The Last Straw

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

  • Composting

  • 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. 

More Impact, Less Harm!

Between Fashion Revolution Week April 23-29th and Earth Day on April 22, it’s an important time for us all to reflect on our positive and negative impacts on the environment. 

Prior to starting ODM/ODC, I had little knowledge of the effects of fast fashion on our environment and on the people who make our clothes. $5 seemed like a bargain for a t-shirt and I found myself flocking to fast fashion retailers, desperate to buy the newest trends for as cheap as possible. Even being in the industry myself, having witnessed first-hand the difference between well-made clothes with beautiful fabrics and time consuming handwork and cheap fast fashion that felt as if it were about to fall apart, I found it hard to wrap my head around the fact that there is a crucial difference between a $5 throwaway and something that would cost me a lot but my last a life time. This is the problem many people face without even knowing it because of the marketing we are bombarded with each day. Consumers now expect to pay as little as possible for more clothing without realizing who is really paying for the pay-cut. 

It wasn’t until living four and a half years in NYC as a full-time model that I began to realize the negative impacts of fast fashion. A fellow model and friend of mine, Cameron Russel had a meeting for models in NYC to talk about how to best use our platforms to advocate for matters that are important to us, for her it was women’s rights and the environment, especially fashion’s impact on the environment. It was at this specific meeting that I realized the fashion industry is one of the ‘dirtiest’ out there. In terms of pollution, worker’s rights and fabric waste, the industry has much to improve upon. 

Something recent that ignited the fire for people to advocate for a better industry was the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, five years ago on April 24, 2013. After numerous warnings that the building had visible dangerous cracks, workers were demanded to go to work regardless, and a day after many had complained, the building collapsed killing 1,138 people and injuring 2,500. It was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Tons of brands were identified in the rubble, many western , although it took many years for all those involved to own up to their involvement in this atrocious disaster. The disaster was fueled by political corruption and corporate greed perpetuated by the idea that our clothes needed to be made faster, be made cheaper all at the cost of the workers in third world countries where factories were unsafe and workers conditions were forgotten. 

Now, five years what has changed? 

Brands and customers seem to be more conscious of what they buy, what materials they’re using to produce clothing and who are the makers behind it all. The Fashion Revolution non-profit was made to promote genuine change and inspire others to be curious about where all their clothes are made. The industry hasn’t totally transformed but brands big and small are definitely taking strides to be more transparent about all their production processes, which is a huge step in the right direction. [1]

The Fashion Revolution created the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes? to inspire customers to reach out to the companies they buy from and see if they respond about their supply chain. Companies big and small including H&M, ASOS, and Adidas are working with their customers to share their suppliers, proof that some positive change is being made. 

The Fashion Revolution organization also encourages easy steps for those in and outside of the fashion industry to take to ensure we’re all on the path to better production. These steps include an action kit with information on how to get involved globally at each and every fashion revolution week event. Things like printable posters to share on social media, campaigns to share with friends and followers on social media with important facts and quotes, encouraging consumers to share their fashion love story. The fashion love story should be used to write a love letter to a piece of clothing you already own encouraging consumers to shop less and find love in things they already own. Similarly, the organization created the hashtag #haulternative which inspires consumers to refresh their closets in a new way such as shopping secondhand, swapping with friends or doing DIY customization. The last steps to inspire change are to actively reach out to policymakers, writing letters to brands and then downloading their educational resources which includes worksheets, activities and information to show how you can be a student ambassador at your school. 

Whitney Bauck, editor at Fashionista magazine is passionate about the intersection of fashion, faith and ethics and often writes about these issues, especially when they pertain to fashion. Since the factory collapse, Bauck explains another positive step towards ensuring a healthy and safe work environment in the Bangladeshi garment industry with The Accord, a five-year legally-binding agreement between large corporations and trade unions. [2] With the Accord in place, factories are continually inspected to ensure safe working conditions and are financially backed to upgrade safety measures. If you refuse to work with The Accord you could lose out on working with international brands that are signed up. Now, factory safety is no longer a “Western Luxury”. Because of these improved safety conditions, the amount of deaths per year has significantly dropped from 71 workers pre Rana Plaza to 17 workers annually now. [3]

