Sustainability - Why should we care?


What the term Sustainable actually means and why you should care

For years the backstory of a product was ignored, the process and impact hidden, fast forward to now, where you would be hard pressed to find a new brand that doesn’t talk about where their product comes from, how its made and who makes it.

With more and more responsible shoppers than ever before the words sustainable and sustainability have never been more widely spoken than now.

The drive to do better, make better, build better and buy better isn’t just focused on the biggest spending demographic, it extends now to everyone, with the School Strike for Climate movement* beating records in youth engagement around the climate change topic. Started by the young 16 years old girl Greta Thunberg, it has spread over 2300 schools in 130 countries which show us that sustainability has no limitations in regards to age and is now a concern that is included in our kid’s agenda even in their early ages. As Noga, the UK Student Climate Network, put it “Wouldn’t you go on strike too, if you thought doing so could help protect your own future?”

While sustainability is constantly being spoken about, there is still some confusion regarding what being sustainable really means. In short, sustainability looks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health, while driving innovation and without compromising our way of life.

The famous Sir David Attenborough does not get tired of reminding us that we should care. According to him, we are facing a man-made disaster on a global scale and as scientific research has shown, if we do not take dramatic action in the next decade we will face irreversible damage and the collapse of our societies. The damage he means is the threat of temperatures rising more than 1.5C this century, as a result, agriculture would be compromised and with it, the growing population that needs to feed themselves, carbon dioxide levels will continue to grow and species will continue to become extinct.

Leonardo DiCaprio is another serious advocate to sustainability and his foundation is dedicated to the protection and wellbeing of all Earth's inhabitants, by supporting projects around the world that build climate resilience, protect vulnerable wildlife, and restore balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. In his famous speech in 2014 at the UN Climate Summit, he stresses that we cannot ignore the facts.

We are running out of time but there is still hope.

I hear the word sustainable all the time now in fashion, is it just a buzzword to sell more?

The fact is that the fashion industry has a disastrous impact on the environment, it is the second largest known polluter in the world, falling just short of the oil industry. The list of problems that derive from the industry is long: water pollution, water consumption, microfibers in our ocean, wastes accumulation, chemicals addiction, greenhouse gases emissions, soils degradation, and rain forest destruction.

Here are 7 facts we can´t ignore:

  • Production in the fashion industry causes 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, producing more emissions than all international flights and shipping combined;

  • Every second, one garbage truck full of textiles is burned or sent to landfills and three in five items bought are thrown away within a year;

  • Washing one synthetic garment releases about 2000 plastic microfibers which enter the ocean and the food chain;

  • It takes 2700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That´s what one person drinks in 2,5 years;

  • Making and washing one pair of jeans emits the same CO2 as driving 69 miles;

  • 120 million trees are cut down every year to make clothes and 30% of the rayon and viscose used in fashion comes from endangered and ancient forests;

  • Up to 16% of the world´s pesticides are used in cotton farming every year. The chemicals degrade soil and pollute water as well as poisoning cotton pickers.

Portugal and its main capital Lisbon are a good example of the use of recycled energies. Three months ago, Portugal was honored as "the Best Sustainable Destination" Award in Europe.

Although it is true that sustainability can be used as a mere “marketing” campaign to grab your attention, many brands are truly incorporating it in their mission.

INLU was born with sustainability in its DNA and since day one that has been taken very seriously.

We started with the use of cork, an organic material that can be found in Mediterranean countries like Portugal, Italy, Spain, and Greece. It takes 44 years until you can extract the cork out of the tree and besides being recyclable, it is also a biodegradable material. Additionally, the oak is the tree that absorbs more CO2 and this process continues even after the material has been used in other products.

In our first collection, we collaborated with Plantar uma Árvore, an NGO that helped us by planting a tree for each pair of INLU sold. To help restore trees after 2017's fires, INLU donated the first 50 trees and planted them together with its partner at the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

If I want to buy Sustainable what should I look out for?

With the growing awareness around this topic, there are so many options available if you want to buy sustainable. You can start by following brands that have incorporated the #FASHIONREVOLUTION movement. Created by UK’s Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, 93 countries have embraced it, cherishing craftsmanship and know-how, understanding that stimulating the economic activity and respecting the production timings is mandatory.

Anonymity is not an option anymore. Fairness, safety, and transparency are vital keywords. However, in a world where “secrecy is the soul of the business” (a Portuguese saying), how is the world adapting to this tell-all attitude? It surely depends on the consumer’s want to understand where their product comes from and what they are buying in terms of impact, this transparency has grown from everyday consumers asking the hard questions. Like who makes the clothes and shoes you wear every day,  these questions make big and small brands accountable for all the involved in the process of design to fashion production, marketing and sales.

At INLU, we adopted these ideals long before having the first shoes on our hands. And, as a brand, we feel that we also have a role to play, inviting and inspiring other brands to come aboard this movement. It’s free to join, so if you’re now questioning about who made your mules, T-shirt, trousers, we’re already in it together. Ask the brands directly and tag the question with #whomademyclothes, #whomademyshoes, and #fashionrevolution.

Buying second-hand products is another way to make ensure you diminish your footprint. Farfetch started a pilot project where they sell pre-owned design items at their website. As they claim “There's only one of you — and there are only one of these vintage designs. OK, maybe there's a few — the point is you'll find it hard to get your hands on some of these pieces from the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Versace, and Gucci, anywhere else.”

You can also buy products that are made through the use of recycled materials. The Portuguese MDMA shoe brand instead of creating new materials every season collects discarded clothing and waste materials from factories that produce all sorts of products, from furniture to luggage and incorporates them in their shoe collections.

Some brands are trying to go even further by producing biodegradable items.  A UK Company just made the world´s first 100% biodegradable glitter.

With all these initiatives taking place and influencers adding their role on sustainability activism and slow fashion, bigger and fast fashion brands are being pressured to take action. H&M has been praised lately by being included in the top five groups in the transparency index and Adidas vowed to make 11 Million pairs of shoes using ocean plastic.

This is just the beginning and look how far have we´ve already come. Be part of this journey for a more sustainable future, by making sure you buy ethical and handcrafted products made from sustainable and organic materials.

*The School Strike for Climate is an international movement of school students who are deciding not to attend classes and instead take part in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change.