Wednesday 29 June 2016

are you a 1 million women woman?

As many of you already know, I'm a huge fan of the climate advocacy non-profit group 1 Million Women.

I write about my experience volunteering with 1 Million Women at the Easter Show in Sustainability with Style (and being somewhat starstruck by their inspiring founder, Natalie Isaacs). And last year I helped host a successful clothes swap on their behalf in Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Now they are expanding their reach even further with the development of an app to help women plan their eco-lives and track their carbon reduction commitments.

With an estimated 17% of all global carbon pollution emissions coming from our homes, changes to some everyday activities are essential to solving the climate crisis. As such, the app will focus on everyday carbon-cutting activities including: 
  • home energy savings and clean energy options
  • minimising food waste
  • reducing over-consumption
  • wise investing and divesting of your money
  • sustainable fashion and food choices
  • low-impact travel.

My favourite feature of the app is that it makes it easy for you to track how much carbon pollution you’ve individually saved. 

I love this concept! Now I'll know just how much of an impact I have every time I choose a veggie burger over a beef burger, or make a sustainable fashion purchase (or non-purchase), or use up all the food in my fridge.

In order to make this app a reality, 1MW are running a crowdfunding campaign through Tuesday 7 July. And the really great news is they've already reached their target goal - awesome! There is no doubt in my mind that the climate movement is a movement of the people.

There is still the opportunity to help them reach their stretch goal to make the app as great as it can be (and anyone who's ever commissioned a tech project knows the likelihood of a budget blow out). So just head over to their Start Some Good page and make a contribution. Depending on your commitment, you can get a profile on their blog, a Facebook shoutout, or an invite to the launch party.

The app will be available later this year to women (and men, and children) around the globe.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

harvesting liberty : legalize industrial hemp

This blog was written with my American readers in mind, though I suspect there is plenty of good stuff in here for all of you.

Harvesting Liberty is a short, 12-minute documentary, that tells the tale of the Growing Warriors organisation – consisting of farmers and veterans – and their campaign to the US federal government to amend restrictions to growing industrial hemp. It’s beautifully shot and directed, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone not moved by this tale of love of land and love of country.

I hope you'll watch this clip, and then sign the petition that will be presented to Congress on the 4th of July asking them to legalise industrial hemp.

The documentary features a US flag created from the hemp that has been hand-processed (with the aid of a special tool purchased with a grant from sustainable pioneers, Patagonia), including hand-spun thread that has been naturally dyed, and hand-woven fabric, created with the help of Fibershed. The flag was made to signify the collective history and future of a people who are suffering a lost connection with the land, a loss of community and, as Mike Lewis of Growing Warriors says, “our sense of place”.

Photo credit: Donnie Hedden

It's highly likely the first American flags were made of hemp. This crop was mandated to be grown by all of Britain’s colonies at the time because of the multiple uses of the one plant. George Washington was known to extol the value of the crop, as was Thomas Jefferson who stated, “Hemp is of the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”*

A closer look at the crop explains why this was considered a ‘wonder-plant’. As indicated in the below graphic this one plant can provide “food, feed, fiber and fuel”**

It can be used to create fabric, of course, but also paper, ropes, building supplies, plastic-substitutes, and when eaten is an ideal source of omega-6 and omega-3. In addition, it’s incredibly healthy for the soil, as compared to cotton, corn, and other nutrient-depleting crops.

Image c/o

Despite the crop’s low concentrations of THC, which essentially eliminates the psychoactive potential of the plants, industrial hemp was included in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 because of its relation to cannabis. Some states have allowed growth of the crop in recent years, and some states have legalized marijuana, but many farmers remain reluctant to grow industrial hemp because of lingering resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

There is debate about whether it was the Controlled Substances Act or the onslaught of cheap synthetic materials that numbered industrial hemp’s days, however. Polyester and other fabrics were becoming widely available at that time in history, and they now make up approximately half of all textiles produced in the world. However, there is no doubt that hemp will play an important role in the shift to sustainable fashion. Already we’re seeing beautiful hemp-silk blends from the likes of KitX, and the durability of the fiber makes it ideal for denim, as seen with the Hemp Blue label (not to mention many products by Patagonia).