There is however much more improvement needed. While the amount of unions surged immediately after the Rana Plaza disaster, activity has since slowed down, many people claiming to have been beaten up by police officials if they were involved in unions. There is hardly any backing of these unions from government officials. [4] Companies are pushing for safer working conditions yet often don’t want to pay for it. It’s tough without these unions to impose proper working wages or overtime pay for instance. [5]

In addition to these resources, I personally only try and shop from brands that are transparent about who makes their clothes, where they are made and the materials they use. There are enough brands out there doing it ‘right’ for me that I find I have enough resources available to shop. As of late, I’ve found I haven’t really had to buy any new clothes at all but will try and shop secondhand or swap with friends if I need something specific! It’s a fun way to spice up your closet, save some money and ensure you’re not contributing to environmental harm. Check out this article where I talk about a clothing swap I did with some friends in NYC! 

With organizations like the Fashion Revolution, companies who are willing to change and friends and family who are inspired to do good, we can all work together to demand better conditions for all workers and for the environment we all often take for granted. Which leads to another important holiday that falls right before Fashion Revolution week, Earth Day!

Earth Day is a global annual celebration to demonstrate support for environmental protection. From the amount of plastic used, the amount of material waste, contaminated rivers and streams, greenhouse gas emissions, the food industry, makeup and hair, the list goes on about ways in which we can all collectively work to ensure better conditions for our environment. 

With plastic waste alone, and even more specifically single-use straw waste, over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used EVERYDAY in the United States, many of which end up discarded in our ocean. It’s something so simple we can all say no to, to alleviate the amount of plastic ending up in our oceans and killing our ecosystems. I took the pledge to #stopsucking on single-use plastic straws and instead use bamboo straws if need be. Paper straws are a great alternative however if you don’t have to, using none is even better! Similarly, I always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, am never without my reusable water bottle and reusable coffee mug! I’m always on the go, so it also helps to have a metal fork and spoon on hand (I have a few in every purse). It’s little steps like this that we can all implement in our lives that will help make a difference. We can also reach out to our local restaurants, coffee shops (hello Starbucks!) and policymakers to address the abundance of plastic use and see if there’s a feasible solution that’s better for the environment. 

This past Earth Day, I had originally planned to skip all the fun activities and watch a Raptors basketball game in D.C. which would include four + hour bus rides each way to and from NYC. What was environmentally friendly about that? Being stuck in a bus most of the day and contributing to the carbon footprint wasn’t ideal. We decided to skip the game and spend as much time as we could outdoors and ended up having one of the most fun weekends I’ve had in a while. 

We started off our day by not using the lights as much as possible. Sure we had to get ready in a little bit of darkness but the light shining in from our windows did the trick. Next we went to our local coffee shop and used a cup to stay and my reusable mug. We then decided to do a 5k run and pick up trash along the way. This is called ‘plogging’ picking up trash while jogging and is huge in the Scandinavia. [6] It’s a fun way to keep our grounds clean and I must add definitely added a strength component to the workout! After our run, we made sure to bring our reusable bags with us and headed to the grocery store for a shop having them bag up everything in our own bags. Afterwards, we walked home along the east river and enjoyed the rest of the sunny day. It was a fun day outside where we got to admire mother nature and tried to make a difference where we could. It’s things we try and implement into our daily lives anyways but was a nice reminder to not leave the lights on, not have the tap run unnecessarily, pick up trash whenever you can and be cognizant of your impacts on the environment. 

So, what changes are you going to make in your life? For our environment, for the people who make our clothes, for the companies we invest our money in and for the life we leave behind for future generations. Share some things you already do and what steps you’d like to implement into your lives, we’d love to hear your suggestions! 

*Opening image shot by Leeor Wild for ADAY's new minimal waste campaign 

The Production Process...

We did it!

We finally have some of our own product on the site... Nothing makes us happier than promoting the sustainable and ethical companies we love and trust, but we've always had the itch to create our own stuff and finally we can say we're making strides in the right direction.

The Start...

