On my recent shoot with Amour Vert, I got to talk all things sustainable, why we started ODM/ODC along with my involvement in the Model Mafia crew. Here are some of the talking points we discussed…I’m so thankful a company was willing to sit down and talk about these things with me. Slowly but surely, companies care about the model as a whole, more than just their looks. It’s beautiful to be able to share our passions and beliefs, especially on touchy subjects like the environment and sustainability. Join the conversation by leaving your comments below!
As a model, I get to work with so many different types of companies. That’s what I love about my job, I’m a chameleon and I get to change for every brand to represent their image the best I can. From dream wedding dress companies to haute couture and Ready to Wear, it’s beautiful to see behind the scenes and what often goes into making the clothes and the images to sell them. On the flip side, this is what opened my eyes to the sometimes wasteful nature of our industry. A lot of the times, I can feel firsthand the difference between a product that was made with love and one that was made to disintegrate to potentially fuel the overconsumption nature of our economy. I am however a firm believer in working with those who we wish to inspire. It’s not about working against the companies that “aren’t doing it right” but by inspiring them to change and be better! And sometimes, I’m lucky enough to work with companies that I TRULY believe in, like Amour Vert. It was an absolute dream to shoot with a company that is so in alignment with ODM/ODC and our values. Scroll down for my interview with Emory Cooley from Amour Vert and see for yourself why the Model Activist group is obsessed with this company!
1. Tell me a bit about how you got connected with Amour Vert. What’s it like working for them?
I studied Fashion and Textile Management in school and took a course on sustainability. After taking the course, I was shocked at the corruption within the industry. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to work for a brand with a larger vision at hand, and I found Amour Vert. I moved from North Carolina almost 2 years ago to join Amour Vert in their quest to change fashion.
It’s been an amazing experience working at Amour Vert. My co-workers have become close friends and the office has amazing energy. Teams collaborate frequently and ideas are shared and formed throughout the office and between teams. We have a company-wide meeting every Monday and every Friday there is a family-style lunch. When you work for Amour Vert, you’re a part of a family.
2. What are some of the core values to Amour Vert and how does the company ensure they’re sticking to them?
Our core values are to be sustainable in everything we do. From the factory to the fibers, we are sustainable. We stick to this by having transparency and close relationships with our mills and factories.
3. I love the fact that the company partners with artists on limited-edition prints. I especially love the print you just did with Buckley for Women’s Day! Tell me a bit about this process and some of the collaborations the company has done in the past and what you have coming up in the future.
We work with value-aligned women to develop prints. The collaborative process is between our design team and the artist. The prints are developed based on the season, designs and story we have planned for the collection they are designing into.
We have had so many collaborations it’s difficult to speak to all of them, but most recently in March, we partnered with Kate Miller from Elworth Studio. She developed our Mojave Floral print which we love! We will definitely continue this program in the future, while also developing in-house prints.
4. Tell me a bit about the fabrics Amour Vert uses. They’re so incredibly soft it’s hard to believe they’re sustainable!
We partner to use fiber blends to create new exclusive fabrics that are fashionable, durable and of course, sustainable. We are excited for our exclusive Tencel and Modal blends for the spring season. Tencel comes from eucalyptus trees and Modal comes from beechwood trees and both are created in a closed loop process using sustainable yarns and are biodegradable. We have brand new fabrics from each of these fibers to look forward to this spring.
5. I love the fact that 97% of the clothing is made near the San Francisco office. What’s the importance on producing locally and what are some of the advantages of being so close to the factories?
Producing locally allows in-person conversations, which we believe are crucial and allow for creative minds to collaborate together. It also allows us the opportunity to touch, feel and see the softness and drape of the fabrics.
6. I also love that you showcase the women in your community who live and breathe the Amour Vert ethos. Tell me about some of these women and why you’ve chosen to highlight them in some of your campaigns
In January we launched the “It’s Not About Us” campaign, it’s a campaign that has no end date and will continuously highlight women who live the ethos of Amour Vert. We believe models are more than a pretty face, and we want to give them a platform to tell their story.
7. What are the criteria for choosing like-minded companies like Agolde denim, Vitamin A swim, Veja shoes, etc. to sell on the site?
We partner with companies that share the same sustainable and ethical standards. That means these companies are aligned in their values. We work hard so that our customer can shop online and be effortlessly sustainable.
8. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What are you doing to combat this?
There are so many aspects of the fashion industry that are unsustainable, but something that we like to focus on shifting is fabric production. We work with only 100% Certified Organic Cotton (only 1% of the world’s cotton is grown organically), and natural fibers that are produced in a closed loop process, such as our signature Modal, and Tencel.
These fabrics are not only better for the environment and the farmers, but also for every person working with them along the supply chain, and eventually the customer who purchases and wears the piece. In terms of ethics, we ensure that the factories that we work with respect to their workers by providing safe and clean work environments, a living wage, reasonable hours and breaks. This shouldn’t be unique in the fashion industry, but sadly it is.
9. For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?
We would encourage consumers to ask for transparency. Ask if the factories are sustainable, understand the fiber content. Customers should educate themselves so they can ask companies the harder questions that often times no one is asking.
10. What are the next steps for Amour Vert? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?
To continue to grow, open stores and spread awareness about the importance of sustainable fashion, etc.
Some days I am more mindful than others.