KitX Crushed Silk Hemp corset dress, Hemp Blue men's dark denim.

I’d urge you to watch this lovely film and sign the petition that will be presented to Congress on the 4th of July urging the federal legalisation of the cultivation of industrial hemp. 

It’s an ideal opportunity for US farmers and manufacturers to participate in the growing green economy, but also an important step toward thinking holistically about issues of sustainability and what it means to create opportunities for our fellow Americans that give back to, rather than take from, the earth.

As spoken by Mike Lewis of Growing Warriors:
In the end, there’s more than just fiber that tears and fades when you use cheap goods to hold things together.
U.S. veteran and Growing Warriors director Michael Lewis
with his hand-made hemp processing machine.
Photo credit: Donnie Hedden

* * * *

*I suspect that to some of you the use of the flag in this way could be construed as insincere or overly saccharine, but I must admit I was moved when listening to the story.

I also want to acknowledge that the colonisation and subsequent American Revolution were conducted at the heavy expense of America's First People, and as such am also weary of romanticising any non-indigenous groups of Americans when referring to American history. In addition, both Washington and Jefferson were known slave owners. It's a troubled history and I don't mean to gloss over it with this harkening back in time. I merely wish to suggest that the possibilities of this crop were relied upon by those who were establishing new settlements because it provided so much in one plant.

**As spoken by Michael Bowman, Chairman of the US National Hemp Association.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

fashion diplomacy : sustainable fashion and the bondi to bali connection

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to present on fashion and sustainability to a group of 25 Indonesian delegates hosted by QUT's School of Fashion.

The designers came to Australia for professional training in international business, specifically for the Fashion & Textiles sector. The program, #fashiondiplomacy, was made possible through The Australia Awards, a federal government initiative designed to engender meaningful connections between people and institutions across Australia and Indonesia.

The delegation was here for two weeks - split between Brisbane and Sydney - and participated in workshops, industry presentations, site-visits, market research, and the oh-so-coveted attendance at Fashion Week.

Here are some of the designers, plus fashion lecturer Carla van Lunn, at Fashion Week.
You can see some of the work of these talented designers at 

It's not just our physical proximity that makes this a valuable connection, it makes good business sense, too. As Carla van Lunn, the program's director, explained. "The two-week course aims to spearhead a 'Bondi Bali' connection as Australia and Indonesia both enjoy warm weather, plenty of coastline and creativity to tap into the global resort fashion market."

In action! (For the record, I'm wearing an organic cotton dress
by #sustfash gurus Kowtow, paired with a vintage rope-belt.)

Presenting to this group was an absolute delight. Okay, it's true that I love talking about fashion and sustainability to anyone who will listen. But this group was uniquely open to learning, new to many of the concepts, and interested in learning about these issues. The looks of surprise visible on many faces suggests that many of this information was new and unexpected, and I was asked thoughtful and insightful questions about how they can start to address some of these concerns in their own labels, and some of the misconceptions about 'sustainable fashion'.

I also had the joy of presenting alongside fellow Clean Cut co-founder (and sustainable fashion designer extraordinaire) Carlie Ballard. Hearing firsthand from a designer who has gone to great lengths to create an ethical and sustainable supply chain - all the way from raw materials through to fabric weaving and garment production - would no doubt have provided the delegates with invaluable insights.

Love her top and jacket? Check out Carlie Ballard's label!

During the tea break I also had the chance to talk with some of the designers in greater detail about their work. I was reminded of the differences between developed and developing countries, and the necessary variation in business priorities and sustainability initiatives depending on the local situation. I also met a designer interested in gaining Fairtrade and/or GOTS accreditation for the cotton she grows without chemicals on her land. I suspect I learned nearly as much about Indonesian fashion and textiles as they did about sustainability that morning!

Thank you, QUT, for the opportunity to engage with this warm, generous and talented bunch of designers.


PS - if you would like me to come present on fashion and sustainability to your school, workplace, community or otherwise, drop me a line!