How Looking Good Can Help the Environment – Sustainable Fashion from the Ones in the Know

How Looking Good Can Help the Environment – Sustainable Fashion from the Ones in the Know

This week, Trinity students gathered in a full auditorium to hear from slow fashion influencers about how they can make their wardrobe more sustainable. Alba Mullen, a final year Politics and Economics student in Trinity College Dublin, who also runs her own sustainable fashion page called Traashion, moderated a panel of some of Ireland’s most prominent sustainable clothing activists in the Slow Fashion Panel Discussion and Upcycling Masterclass. This event was held on Tuesday night and run by STAND and Suas Trinity as part of the annual STAND Student Festival.

The lecture theatre was packed as Geraldine Carton from Sustainable Fashion Dublin, DJ and influencer Tara Stewart, Genevieve Sann from Transparent Magazine and Dylan (Dread X) Chapman from ILL Hippie lined the stage.

The opening discussion focused on how each panel member first got into the area of sustainable fashion. Carton, the cofounder of Sustainable Fashion Dublin, was inspired to leave her job with a women’s magazine after questioning all aspects of the clothing production process. She co-created Sustainable Fashion Dublin as an initiative to promote the “positive, guilt-free aspect of sustainable fashion.”

For Stewart, while working unaware as an influencer for a fast-fashion clothing brand, she was put in contact with Sustainable Fashion Dublin and promptly ended her contract on moral grounds. “I love upcycling and making clothes that I like, making them work for me.”

Chapman began to look at men’s clothes differently when he was around sixteen years of age – the complete lack of catering for men’s fashion and ability to express themselves, especially in Ireland, encouraged him to get involved in slow fashion.

As for Sann, two years ago the Netflix documentary The True Cost (a documentary thrown around a lot throughout the evening) opened her eyes to the problem and inspired her to create her magazine, Transparent.

Many tips were given by the panellists throughout the course of the evening:

  1. Look at your own wardrobe and look at what you have, as we go through four times more clothes than our parents, and keep them for only half as long
  2. Swap clothes with your friends as they’ll more than likely have similar interests and styles
  3. Use apps like Pinterest for information on reworking something you have already or tailoring something you’ve found
  4. Use resources like Depop to buy used clothes but be careful that they are authentic and not just bulk-bought
  5. Buy local so you know exactly where your clothes are coming from and how they are made
  6. Attend Swapshops, like the one run by Sustainable Fashion Dublin
  7. Go to charity shops to both support the charities and keep it sustainable

An extra piece of advice is not to give to clothing banks. In fact, they give a lump sum of only three per cent to the represented charity of the huge figure they receive from textile recycling. Instead, Carlton recommends to donate directly to the charity shop, labelling bags as “sellable” and “recyclable”. This way, shops can gain seventy per cent of the figure from textile recycling.

Carlton also explained greenwashing. “When a brand promoting sustainability overemphasises how ‘good’ it is, it’s usually hiding its ‘worse’ things… 90% of the other clothes are being made in horrendous conditions.” For example, she revealed that the Aral Sea has actually decreased to one tenth of its size due to its water being taken to grow cotton plantations.

Stewart recommended “treating getting out of fast fashion as breaking a habit” – don’t shop while bored, unfollow certain influencers and within a few months even your ads on social media will change. Chapman emphasised the amount of resources available for self-education on the topic – “open your mind and engage with each other.” If retail therapy is your downfall, then find something else to replace it with.

As for the most important takeaway for each panellist, Stewart maintained that you should not beat yourself (or your friends!) up about sustainable fashion. Instead, “really see it in a more positive light”. Carlton mentioned elongating the lifespan of your own clothes and emphasised that sustainable fashion is not supposed to be regimental or boring. “It’s a way to express yourself, have fun and decrease your carbon footprint!” Chapman, the only male on the panel, said to be logical with your clothes – “do you really need to get that same shirt in a different colour?” Sann said to “just try your best, be critically minded, and don’t fall into greenwashing traps!”

