Every year, I challenge myself to take a course in an area of interest to gain more understanding, appreciation and make connections to the impact I wish to create. I decided to do a 3 months rigorous Business Sustainability Management program with the University of Cambridge, which I found very engaging, informative and very challenging. Having completed the course, my convictions and love for sustainability are reinforced because it makes economical, social and environmental sense.
I highly recommend that as responsible individuals, we continuously and consciously become aware of the processes, energy, material resources, human labour, waste generated as well as social and environmental factors involved in the production cycle of our everyday purchase. An awareness of this nature, will gradually but radically help to shape our choices.
The Natural Step
Learning from nature or "biomimicry" was a big take away from the course mentioned above. The consideration is that nature has been around, though it is constantly changing with ecosystems that thrive on diversity, each organism fitting into the system to create a functioning whole. This is because everything is connected and hence long-term, whole system, circular thinking is necessary. Nature takes her time, maximizing what she has to bring out the best, in order to avoid waste, which is unfortunately a big part of the fast-fashion trend.
Regrettably, most of the clothes we wear daily are made of synthetic materials, with polyester being the predominant form. Synthetic materials have negative environmental effects during production, use and even after they have been discarded. They are often manufactured by fast-aggressive processes from non-renewable and non-biodegrable sources.
Furthermore, many of the clothes purchased from popular retail outlets are coloured using chemicals such as phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), nonylphenol, and heavy metals like cadmium. These chemicals are hazardous and could cause toxic pollution, harming those who make the fabrics, those who wear them as well as the planet.
Scientists have found lots of microplastic particles in the sea, which are believed to come from frequent washing of clothes containing these fossil-based materials. This leads to increased marine pollution and the eventual death of many sea-borne lives.
Time to Transit
Naturally dyed and traditionally woven fabrics on the other hand are made using sustainable and renewable resources. Intricate and elaborate colourful patterns are created by talented artisans using natural dyes which have significantly less impact on the environment. These dyes are more environmental friendly and are biodegradable.
West African dyed fabrics are commonly referred to as Adire and Tye & dye while the handwoven fabrics are called Aso-Oke.
The indigenous craft of natural dyeing is a long, laborious process and generally takes a minimum of 15 days. These dyes are made using the traditional 'Yoruba' dyeing process, which is considered to be environmentally friendly as it uses less water compared to mass produced printed fabrics. Natural biodegradable materials, such as palm kenel, banana peels and indigenous indigofera (Elu) tree leaves are used to make the natural dyes, which are readily available in abundance in West Africa. All these are good for mother nature as they come from nature herself.
Still not sure how to shape your sustainable style?