Just remembering to bring my reusable shopping bags into the store from my car is a small victory. It's not a big deal but it's one less plastic bag that I use. Each day that we make one mindful decision creates a ripple effect. Yesterday I made some choices. My family loves seltzer water. We go through cases of seltzer at a time. I recycle the cans but yesterday I thought, I can do better. I decided to invest in a Soda Stream. We use it every day and have cut back dramatically on our recycled cans. I also switched from my single use coffee pods to a french press. I didn't eliminate my pods entirely - as I love a quick shot of espresso - but I am reducing my usage and recycling the old pods. I was surprised and pleased when I dropped off my bag of used pods at the UPS store, and the clerk said they get several dropped off everyday. People are waking up to the power of mindful decisions. It's such a hopeful sign for the future.
If you're of a certain vintage, like me, you may have grown up learning about the 3 R's; reduce, reuse and recycle. Recently, this has been updated to the 5 R's; refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle. The extra R's, refuse and repurpose have been recently added. Refuse to buy things that jeopardize the long-term health of the planet. Vote with your wallet, in other words. "Stop sucking" was a recent campaign to eliminate plastic straws. Eliminate the demand and the product will stop being produced, simple laws of economics. Repurpose allows us to take what has already been made and find different uses. But repurpose is lower down in the order of priority because we want to stop products from being produced that we do not need and are damaging to the environment.
Recently the EU Parliament approved a ban on single use plastic. Plastics make up over 80% of marine litter. On a recent trip to Zanzibar we were staying near the beach and decided to take a walk. I grabbed a bag to pick up some of the litter along the way. Within a few minutes we had so much trash we had to go back for more bags. Zanzibar is on the east coast of Africa and much of the garbage floats across the ocean and lands on its shores. While it may seems thousands of miles away, the trash that floats to its beaches will eventually find its ways to our shores.
This article is meant to be more about mindfulness than recycling. Every decision we make has an impact. When we are mindful of our decisions, how they affect not only ourselves, but the rest of the world, we become aware of the power we have. There is a mathematical theory called the Butterfly effect that states that small, localized changes in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Next time you go for a walk, grab a bag, pick up some trash and think about the fact that you are metaphorically flapping your Butterfly wings and creating ripples around the world.
-Maria Bromley, Mom Of Model
Being in an industry, one of the few where women are more successful than men feels damn good! From designers to models, stylists hair and makeup artists, women rule the fashion industry and are making leaps and bounds above their male counterparts. While I by no means wish any ill-will to the opposite sex, I’m a feminist who loves men and believes in balance on all fronts and I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite women-run businesses in the sustainable and ethical world. Because although we’re killing it, it still helps to support and lift each other up and share the successes of our Girl-boss tribe, a success so recent it needs to be celebrated, on women’s day especially and everyday for that matter!
For models, it’s not only our job to wear incredible garments by top designers but we always try to look put together when we’re “off duty” and on the go. (This may sound incredibly vain talking in first person) but when you see us on the street you’ll generally know we’re a model and not only because of our height but oftentimes because of our timeless style that never goes out of trend (mostly talking about my friends here, my street style consists of a lot of workout wear, naturally). However, for days when I’m feeling like dressing the part, here’s what I’ve learned after six years of modeling in New York City about achieving a classic wardrobe to complete your model off duty look.
As a rookie in the industry, a model tends to wear the same black tank top, white t shirt, black jeans, etc. because you’ll get 15+ castings a day during fashion week and you have to always be ready to go for that last minute job or go-see (I think I have over 15 black tank tops!). It is in our best interest to wear this because we meet so many new clients and our 'uniform' makes us work appropriate at any time. If you get caught out of the house in anything that isn't great for clients to see you in (it’s happened and it sucks…), you’re damn right that’s when you got a last minute casting that you have to be at ASAP with no time to go home and change.
As you grow with the industry, agents and clients start to trust our judgement that comes naturally with experience. You start to feel more confident about branching out and wearing things a little more gratifying than these go-to tanks and tees. Don’t get me wrong I still have and wear all of them, they're my staples, but I’ve learned to add fun accessories and awesome vintage jackets and make that same black tank top we all have my own.
After your first few seasons go well and you make a good amount of money, naturally as a new young model in NYC you spend it. It's easy to justify spending way more than you ever have because you were making a lot of money up front and you don't have to think about paying taxes until the end of the year. Other girls wear designer clothes, shoes, and bags so you inevitably feel the pressure, after living in the same tank top for weeks on end, to spruce up your wardrobe with the newest, hottest stuff. What happens at the end of the season is that a lot of us learn trends go out of style and you’re left in debt wondering how you will pay all your accumulating taxes. Was it really worth it to buy a bunch of stuff that you no longer wear so you could land yourself on a couple cool street style blogs? Probably not.
From my experience of trying to achieve that perfect off duty style, I've finally learned how to dress in a way that is budget friendly, eco-friendly and timeless. When we’re off duty, we’re always wearing something that could be well perceived in front of our agents or clients. We have all the basics to complete a timeless wardrobe, the best white t shirts, the perfect fitting black tanks, amazing skinny jeans, slim-fit boyfriend jeans, denim shorts, cool boots and a great bag. We also occasionally indulge in designer clothing and accessories (for me it's important that they're thoughtfully produced in sustainable ways, better yet used from sites like The RealReal or Tradesy) but it’s always important to remind yourself to choose pieces that will never go out of style. That all black leather backpack I have gets worn every single day. My oversized bright pink sweater that was ‘in’ two seasons ago still gets worn, but maybe only once per year. Think about what you invest in and try not to fall into the latest trends. You'll find you'll save a ton of money and always look put together with your simple, stylish staples.