Following a quick and easy DIY solution to one-use cotton pads by cutting up and sewing old towels and t-shirts, Carlton really summed up the whole atmosphere of the evening. “It’s not about a small amount of people being perfect, it’s about a huge amount of people making incremental changes.” No shaming or passive aggression was directed towards those who “shop fast” – in fact, many of the panellists themselves are only very recent converts to the world of fast fashion – just a sense of understanding. There was an emphasis on “doing your part” and just being positive about fashion overall.

 

 

Photo of the Slow Fashion Panel Discussion and Upcycling Masterclass by Shannon Takahashi, 

 

 

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The Fixable Fact of Homelessness in Ireland

The Fixable Fact of Homelessness in Ireland

By July 28 this year, the homeless population of Ireland reached a staggering 10,275. The number of homeless families has increased by 178 per cent since June 2015, with more than a 1000 per cent rise in the number of families becoming homeless every month since 2011. This astronomical number does not even include “hidden homelessness” – people living in squats, staying indefinitely with friends, those in domestic violence refuges or even those who are sleeping rough. The official rough sleep account in Dublin in April 2019 was 128 people.

For Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen, the solution to homelessness is clear – more social housing and more affordable rental accommodation. But is it quite that simple? Maybe it is.

Of course structural factors are prominent in the direct causes of homelessness. One cannot deny the effects of the housing market – people are being pushed out of their homes due to high rents, landlords selling up and an overall shortage of properties to rent at all. In some cases, life’s circumstances such as mental illness, relationship breakdowns or addiction, can cause people and families to become homeless quite suddenly. However it may be submitted that there is something more fundamentally flawed that remains rooted in the people that have the power to change things.

Every person in Ireland is painfully aware of the horrors of homelessness . Those growing up in Dublin especially have grown grossly accustomed to the sight of homeless people, or young children going to school out of bed-and-breakfasts, or students crashing on their friend’s couches as they cannot afford their rent at the moment. It is a sure sign of something inherently wrong when these statements simply don’t faze anyone anymore.

While the stark figure of 10,000 homeless seems daunting and unapproachable, the solution is just within our grasp. A solution to the every-growing “Homelessness Crisis” is perhaps not as distant as we perceive. So why is the government making no visible effort to tackle the issue in any tangible way? There is certainly a stigmatised view of the cycle relating to homelessness – a slight feeling that perhaps these people put themselves in this position and we should leave it up to them to remove themselves of it, one of those phenomena that is terrible in theory but bizarrely appears to be acceptable in practice through a warped sense of victim-blaming. However, a dehumanised approach to homelessness will hardly solve the urgent crisis at hand. The small and incremental actions that are currently being taken are almost insignificant compared to the rapid rate of the growth of homelessness right now.

Greta Thunberg has recently emerged as a global leader, working diligently to combat climate change. Yet her discourse is undeniably appropriate in a discussion on homelessness. At the UN Climate Action Summit, though referring to a very different topic, she stresses: “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”

Amidst a disheartening crisis, it is essential that the public maintains hope and focuses on working toward the solution, not the problem at hand. Focus Ireland has provided some recommended figures earlier this year – €400 million to deliver 2,000 social homes in addition to 7,716 homes in 2020, the approval of a €1.3 billion borrowing capacity to finance 6,500 new social homes by 2021, an “innovate homeless prevention” fund of €500,000 and €250,000 to fund mediation services. They also recommend a vacant home tax to return units back into the “active housing supply”, the provision of Case Managers and Family support teams, the restoration of domestic violence services, an increase of Rent Supplement and Housing Assistance Payments. Ireland’s rainy day fund, which will be worth approximately €2 billion by the end of next year, would more than cover this. And I cannot think of a better cause for these funds than the eradication of homelessness, once and for all.

 

 

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

 

Want to learn more about how the housing crisis is impacting students in Ireland? Listen to the STAND Student Podcast – Episode 1

 

 

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Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

 

With Trump’s administration, talking constructively about climate change on US soil is not an easy task. Ask Greta Thunberg. However, advocates of a Green New Deal are not backing down…

 

 

The Greta Thunberg’s effect in the USA

On the 18th of September, Thunberg took the floor in front of the US Congress. With a clear reference to Martin Luther King, she stated: “I also have a dream: that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences”. In a country where climate change is “being discussed as something you believe in, or not believe in”, “It is time to face reality, the facts, the science.” As she emphasised the necessity to address climate change as the emergency that it is and recalled that there was no way to cut a deal with Mother Nature, some listened carefully while others rolled their eyes.

