of recycled lace, manufactured in the UK using zero-waste pattern cutting techniques.

I love just about everything from Raven & Lilly; the below pieces feature melted bullet casings and recycled metals handcrafted by HIV-positive women in Ethiopia.

Love is Mighty shoes, 100% handmade, 100% vegan and helping to preserve indigenous Indian craftwork. This pair is made of recycled biscuit wrappers, and I can't wait to get them on my feet!

I hope that's helped get your summer wardrobe off to a good start. I'd love to see any great finds you come across. Share with me and I'll share with my readers.

Happy summer-sustainable-wardrobe creating!

Thursday 15 November 2012

a green travel fling : chumbe island

I recently had the absolute pleasure of staying in sustainability-with-style paradise on Chumbe Island, located 8km off the Zanzibar coast.

Despite the proximity to Zanzibar, Chumbe certainly achieves that "million miles from anywhere" vibe. Additionally, because there are only seven eco-bunglows on the island and day visitors are kept to a minimum, the island feels blissfully uninhabited. I spent three days on this island paradise and would go back tomorrow given the opportunity.

Aerial view of the eco-bungalows from the heritage lighthouse on the island.
I boldly claimed over our first lunch on Chumbe Island that this is my ideal
view - the colours and textures of this tidal beach are perfection to me.

Okay, so it's a beautiful, peaceful, tropical island resort - but what makes it sustainable? Only every detail you can imagine, from island-filtered water provided to guests in reusable glass bottles to forward-thinking conservation programs. I've written about some of my favourite aspects here.
  • Chumbe Island's eco-lodges are fabulous examples of green building at its most primal (and most comfortable) - and are recipients of multiple architectural awards. Each bungalow is powered by photovoltaic panels, has solar hot water heating and collects and filters its own rainwater thanks to the unique shell-shape of the building and the filtration systems built into each site. The water is then hand-pumped each day by staff into the solar hot water system and stored in hot and cold water containers for ease of use by guests. Thanks Chumbe team!
The steep roof enables efficient collection of rainwater.
The coral and shell filtration system at the edges of the bungalow - the water
is then stored in a cistern underneath the bungalow.
  • Used water from sinks and showers is filtered and guided into specially sealed plant beds so no water leaks into the reef sanctuary surrounding the island. The plants chosen are water- and nutrient-hungry, and easily absorb the treated water.
  • The bathrooms feature the nicest composting toilet I have ever seen. Somehow they made the fact that you needed to add scoops of dirt, twigs and leaves to the loo after each use quaint and charming instead of hard-core-greenie.
The black water hand pump can be seen on the left, and just behind the
toilet is the basket filled with leaves, dirt and twigs, to assist our compost.
This basket was magically filled so I never had to worry about it.
  • The buildings were made using local mangrove trunks - extremely hard and long-lasting. Local fabrics were also used for sheets, pillows and the hammock mattress cover (most comfortable hammock I've ever laid upon). Local Zanzibar spices were used as natural air-fresheners and locally made soaps and shampoo were also provided.
The ground level of the loft, open air and extremely comfortable. There was
even a yoga mat available for use in the lodge! Heaven!
  • There is an amazing levered wall upstairs in the bedroom, allowing guests to lower a woven wall of the bungalow open to the ocean view to allow the sea breeze to enter the bedroom - better than air-conditioning or a ceiling fan.
Upstairs in the bungalow, the floors were covered with locally-woven sisal
rugs and we kept that wall down our entire stay.
  •  LED lights are available in the bungalows, but dinner each night was by candlelight (and starlight! on the beach - I just don't know that it gets any better! 
  • Chumbe is an internationally renowned destination thanks to its reef sanctuary, which has been under the protection of Chumbe since 1994. Because of this protected status, and the care Chumbe provides, this is the healthiest and most pristine reef I have ever seen, and I've been around!
The large tides on Chumbe Island meant we could look at amazing
sea creatures up close without getting wet!
  • The Chumbe Island Reef Sanctuary is upstream of important fishing grounds, and provides a protected breeding ground for fish, corals and other species which can then recolonise nearby overfished and degraded reef systems.
One of many incredible snaps from snorkeling.
  • Guests are invited to participate in a number of educational activities each day including snorkeling, an intertidal walk and a forest walk with the park rangers they employ - I learned so much from each of these activities, and was suitably impressed with the conservation work and research being done on and around the island.
I learned a lot from my favourite park range, Juma #2, on this
intertidal walk around the island.
  • The most impressive sustainability aspect of the entire island, however, is Chumbe's commitment to community education. They offer programs for local students, teachers and fishermen/women so they can understand the importance of protecting reef systems. I urge you to read more about it on their website, as I simply can't do it justice.
Chumbe Island's efforts have not gone unnoticed, and it's been the recipient of a number of sustainability awards. It's also been GER certified by The Long Run program because of its commitment to the 4Cs of the program - Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. It's also been recognised by the UN Secretary General as a noted example of 'Payment for Conservation.' The conservation and education programs are all funded through the visitor fees and accommodation prices.

On top of everything, the food was delicious and service impeccable; I truly had a dream holiday on Chumbe Island. This is eco-luxury, though, no doubt about it, but worth every cent. So start saving your money and plan your trip to this magical destination - you won't regret it!

'til next time . . .