Here are some of my go-to off duty looks!
Fashion week is an incredible time in our industry to show off your best looks, book your most exciting shows, head to the coolest parties and essentially skip all ideas of sleep. It’s what keeps our industry alive, fun an innovative but naturally with such pressure it’s hard to stay afloat. Collectively, my friend Dani and I have been modeling for over twenty years and believe us when we say we have first-hand experience of how difficult this time of the year can be, especially as a new model. That’s why we created our pre-fashion week event; Calm Before the Storm.
We want to create a community of models to lean on when the going gets tough so you can have a friend to wait at a casting with or to relax over a bottle of wine post shows. For us, what gets us through this industry and has enabled us to continue to model is how we’ve built each other up when we’re down and surrounded ourselves with likeminded girlbosses who inspire us to build side hustles and know how to brand our best selves. Because nowadays, it’s so much more than being a pretty face and we want to create a positive community, for the young new faces especially, to celebrate our friendships, accomplishments and to know we can stick together!
It’s been a beautiful evolution throughout the past year and was especially exciting to see even more new faces this time around. We’re so happy to have this event grow and it means a lot for us to have the support as well. In addition to our models, we love building up our community and showcasing our friends who are doing incredible side projects/hustles/jobs/foundations, you name it!! Our model hosts, Sinead Bovell from WAYE talks and Grace Mahary from Project Tsehigh opened up the evening with a beautiful talk on how they build their side hustles, how they found balance between that and modeling and how incredibly important it is to be active in your community and with your friends. Because as Grace mentioned, when you’re on your death bed you won’t remember what you made for this job or that show but you’ll remember all the incredible faces you met and experiences you created together. Amen!
Afterwards, our attendees got to check out the “vendors” (our amazing girlboss/guybosses who have super cool companies they run or work for). We love profiling them and showing off what they’re up to, from health coaches to trainers and eco-friendly laundromat enthusiasts. The idea is that we try to relate it to fashion week with healthy recipes for castings, best workouts for small hotel rooms or what to do if your flight gets delayed.
We also had AMAZING gift bags this year from the most amount of sponsors to date…Without this community, we wouldn't have been able to throw together such a fun night! Check out the sponsors and vendors below and scroll down for all our pictures.
Sustainability was a big topic at our event today. Check out one of our favorite clothing brand’s Aday! From materials used to new-tech innovations that eliminate textile waste, this company is ahead of the curve in terms of sustainability and is a company Dani and I are both proud to say we have shot with! Tag your ADAY pics with @thisisaday, #thisisaday and enjoy $20 off your next order with their coupon.
Those beautiful oils and face masques you received are from Amberlight Beauty, a company started by Dominyka Gajauskaite. Dominyka ensures the best materials go into all of her products from rose to open your heart to chamomile for calming your senses. Find out more at @amberlightbeauty.
Our very own model mafia member Anastasija Titko gave us pamphlets on an organization that’s near and dear to her heart, The Isha Institute of Inner-Sciences. The foundation offers yoga and meditation programs and are always happy to host new members. A nice way to keep calm before fashion week. Check them out!
Those awesome flower pouches with the mineral eye shadows were given to us by Boho Chic Cosmetics. They are all about clean, fun beauty that is made in small batches, vegan and cruelty-free!
The CUTEST toothbrush packages were provided to you all from BOKA. They’re a mindful oral care company that stresses the importance of working with our bodies, not against them. See all their fun pics and share yours @boka!
Did we not have the coolest hosts and event space?? We have Celsious to thank for that! This eco-friendly laundromat in Williamsburg gives you the low-down on how to wash your clothes in the ‘cleanest’ (pun intended) way, all whilst being better for the environment. They also have a café you can hang out at while you wait for your load to finish, and honestly even though Dani and I both have laundry in our buildings we’ve come for a hang out at this space because it is simply so cute and so well-done! Congrats to the founders Theresa and Corinna on such a successful space!
EcoEnclose provides sustainable solutions for packaging and sent us all those beautiful recycled paper bags for your goodie bags! (Britt uses them for all her ODM/ODC shipping!) and they’re incredibly easy to work with. Check out their Instagram @ecoenclose.
For Days provided us with those awesome pouches with gift cards inside to use for their zero-waste shop that closes the loop on fashion waste. Pick a tee, wear it endlessly, return when done and you’ll receive a fresh new tee while they recycle and reuse your old one! Fashion waste problem solved!
You know that face spa Dani and I are always posting from?? That’s Glo Spa and they graciously donated us coupons for 20% off your next facial! They’re located in the financial district. Enjoy;)
Herbivore Botanicals provided us with one of our favorite face products, their popular rose hibiscus hydrating face mist. Dani and I both love spraying our face with this product every morning to wake up and it’s the perfect thing to keep your skin hydrated on a long flight. Their products are made in U.S.A. and never tested on animals!
High Brew donated all those incredible cans of coffee that are protein-packed and will be perfect to sip on between all your crazy castings and shows. This should help keep your energy up!
INTO app helped us so much by promoting the event on their app. We were able to reach out to even more models which is what this event is all about, building our model community! For model-events and products to use that are often free or heavily discounted, check out their app which you can download here.