A few hours later, what sounded more like a good ad than a “short-film”, starring herself and the journalist Georges Monbiot, was released. Through it, they intended to promote their “Protect. Restore. Fund.” slogan and to show that more can be done thanks to “natural Climate solution”. In the video, we learn that only 2% of the funding granted to the decrease of CO2 emissions is invested in natural tools, such as replanting enough trees.

On Friday, global climate strike day, Thunberg stood in front of about 250.000 strikers in New-York’s Battery Park. “We will make them hear us”, “we are a wave of change”, “this is what people power looks like” she said, as her speeches seems to become more and more revolutionary.

A few days later, Thunberg spoke at the Youth Climate Action Summit, held on the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Thunberg was one of the lucky activists who was given a visa on time and could indeed talk in front of the Assembly. She hammered that “we are at the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” In the end, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

About what could be expressed at the Summit, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, was clear to world leaders: there is no need to take the stage if it’s not to develop “concrete and transformative” plans. “We had enough talk”, “this is a climate action summit” (emphasis added). “Nature is angry”, so it’s about time to implement the Paris Agreement. 

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said that “Germany sees its responsibility on the international stage and on the national stage”. This is a lot more than we would never hear from the United-States President, Donald Trump, who tried as hard as he could to avoid attending the summit, and finally stayed 15 minutes without saying a single word. 

Later on that day, 16 children including Thunberg, aged between 8 and 17, coming from twelve different nations, filed a complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. According to them, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey breached the most widely ratified treaty in history, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by letting children’s lives being impacted by the climate crisis. These nations are amongst the most polluting countries. One may wonder why the United-States, the historical biggest polluter, and China, the current biggest polluter, aren’t on the dock. The reason is simple: those two states never ratified the Third Optional Protocol of the treaty which allows children, or adults representing them, to seek justice for alleged violations.

 

 

US presidential campaign & the Green New Deal 

The Green New Deal (GND) is a ten-year plan aiming at economic justice while addressing climate change. It has already been discussed in the American political sphere. After being rejected by the Senate in March 2019, some Governors adapted and implemented the Deal in their State.

While Republicans resolutely oppose the GND, Democrats embrace it. So far, Trump’s campaign only states that he had done an incredibly good job in increasing the oil and gas exploitation and exports. He also congratulates himself for undoing the Clean Power Plan. Nothing eco-friendly to be found here… As for the other Republican candidates for the 2020 presidential elections, they still have no idea what their election platform will be like, except for advocating not being Trump.

On the Democratic side, election manifestos are actually written, and each includes a point about climate change. All claim wanting a fair transition to a neutral emission State. Some of the candidates even have co-sponsored the GND in the Senate. 

As the campaign moves forward, it will surely be interesting to see the place climate change gets in the national debates. 

 

 

Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

 

 

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‘’Keep the Carbon in the soil, no more coal, no more oil!’

‘’Keep the Carbon in the soil, no more coal, no more oil!’

‘’When you were my age did you know what climate change meant?!’’ These were the cries from an eight year old climate activist standing in front of close to 10,000 of protestors assembled in Merrion Square last Friday 20th September. Those present nodded and cheered passionately, brandishing posters with angry declarations chastising the government for their apparent apathy towards the climate crisis and lack of affirmative climate action. The sentiments ranged from ‘’Grandparents for Climate Action!’, ‘’I can’t believe I’m protesting FACTS!!’’ to ‘’I’m missing my lessons to teach you a lesson!’’.

The Irish crowds were not alone, as across the world approximately 2,300 Strike for Climate protests were staged in over 130 countries. The assembly of climate protestors seen in Dublin last Friday occurred in solidarity to Greta Thunberg, the young activist behind the school strike for climate global movement. 