With the help of online accelerator program Factory45, we were able to seamlessly source materials, factories, suppliers, you name it, with sustainability and ethical production at heart. Shannon Whitehead founder of Factory45, collected everything she learned from starting her own sustainable company and decided to create an online accelerator course to help other passionate entrepreneurs in the eco-friendly world. For anyone with a desire to learn anything pertaining to sustainable production, this course is a gold mine!

We initially had plans to start ODM/ODC with our own line of off-duty model basics, but after some thought, we decided it was a smarter choice to focus on one piece and do it well. Enter the perfect white tee. Our hope is to expand on the wardrobe staple in the future, once we really get the hang of things.  

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The Perfect White Tee

Living in New York City certainly has it benefits, especially for those of us who work in the fashion industry. There are plenty of manufacturing options available, but trying to get your own products or garments made can get a little pricey, especially if you hope to do so in an ethical and sustainable way. That means we had to make a few compromises throughout this whole process, but regardless of that, we promise to continue being open and honest about our methods and practices. That is our main goal. 

If a company produces their clothes overseas but works with a factory that takes care of their workers and ensures proper wages, that's great! We'll promote that kind of work. If they use sustainable materials but may not be fully transparent about their factories, we'll still promote them, but we'll let you know they don't disclose the factories they use.

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When it came to deciding on the production process for our perfect white tee, we knew if if we were going to use cotton, we'd make sure it was organic. And since  organic cotton uses a vast amount of water to produce, we decided it was best to source the  material locally to ensure we weren't using an excess of water in addition to flying the materials overseas  and increasing our carbon footprint. Ethical production was also a big concern, so we chose to use a factory in Brooklyn, giving us the freedom to check in on the production process and meet the people who were making our clothes! By using organic cotton we compromised on water waste but made sure to use a factory that was open with us about their policies.

Surprises along the way...

In addition to chasing the perfect factory, it was important for us to get the fabric right. One thing we learned, though, was that it’s very hard to find a supplier who is open to working with a new company with low production minimums. Luckily, through Factory45, we were able to find a supplier in New York City’s  garment district who had organic cotton sourced locally from Texas. (I will note, however, that when I asked to learn more about the actual cotton farm, the supplier didn’t provide further information. The experience taught me to be more diligent about getting as much information as possible in the future, and I pledge to do that to my best abilities from here on out.)

Eventually, , we were  able to agree on a price that matched our budget and brought our sample yardage into the Brooklyn factory to do a sample T-shirt. Pro: we had this 'test' before we ran full production. Con:  I hated the fabric once I felt it in  t-shirt form.

So... what next?

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Rather than going back to the drawing board and buying more sample fabric, I decided to buy wholesale T-shirts  from Groceries Apparel, a company I already knew and loved. Groceries Apparel will remove their tags and add yours, and the best part about them is the fact they  are extremely transparent about their production process. They have lovely white tees that would rival any of your faves, they’re made with organic cotton and they’re manufactured at their factory in Los Angeles. A perfect match for the ODM/ODC perfect white tee!

We were also able to find a water-based ink printing company locally in Brooklyn along with sustainable fabric for our labels, sourced in Canada.

Sustainable is sexy...

The next phase in completing our perfect white tee was deciding on a design that would both promote the ODM/ODC brand and work as the perfect white tee you could wear with anything. We also wanted it to include a message people would be  proud to wear and support.

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Rather than using  our logo, as we've done in the past with water bottles and reusable straws, we decided to use the slogan "sustainable is sexy.” To us, this takes the "un-cool" out of sustainable clothing and is a catchy slogan that people would be excited to wear. With  our #sustainableissexy campaign, we’re hoping to take the edge off the eco-friendly discussion and  prove to our customers you can dress stylishly, sexily and simply, all with sustainability at heart.
 

With our t-shirts, you don't have to worry whether or not they were made ethically. You don't have to worry if they were made with sustainable materials. We will always be transparent about our practices and how we strive to better our planet. Along with that, we’ll tell you what roadblocks we face along the way and share how  we are constantly learning to be more sustainable and ethical without, of course, compromising on style.

 

Join our movement. Get the perfect white tee that will go with everything, will never go out of style, and is made with integrity, the ODM/ODC way!

#sustainableissexy

*Article edited by Julia Brucculieri of Untangledstories