Jaw x Jawshop by Tim Jaw has always been one of our biggest supporters! His awesome line of locally made basics and fun socks and scrunchies, an ode to the 80s, are the perfect thing you need for brunch on the weekend with your crew.
Joya Studio has given us awesome roll-on samples of their fragrances to keep you smelling fresh and clean during the fashion week season. Their ingredients are simple, locally-sourced and to top it off they have sustainable packaging which we’re such big fans of! They’re a personal favorite of mine to use while traveling!
Lighthouse BK is one of our absolute favorite restaurants in Brooklyn and gave us those awesome bites for us to eat at our event. They are on their way to being completely zero-waste and they don’t let that sacrifice on taste or presentation. They employ a number of organizations in their community from composting to cork recycling and the Billion Oyster Project where they donate all their used oyster shells each week.
Magic Mix Juicery offered us samples of their aloe shots. Super tasty, good for digestion, and anti-inflammatory! Have them on their own or pop them into a smoothie or glass of water. You can find those aloe shots and many more treats at their location in Financial District!
You got some awesome samples and drinks made at the event by Mr. Maks Ginbao Tea! I can personally attest to the fact that this alkalized beverage with ingredients like ginger, ginseng, honey and lemongrass are the perfect combination to thirst your quench and help calm your stomach if you have a little ache. Enjoy warm or cold. And no, there aren’t crazy amounts of added sugars to worry about. We’re huge fans!
Parcelle Wine is a curated wine shop and the first retail concept from Delicious Hospitality Group, the team behind NYC restaurants Charlie Bird, Pasquale Jones, and Legacy Records. Parcelle’s offerings reflect the best of the wine programs for which DHG’s restaurants are known. Hopefully their wine helped you relax as you headed into your fashion week shenanigans!
RYU is an incredible clothing line created for the urban athlete that moves with you. They stand for respect, and they are #BeautifulTough. Check them out @ryu_apparel and enjoy your new, sleek water bottles!
Seaweed Bath Co. provided us with awesome goodies form their detox cream and scrub to their fabulous serums. They’re one of our favorite skin/body/haircare products that are clean for the environment, nutrient-rich and performance-optimized. All seaweed in their products are sourced and certified organic from the coast of Maine!
The ladies of Shiffon Co. donated one special ring to the winner of our raffle (congrats Kaye-Li!!!). The founders are two badass entrepreneurial babes who balance finishing their degree at their Ivy league schools and managing this business. Michelle Obama, Christy Turlington and Serena Williams have been seen wearing their famous pinky promise rings that support women entrepreneurs with the sale of each ring.
Silk Philosophy gave us each a silk accessory to spice up each of our black on black fashion week uniforms. The silk accessories sell primarily as bracelets, but they could be worn as mini scarves/chokers, hair ribbons, or handbag charms. All silk bracelets are made of high quality silks in limited quantities and the patterns never repeat.
Simply Suzette has graciously provided you all with a coupon for her site that sells eco-friendly and ethical jean brands. Denim is one of the dirtiest industries out there so this is her way of trying to help promote the companies doing it right! And I’m telling you they’re my personal favorite pair of jeans I own. And I don’t have to feel guilty about wearing them because I know they’re made with integrity and better for the environment than the traditional jean.
We got the perfect fashion week treat for your all from Snow Monkey! Now you can enjoy your fashion week cravings without the guilt attached. All Snow Monkey ice creams are plant-based, paleo, and high protein!
Tulerie gifted us with those awesome reusable straws!! Make sure and sign up for their clothes-sharing app, especially useful during your fashion week antics!! ;)
Here’s some takeaway info about the lovely vendors we had set up around the room.
Daniel Gottlieb was there to help us with all our sore, achy muscles. Dan is a brand ambassador for RYU and Hyperice, He has weekly workouts at Bandier's Studio B that are great for relaxing your muscles and stretching you out! We all need more of that! Check out his Instagram to learn more and DM his for more info on his classes!
Dawn Gallagher was there to share her story about using your voice in this industry and how powerful it is to share your story. What an incredible example for all of us! She’s been there, she’s done that and she’s here to pave the way for us as change makers in this industry! She also is passionate about Drawdown, an event that is all about sustainable green living and teaching us all we need to know about drawing down carbon in our atmosphere, something incredibly important as we head into fashion week, often with a lot of travel and flying.
Dominyka Gajauskaite started her own skin care line as a result of being sick of the unfriendly products being used on her face time and time again. Stay in the know about all her products @amberlightbeauty! In addition to all her incredible samples that she gives us for each and every event, Dominyka was especially helpful in organizing this event for us. From new sponsorships to organization in general, Dominyka was a HUGE help for this event and we’re especially helpful for all she has done for us.
Grace Mahary was our top model speaker who couldn’t have given us better advice. Remember, it’s all about the experiences you make and the relationships you form, not about the superficial things in life! In addition to killing it as one of Canada’s top models, Grace started her very own foundation, Project Tsehigh which provides clean energy to impoverished communities around the world.
Our favorite relaxing facials were provided to you by Face Love! They made our event that much more special and have been collaborating with us on events for the past three years, something we’re so thankful for! Check them out in at their new flagship in the Flatiron. Dani and I will be there next week;)
Jonathan Glass from Mr. Maks was our awesome bartender for the night, creating mixed drinks using their Ginbao Teas. Healthy, low sugar, and super settling for the stomach with calming ingredients like ginger and lemon.