It all started about a year ago, when Swedish teen Greta, then an unknown 15 year old school girl,decided that she would skip school and protest outside the Swedish government buildings, disillusioned with the government’s insufficient action regarding climate change. Her reasoning? If the adults leading the world don’t care about her future, then why should she? Her actions garnered attention and a new climate movement was born: Fridays for Future. The idea is that students will continue to strike every Friday, reflecting Greta’s message. Greta’s honesty regarding her feelings of despair, anxiety and anger in the wake of her understanding the effects of anthropogenic activity on the natural world resonated with the burgeoning number of climate activists. Greta served as a catalyst for the explosive expansion of the youth voice in the climate change debate.

It has become glaringly apparent that age has nothing to do with lack of understanding of the urgency of climate change. While protestors as young as seven shouted, cried and stomped their feet for a brighter future, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was busy opening a new runway in Dublin airport. While An Taoiseach is the leader of the Irish political climate, his actions show a clear lack of direction regarding our changing climate.

One could despair at the irony of our own Taoiseach supporting the expansion of the Irish aviation industry, one of the most carbon polluting industries, while citizens flood the streets in frustration over the lack of stern action on climate. However, this is the kind of hypocrisy that led to these protests. As Greta Thunberg highlighted when addressing the EU Commission earlier this year: “We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and the extinction rate is 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day.’’

“Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of our forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans; these are all disastrous trends being exhilarated by a way of life that we, in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our ‘right’ to simply carry on,” she added.

If last Friday’s protest demonstration and indeed the ongoing public debate regarding climate change are anything to go by; it is clear that citizens are listening to the warnings from scientists and turning their fear and despair into anger and action. 

The protests mark the beginning of a week of heightened climate activism from September 20th-27th as people urge governments to double their efforts for climate action. In the wake of increasing pressure being placed upon governments regarding climate action world leaders have gathered in New York for a Climate Action Summit. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was set to address the summit on Monday 23rd September. The current Climate Action Plan for Ireland, according to Friends of the Earth director, Oisin Coghlan leaves much to be desired in realistically achieving the goals set out by the Paris Agreement. Climate activists may get some solace over the next week as details emerge of the new climate action plan for Ireland and the near 200 other countries represented at the summit. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made a clear statement to those world leaders attending; ‘’Don’t come with a speech. Come with a plan.’’ A sentiment that any climate activist can identify with. 

The science of climate change is no longer limited to scientific journals as citizen scientists and activists have taken the role of advocating for the scientists whose message has been undermined for decades. The science may finally be taken seriously and perhaps someday soon, our government leaders will also repeat the chant of the Irish protesters; ‘’Keep the carbon in the soil. No more coal. No more oil!!’’

 

 

WATCH: some footage and interviews made during Galway and Dublin’s strikes

Student Mental Health: 1 in 3 Experience Depression

Student Mental Health: 1 in 3 Experience Depression

A recent survey on student mental health, conducted by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), reveals that a large number of students are or have experienced some sort of mental health issue, ranging from anxiety to depression.

A total of 3,340 students across the island of Ireland responded to the survey with 38.4% of these reporting “extremely severe levels of anxiety”, 29.9% reporting depression and 32.2% of respondents saying they had a formal diagnosis of mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. The study shows that gender is a significant factor: non-binary students have the highest levels of severe anxiety at 61.3% while transgender students are most likely to be “severely extremely depressed.” A financial factor on student mental health also comes up with 52% of those depending on Credit Union loans reporting severe anxiety. 77.8% of those without stable living arrangements report depression. 23% of students surveyed had used an on-campus counselling service in the past while only 0.4% report that there was no wait in accessing the service. Most people find the service helpful but only 36.8% report being offered as many sessions as they needed. The majority of those who reported having a formal diagnosis of a mental health difficulty made use of the counselling service.

