I have to admit that I am little nervous about publishing this blog, it shines a light on some areas that we need to improve on, but I feel too strongly about it to not share what I have learned, because lets face it the planet is more important than Lucy & Yak. We are not perfect, but we're honest and we're working on it. Only by learning and sharing can we truly change, so here goes....
Ever heard of the Aral Sea? No, me neither. Not until I watched Stacey Dooley's BBC documentary on Fast Fashion. Looks like I might be too late to appreciate the beauty of what was, a spectacular ecosystem. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake in the world, straddling Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. From the grainy 1960's footage shown in the documentary, you can still envisage the crystal blue waters, the flocks of birds swooping and diving to plunder the rich waters full of life.
Full of life. Life everywhere. Now it is a toxic dust bowl bringing illness and poverty to an area once inhabited by a healthy human population. Those left have little work, high rates of tuberculosis and cancer, and many are living in poverty.
How did it happen? Cotton farming. It takes billions of gallons of water to grow and process cotton for the clothing industry. Enough water that the rivers feeding the sea no longer make it that far. All the water is used up and pesticides are added that destroy life without discrimination. And all for the clothing industry. For us. But we didn't know. Well, now we do.
We are waking up to the impact of fast fashion on the environment, the people, the climate. The world. Our world. It doesn't have to be this way but it's easy not to notice when advertising makes us think we have can have something right now that will make us feel good. For today at least. And then we can throw it away. 60% of clothing bought in the UK ends up in the bin before it's lived in our wardrobes for a year. Turns out it didn't fit quite right, wasn't very good quality or wasn't really what we needed after all.
This is the part of the problem we can have an impact on and which will push the clothing companies into making the changes we need to see. Instead of fast fashion, we need quality over quantity. Being thoughtful in our choice of a few key pieces which we then wear and wear, mend and wear again.
The Slow Movement has been described as a cultural revolution, prompted by a rejection of fast food chains and is being applied to just about every aspect of our lives. It can be transformative and it applies to our clothing choices yet. There's still a little bit of the Aral Sea; saved by a dam in the north it is still there. Perhaps the damage can be reversed. This is how we get to find that out.
It can seem pretty gloomy looking at the environmental and human cost of this consumer society we are part of. But being part of it, we also have the opportunity to change it. We can vote with our feet. Stop the demand, change our choices, decide on something else. The first step is to get informed. Be empowered by knowledge.
What we do at Lucy and Yak
I have to be honest, when we started Lucy & Yak it all took off so fast, we had so much work to do that we only really had time to worry about the people and not the fabrics. We knew once the team were all sorted, we could then get to work on our fabrics and the sustainable sides of things.
I didn’t realise just how much water cotton needs. I knew it was a lot, but oh my gosh, I was shocked when I found out exactly how much. After finding this out, I started to do more and more research about fabrics. It turns out hardly any of them are perfect, some worse than others of course.
At Lucy & Yak we use mostly cotton; you will have noticed that about 80% of our products are now organic. This is GOTS certified which means no pesticides are used and water usage is kept as low as possible. However we have already started the ball rolling on other even more sustainable fabrics such as linen, recycled polyester and recycled wool. It takes time to change, but we need to work as fast as we can.
Over the next few blog posts, I'm going to be taking a look at the sustainability of different fabrics. It's fascinating to find out all about what our clothes are made of and which are the better choices to make. I hope you'll enjoy joining me on this journey.
In the meantime, here are some links to some really eye opening documentaries that will inspire and excite you (and possibly make you feel pretty angry too) to want to make some changes:
https://truecostmovie.com/ - a real eye opener, showing the human impact of the clothing industry across the world.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ – the BBC documentary I've described and referred to above. A compelling watch.