KW Travel was our awesome travel agent who answered all your questions about flying, how to attain status, some awesome trip itinerary ideas for you and your girlfriends and so much more. I’m personally someone who loves to create my own itineraries but after seeing the attention to detail, I handed over all my honeymoon plans and will be working with Katherine for our upcoming trip to Italy.
You heard all about the Model Mafia from one of our members, Kaye-Li Taylor. It is our incredible social impact and activism focused group and together we take collective action and share causes we care about with each other. The group marched in the DC Climate March demanding a cleaner fashion industry and world, raised $12,000 for the Standing Rock community, and has been tackling sexual harassment in the fashion industry. If you would like are to join, please send an email and agency link to email@example.com and follow the tribe @modelactivist.
Shivani Persad and Samantha Bolger have their very own podcast, More Than Model Radio where they interview models about what they’re passionate about beyond modeling! If you want a chance to be interviewed, hit them up on Instagram! Listen HERE for previous episodes.
Sinead Bovell of WAYE was our incredible host this evening who interviewed Grace Mahary on how she’s balanced modeling with her side business, Project Tsehigh. For inspiration on how to create your own business and brand, check our Sinead’s side hustle, WAYE (weekly advice for the young entrepreneur) and make sure to come to one of her upcoming WAYE talks. I can’t say more than they’re on of the few events that I actually look forward to attending. She’s inspiring and a complete go-getter and will give you all the inside knowledge on tech, business and the future. Check her out!
Tulerie was in attendance, one of the coolest new platforms of digital “shopping”. I without a doubt think this will be the way of the future; a concept that lets you lend and borrow from your friends without braking your bank or contributing to the fabric waste created by fast fashion and consumerism. And if you do want to shop, invest in that piece that will last you a lifetime and put it on the app so you can make some money off your purchase from your friends who want to borrow the piece as well! We’re all about a brand that works on closing the loop on waste.
Our event photos were taken by Ryan J. Ulsh. He’s been a dear friend to Dani and I and we’ve also collaborated a ton on test shoots together. I’ll often organize shoots with him and my agents have used A TON of our shots, many of them still in my book to this day. Follow his photography adventures on J. Ryan Ulsh or Jryanulsh.Studio
2018 was a popular year for the little plastic straw. Something that seems so insignificant is popped into every single one of our drinks, whether we need it or not, without the slightest thought on its purpose or necessity. Think about it, if you ask for a glass of water, almost always it’s accompanied by a big plastic straw that we often discard before we even take our first sip. So what switched? There were viral videos of sea turtles with straws being stuck in their nostrils and people began to pay attention to the the little straw and began wondering how else straws were negatively harming our planet and what we could do.
The thing about the plastic straw is that it’s tangible. We all see its overabundant use in restaurants and bars, have used it to stir a drink for one second then tossed it to the side only the repeat the same procedure for our next drink and the drink after that, with one or two straws in each water we order in between. Why the sudden overuse of them? While they were originally created for making things a little easier to drink, in the 1930s they gained popularity when an inventor wanted to make it easier for his daughter to drink a milkshake. From that, the straws are mass-produced by a system selling people things they don’t really need, for the most part. Consumers of course took advantage of it and now we’re left with another over-consumed product with of course, inevitable backlash. We can see the waste. On our beaches, straws are often one of the top ten items collected globally on the coastlines.
It was once quoted that in the U.S. alone, 500 million straws are used EVERY DAY. That seems like an incredible amount that’s hard to picture exactly how many that truly is. Here are some figures to put it into perspective… “500 million straws could fill over 127 school buses each day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year.. 500 million straws per day is an average of 1.6 straws per person (in the US) per day. Based on this national average, each person in the US will use approximately 38,000 or more straws between the ages of 5 and 65.” While I’m not 100% that this stat is entirely accurate, it goes without saying that whatever the number is, it is high and there is something we can do about it.
So what can we do? There are a ton of alternate options out there, here are my favorite options ranking from best to last:
No straw (no waste)
Bamboo straw (sturdy, dishwasher safe, light)
Metal straws (sturdy, dishwasher safe, easy to clean, not good for hot beverages)
Glass straws (sturdy, easy to clean, but breakable)
Paper straws (trendy and fun but don’t last and wasteful to produce)
Why the hate for paper? It’s similar to the debate between plastic and paper bags.
A study done last year by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food found that paper bags need to be reused at least 43 times for its per-use environmental impacts to be less than that of typical plastic bag used once.
You choose between plastic, reusable and less energy to make but not biodegradable or paper, harder to reuse, a ton of energy to make but biodegradable…Truthfully, neither is “good”
There’s a few things to note when talking about banning the straws. For one, a large population of our world needs them. It’s easy for anyone who isn’t physically challenged to say “no straw”,
“I don’t use those”, “who would need a plastic straw”, or to even look down upon people who order them. When I saw the video of the turtle, I knew I would try my best to say no when the opportunity presented itself, pretty much always, but I vowed to myself to never shame anyone who forgot to say “no straw”. Check out this article by Alden Wicker of EcoCult. She talks about the necessity to address the issue of plastic waste but to be flexible with the movement and open to people who actually need the straw. Banning something that certain people’s lives depend upon is ridiculous and we should by no means shame anyone. With my decisions I make about the sustainable movement, I hope to influence many people in my community to do whatever they can. We need to keep this in mind.