The report includes some qualitative elements with respondents given the opportunity to share some comments on their experiences of seeking help and their opinions. There were a wide range of experiences with both very positive and very negative feedback coming through. What comes through very strongly is the fact that students are most likely to seek help from an on-campus counselling service but there is also an inconsistency in the success of help available. For some students, the long waiting lists have been a barrier to them using the counselling service while others found the counselling services were under-resourced and not equipped to deal with their specific range of needs. At the launch of the report in Trinity College Dublin Gertie Raftery of the PCHEI (psychological counsellors in higher education in Ireland) commented about difficulties with the transience of students and the need for students to be able to access the same full range of care while at college as they can at home. Students may find they have to go through the convoluted process of transferring between local mental health services when they go away to college. A kind of health passport has been mentioned as a possible solution whereby students could easily access a full range of mental health services both at their place of study and at home.

Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor opened the launch. The minister spoke at length about the need for increased mental health literacy and also put the onus on the Higher Education Institutes (HEI) to respond to the report. However, she seemed reluctant to mention increased funding or resources for third level mental health services nor did she seem to address students’ difficulties in accessing mental health services while studying away from home. Later at the launch a student panel highlighted the need for funding and investment in fully staffed counselling services, but the minister had left by that stage.

In its pre-budget submission for the upcoming budget, USI have already proposed €100,000 additional funding per HEI which would cover the average salary of 1.5 additional counselling psychologists, €120,000 per HEI to support the adoption of a peer-lead support programme, and  €500,000 funding to support a pilot programme of 5 Student Support Coordinators for more effective case management for students who have complex mental health difficulties. It is still unclear if these proposals will be met. 

Ruairí Weiner is the President of Maynooth University Mental Health Society and was asked by the USI to give a student response to the report which is included as part of the report

 

 

Photo: Ruairi Weiner, Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick, Former Chairperson of DCU Mental Health Society Sorcha Murphy

 

 

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Mexico: local communities save endangered turtles from extinction

Mexico: local communities save endangered turtles from extinction

At the Ayotlcalli Sea Turtle and Conservation centre, locals and volunteers from across the world join forces to save turtles from extinction.

The centre, situated in Playa Blanca Zihuatanejo, Guerrero in Mexico, was founded in September 2011. “This area had been neglected by the authorities, therefore, sea turtles and their nests had been taken by poachers, dogs and wild animals in regular basis” Damaris, founder of the centre, explained. “We decided to take action in order to help sea turtles from extinction, with an objective to protect three species of marine turtles that nest within 15 kilometres of the beach.”

But she doesn’t do this work alone. For Damaris, it was essential to involve the local population in the project, especially the young generation. The children’s summer camp “Guerreros del Arcoiris” intends to establish strong foundation on conservation. Damaris said, “children are the future leaders and decision makers in the community, therefore they need the knowledge and training to make the right choices.”

Today the project welcomes volunteers from all around Mexico, and from abroad. Valeria, who traveled from Mexico City to take part in the project, said:, “I wanted to live the experience, it’s the best idea because you help a little in the world by saving turtles.”

Max is another volunteer who came from the Mexican state of Toluca, “I knew about the camp two years ago because my brother went and he spoke to me about his experience, he told me about the people he met and the work they did with turtles. For me to help people to work on something so important and something that comes from your heart, it sounded amazing so I had to be a volunteer.”

A few of the local people involved have started a patrolling system, where they travel up and down the beach every night on a quad to make sure the turtles, and their eggs, are safe.

Damaris works in the education system and she considers her work in Mexico to be one of the most important projects of her life. “Having the opportunity to help rescue an endangered species is challenging but also rewarding. We owe it to future generations. We owe it to the planet.”

“The community members are now aware of the importance of conservation, especially children.” she stated. “Even though some adults are still consuming eggs and sea turtle meat, the majority know the meaning of extinction and how lucky they are to live in such a special and beautiful place, so rich in natural resources.”

 

For more information about the Ayotlcalli Sea Turtle and Conservation centre you can visit their Facebook page here. They post in both Spanish and English.

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to get our top news to your inbox.

The Validity of Plane-Shaming

There’s been an increase in people speaking out about the effects of plane travel on the environment, while many are also claiming that other forms of transport are inaccessible. Who is right?

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The G7 Fashion Pact to reduce environmental damage has been signed by many of the world’s biggest brands – but will it actually solve the problem?

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