I loved Alden’s idea about an opt-in system when talking about the straw ban movement. Instead of the waiters at restaurants automatically putting a straw in every single drink, they always need to have them on hand and you have to say when you order “I need a plastic straw”. That in itself will heavily cut down the amount wasted at each restaurant yet no one who actually needs one will (hopefully) not be looked down upon.
While I support the movement to use less straws, some feel the movement to falls extremely short. Sure, plastic straws are overused and create a lot of waste but many argued that this movement failed to address something bigger that is creating much more waste than the straw. The commercialized fishing net, and other plastic waste in general. Straws are an easy target because many people can do without them. I don’t question the necessity of the plastic straw movement, I think any movement is a step in the positive direction but my argument would be that it shouldn’t stop there.
Have you ever seen a commercialized size fishing net in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; the largest accumulation of ocean plastic? The patch is estimated to be 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas and having 46% of the weight be taken up by fishing nets. Plastic tends to get stuck in these large gyres or patches and disintegrate with all the sun exposure and natural currents until it’s into tiny pieces, called micro plastics, that we oftentimes can’t even see. Years ago we would see occasional pieces of plastic found in sea turtles but now, with all the micro plastics forming and floating around, 100% of all sea turtles have some form of plastic they have ingested. 59% of all seabirds have plastic found in them and more than 25% of fish sampled from all around the world has plastic in it. That’s an issue that goes above and beyond the straw movement that we have to address.
The plastic that litters our oceans are becoming much more of a problem. We can’t ignore it. Plastic debris, both micro plastics (particles less than 5mm) and macro plastics (larger than 5mm) are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste generated by river catchments. To me, the straw movement was the catalyst for bigger change. While China for instance is the biggest producer of plastic waste, it also is now making huge efforts to avoid this.
Other countries that are now coming into wealth like the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, are huge contributors to the plastic waste issue. With the rise of GDP levels in many of these East Asian countries comes benefits that we often overlook like the convenience of to-go Tupperware or the ease of a plastic bag to carry your goods, better yet, drinkable water in plastic bottles! But what these places don’t think about is the infrastructure needed to deal with the waste that comes from development. If we are to address the need for waste-management infrastructure in these five countries alone, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, it is estimated we can significantly reduce global leakage of plastic waste into the ocean by 2025, potentially by 45%!
So where does that leave us?
Well, theres a few things I have in mind for trying to make a change..
This article, again written by Alden Wicker of EcoCult talked about her challenge going plastic-free on her recent trip to India. There was balance achieved between being a good guest, accepting where plastic was sometimes needed but doing the best she could, remembering to bring a water bottle, utensils, avoiding straws where possible and the like. But we have to remember these developing economies are vastly different from the U.S. Oftentimes to a waiter in India, providing good service is of utmost importance to them. Figuring out what “no straw” means while trying to remember how to speak English and treat your guest well comes with a huge learning curve.
When we’re visiting these East Asian countries we have to be supportive of the new cycle of growth they’re going through and dealing with. Improving governance and rooting out corruption for example. What we can do is influence them and work with them to realize the importance of tackling change now. They are blessed because they haven’t gotten as used to the readily available use of plastic as much as the Western society has. When we travel, we can reduce our plastic intake and show them it’s possible to live life easily without it. We can stop shipping our waste to them and deal with it ourselves. We can show them certain technological advancements that are making it easier to recycle plastics and show how they can discard it. And we can influence them to stop producing plastic altogether and use another biodegradable alternative at the same time.
While most of the plastic waste is coming from East Asia, we can continue to do our best efforts at home. Things like the three R's; reduce, reuse, recycle...and remember they should be in that order.
Reducing our purchases (being conscious consumers)
Reusing things whenever possible
Recycling after you attempt to reduce and reuse.
Eating less fish (less fish, less need for fishing, less fishing nets. Supply, demand)
Avoid plastic bags
Saying no to straws when we can
Voting for change
Marching for change
Reducing meat intake
Paying for carbon offsetting
Switch to reusables
Reusable bags, Tupperware, coffee mugs, water bottles, etc.
While 2018 was the year of the plastic straw, let's make 2019 the year of tackling all plastic. We’re addicted to it and with fighting addiction comes arguments, fight back, disagreements and disbelief. But the facts are there. The fish have plastic in them. The turtles are eating plastic and our world will suffer from that. Humans live off the Earth and the oceans are the veins that pump life into us all. Let us tackle plastic waste, something we have so easily lived without before the 1930s, and switch to a reusable, biodegradable material that closes the loop on waste and refreshes our oceans with life and air. The Earth’s ten-year challenge brought upon devastation from pictures of deforestation, ice melting, and oceans and rivers littered with plastic waste. Let’s reverse that trend and make pictures in 2029 that we’re proud of.
Earlier in 2018 I had the pleasure of working with a friend of a friend who wanted to style out an ethical themed wedding shoot. I had just been proposed to, so the timing couldn’t have been better! A shoot that would be organized all around sustainability and ethical style from the food we ate to the location of venue and jewelry, everything was thought out to show brides an idea of how to do their wedding with a little more thought about the environment. Weddings are one of the most special times of anyones lives but they can be incredibly wasteful. Years going into planning for that one special day that’s over before you know it and sometimes you’re left with a ton of plastic waste, uneaten food, a dress made of plastic you’ll only wear once or jewels that weren't exactly sourced with the environment in mind. From this shoot, I was introduced to Kata Banko Couture, an eco friendly wedding accessories line that graciously lent us pieces to style our shoot from incredibly unique head pieces to statement necklaces and chokers. I decided to keep in touch and find out a little bit more about this company. Check out what Colleen, founder of the company has to say in regards to how they make their pieces, how they stay ethical, and plans for the company as they grow…!
1) Tell me a bit about how Kata Banko Couture came about? Where did everyone in the company come from and how did you all transition into the sustainable/ethical world?
Kata Banko Couture came about in 2002. The name belongs to my Grandmother, Kata. I started my business in evening and RTW couture, designing gowns for galas and such. During that time I was raising two young boys as a single mother and took a break from designing to go into Nursing. In 2009 a friend of mine opened a bridal salon and asked me to help her out with alterations and custom design. We started seeing a great need for bridal accessories, especially custom, so I gave it a go and created a bridal accessory line. After the first couple of years in business I got to see how un- sustainable the industry really was, and not to mention unethical. So once again, I changed it up, totally educated myself and launched a new line that fit my vision for the world rather than the industry. I found a special little group of “sustainable minded” suppliers as well as ethically minded people. I have always used sustainable fabrics, but I needed to do more. We use recycled metals, no kill dead stock leathers, peace silks and recycled and dead stock fabrics occasionally. We are working to also make our products wearable beyond bridal and offering more everyday wear. Currently I have my magic maker of beautiful things, Breanna, myself, and we are introducing a new team member co designer this year, Lexi. And I have to say, I have one of the best, if not the best, PR Company, Perry Rose Media, specifically Alex, she is the force behind alot of what goes on in the brand, and also she's my girl!
2) Sustainability in bridal wear is definitely a newer topic, however, brides are starting to realize that a lot of waste goes into one day and feel it’s important to make a positive change. Why did you guys decide to tap into the bridal market specifically?
Agreed! The bridal market fell into my lap quite honestly! I am planning to keep a curated bridal collection, but we are moving into what feels right to us, which is lifestyle. I want our brides to be able to continue wearing our products beyond that day. No waste.
3) How is each Kata Banko product created from conception to production?
It all starts with some good music and good vibes and a sketch. From there it goes through several different design phases until it feels right. Everything is hand crafted, start to finish using artisan techniques.
4) What materials are you using for your jewelry and how do you choose each one?
We use Swarovski vintage and current pearls and stones, hand crushed quartz crystals ( the first to apply this technique in the industry) and semi precious stones, hand crafted bases and recycled hand plated metals and findings. I dont change these staple components often, I really want to keep it cohesive and sustainable by avoiding waste.
5) In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Kata Banko Couture doing to combat this?
Oh boy, where to start! I could write a novel! Aside from major waste and pollution, I would say the chemically laced unnatural fabrics. Also the need to keep creating collections, so much waste there! If it’s good, it will keep selling. As you can see we really haven't changed our components in years, this cuts down on waste and it is a sustainable way to create heirloom signature items. We are definitely hyper aware of what's going on in the industry and always try to elevate awareness by talking about honestly. The brand will always continue to be as sustainable as we can and will always no matter what be ethical. You will alot more conversation and education coming out of Kata Banko Couture this year, in fashion and in bridal. We've got some magic up our sleeves.
What about ethically?
That is a subject that needs to be talked about more! So many unethical practices in the industry and bridal is off the charts with unethical practices. People need to be a focus in this, it is very ugly! I work with Fair Trade Certified CO-OPS only when I’m producing garments. Being in the fashion industry for 20+ years, in many roles, I’ve seen the backside of this industry and while there are some great brands out there who are ethical and sustainable, there are too many who are not and its all about the money no matter what the cost. It’s very unsettling. I am very lucky to have a small team and partnering with Fair Trade production for gowns and garments is a stellar thing! Basically, I could tell you who produced your gown or your accessory, their life, interests and how long we've been connected. It’s not all about how much you can make, it’s about loving it and treating it with heart, we are a family, we value what we do with each other, we all have real life conversations, its very personal. There's value in that, it’s called connection. Unethical companies don't care about any of that.
6) What are some of your own personal sustainable habits you live by? Do you have any goals for 2019 to live a little cleaner?
I don’t buy a lot of stuff! Especially plastics and clothing. I still am wearing clothes Ive had for 20 years. We live in a buy more, have more stuff mentality, it’s not working for our planet!
7) What’s the best way you ensure your workers are treated well?
We are a family! What is mine, is theirs, always. When we are working, it’s a good time, kind of like hanging out with your bffs eating, laughing , listening to some good music and getting our work done. I am very fortunate to have amazing people in my life and in my business. We keep it “light”, and any conversation is always welcome, we share in the process, my main photographers are my sons, we pull friends into shoots, even sometimes one of us, it’s gotta be fun. When it’s not working as a whole, it doesn't work, to think, at one time it was me doing everything myself. I love how this has grown, so very organically.
8) What are the next steps for Kata Banko Couture? How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?
Well, there's a lot going on behind scenes, so we will see:)
I had the pleasure of designing the first new collection of bridal wear for Celia Grace last year, which was a dream, being that Celia Grace is Fair Trade, Sustainable and Ethical. So we definitely has some exciting stuff happening behind the scenes with that. For Kata Banko, we are doing us! 100%! It’s all about the lifestyle, we have stayed in the “lines” and it hasn't really fed our souls, so look out for a fresh, real approach. So excited about it!
In 5 to 10 years, we will be not only a full on lifestyle brand, we will be a movement!
9) What’s something different (or special) about Kata Banko Couture from other companies you’ve worked at in the past?
It’s real life, no gimmicks and really for the future. We have always been about, ethical and sustainable practices and what makes us special is that we continue to talk about it, be about it and bring about change in the industry. There is no planet B , we all have a responsibility to care for the earth and each other.
10) For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?
Do your research! How is that company impacting the earth and the people producing it. Reach out and ask questions, if the company is legit, they will be happy to talk to you about their products. Email me anytime! I’d love to educate you on what I stand for in my business!
2019 is upon us which means it’s time to make new goals for the new year. Some find it cliché, and I have to admit sometimes it feels like more of a chore than anything else but as we hit day two of 2019, I feel inclined to write a few things down, as a reminder and a reset for living my best life physically, spiritually and mentally.
One of my biggest goals, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts is to relax and go with the flow. What’s important about writing this on day two instead of the first of the year is that yesterday, I slept in, I didn’t work out and I did not plan for the new year. And to me, the first day was a success as I let the enjoyment of hanging out with friends and family and relaxing my way into 2019 trump any preconceived notions of having to start on my best foot. So far, 2019 is off to an amazing start, two brownies, zero workouts, an afternoon of snow tubing and a sugar-y hot cocoa day later.
Prior to becoming a model, it’s a well-known fact that I was much more easygoing. My schedule was up to me to make and if I slacked, that was my fault too. But with modeling comes last minuteness as your schedule is determined by your agents and clients, oftentimes the night before the shoot. So, as I adjusted to something being beyond my control, I became determined to manage all other aspects of my life, to the extreme. This affected all areas of my life: when I would eat, an in-detail itinerary for each weekend, three reservations for different restaurants each time we would go out to ensure the best possible choice was made, and so on. Vacations were insanely planned out in detail from the moment we left for the airport to when we came back home, there was no room for error. Just ask my fiancé, he’s not the biggest fan of traveling with me to and from the airport. If we call a car and it takes 10 minutes instead of five, that’s five extra minutes of my insanely planned out life that I could have enjoyed elsewhere. This is where it becomes a problem. While I still get enjoyment out of all the pre-planning, the issue was when things wouldn’t go according to plan.
Instead of adjusting and going with the flow, I would have mini-meltdowns and become extremely inflexible as a result of my insane neuroticism.
While I have definitely gotten better at this over time, it still remains a goal of mine to be at ease with the unexpectedness of life. That’s where the beauty is hiding and will shine through when you’re least expecting. I sometimes get upset when people make fun of how much I plan in advance but something I will continue to work on will be to be happy when we have a plan and happier if that plan doesn’t go accordingly. For lack of a better example, the night of our engagement was supposed to be a simple dinner with family and friends as we toasted to the incredible vacation we had in front of us on our first night in Croatia. An hour or so into dinner, I got proposed to, surprise surprise, not according to “the plan”, but the excitement we all had with the unexpected beautiful moment we all then got to share together was priceless. (I must add, I’m lucky Josh had a plan that night and stuck to it… ;)
Similarly, living in New York I tend to get overwhelmed easily, yet there is nowhere else I’d rather be, at least for the time being. You’re constantly stimulated, which is an incredible perk if you’re someone like me who likes to keep busy, but the downside is that it’s hard to switch off and not feel guilty. I don’t think I can count on two hands the amount of days I’ve planned to just relax and stay put, better yet to not even plan it but just let it happen. So with the New Year, and in order to stay sane in the city where it’s all happening, a goal of mine is to find inner peace. Whether it be to meditate more or to find stillness in yoga, to cozy up with a favorite book or get off the subway early and walk the last stop, I want to continue to plan and stay busy which is something I get so much enjoyment out of but to find balance in stillness and maintain inner peace and calmness. Then with whatever craziness New York throws my way, an insanely packed subway car with someone yelling at you or a taxi that purposefully takes the long way because they think you’re a tourist (the bridge god damnit not the tunnel!!!) I hope to let all that negativity glide off of me and only make me stronger. With strength will come calmness, with strength will come ease and knowing you have a strong mind will let all areas of your life be unaffected by the unexpected displeasures.
As my birthday approaches, instead of planning a wild night that ends with a disgusting amount (albeit delicious) of late-night crap, maybe I’ll propose a meditation class with friends, a yoga class or a solo trip to a meditative retreat… But the best part is I’ll leave it be for now and see what comes as the day approaches. As I mentioned, there’s something beautiful about letting life throw all it has your way and finding adventure in the journey of your destination. What I’ve learned from my year in 2018 and what I will never forget is that it’s never about the destination but more importantly about the journey.
We recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rosemary Feitelberg from WWD on the future of sustainability in fashion. Sharing our journey and story with you all means so much to us. We’re only a few years into living our sexy sustainable life and continue to learn and be inspired by everyone in our community each and everyday, so thank you to our tribe for never failing to motivate us to do bigger things and be better people. We will never stop learning and will always share what we come across along the way, being entirely transparent about the companies we promote, and the things we produce. Cheers to making it into WWD as we near the end of the year, one of our biggest goals of 2018. We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for ODM/ODC and for everyone in our community. Let’s continue to spread the world of sustainability in fashion and beyond.
All our love, Britt & Maria