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By Hana G.

Fashion has a major impact on the environment. Each year, the United States, alone, sends about 21 billion pounds of textile waste to landfills. Most clothing is made of materials and chemicals derived from fossil fuel-based crude oil. This means that it’s nearly impossible for clothing to decompose. If burned, the materials that make up clothing release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. When clothes are buried with other waste in landfills, moisture and heat can cause them to emit greenhouse gases such as methane. And, there’s also the environmental impact of items such as buttons, zippers, and studs to consider. There are ways that you can combat fashion’s impact on the environment by doing your part to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

Consider the five steps below as your guide to a more sustainable way of style:

  1. Educate yourself

 First and foremost, taking the time to educate yourself is a fool-proof way to discover sustainable style options. Do your part to research brands that offer eco-friendly apparel as well as companies that strive to minimize the waste they generate from their products. Take note of which fashion lines use only organic, vegan fabric options.

There are also several companies that make it a point to produce smaller amounts of clothing each season to avoid the harmful repercussions of fast fashion. The next time you’re shopping in-store and looking for more information on eco-friendly policies, ask an employee about their stance on sustainability. In addition, most fashion retailers who value sustainability have a section on their website.

  1. Buy for longevity

A great way to get more wear out of your clothes, thus increasing their sustainability, is by buying for longevity. While you might be tempted to browse the sale racks and find five-dollar sweaters for this season, if the prices are too good to be true, there’s usually a reason. In most cases, a lower price point also means lower quality.

Instead of spending money on items you’ll only be able to wear a few times, try increasing the longevity of your wardrobe by spending a bit more on pieces you can wear in years to come. If you keep in mind the closet life of your clothing purchases, you’ll have fewer items that end up in landfills – and you’ll establish staple pieces of your style to keep around for a while.

  1. Buy secondhand

Shopping secondhand is a great way to shop sustainably. Purchasing pre-owned items from thrift stores is the perfect way to shop for what you need and put our planet first. Whether you’re looking for vintage decor for your new apartment or you’re hoping to spice up your style with some eclectic clothing, most local thrift stores have what you need if you’re willing to look for it.

There are also online thrifting options – such as thredUP – that allow you to browse used, name brands from the comfort of your own home. If your taste tends to be on the fancier side, you can find your favorite name brands like Coach for less by looking online instead of in-store.

  1. Restyle your wardrobe

Developing a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase all new clothes. Try optimizing your current clothing options by restyling what you already have. Spend a day clearing out every item in your closet, and have some fun putting together new looks you’ve never tried before.

The more use you can get out of what you already have, the more sustainable your wardrobe will be. Whether you decide to turn some of your T-shirts into trendier crop tops, or you fashion some rips into an older pair of jeans, try some DIY to keep your old clothes up to date. This will allow you to get as much use as possible out of all of your current clothes.

  1. Buy from local vendors

You know those cute boutiques you always pass by but never take the time to browse? It might be time to start shopping locally. Most local vendors source their materials within 60 miles, which minimizes the amount of gas used to transport their products – and their carbon footprint.

Buying from local vendors is also a great opportunity to take the time to find out if they value sustainability. While you might be spending a little more than you’re used to on your style, you’ll also be investing in a great cause by buying local.

Hana G. is a creative content creator who values both style and sustainability.

 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DC Ecowomen help collect 6,365 pounds of trash

By Meagan Knowlton

It only takes five second to produce a plastic spoon. It takes 500 years for that spoon to break down.

That disparity is one of the many reasons we all need to take action to reduce the impact of our waste on the environment. One way to do that is to clean up trash already littering our natural spaces.

I recently attended the International Coastal Cleanup day hosted by the Ocean Conservancy (OC) at Kingman Island here in D.C. – a man-made island in the Anacostia River filled with early fall greenery and chirping insects.

I met up with two other women working in environmental jobs here in D.C. After enjoying catching up and finding delicious cold brew, we heard from several speakers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and OC, as well as the ambassador from the European Union, who talked about how important it is to keep our oceans and waterways healthy and trash-free.

The crowd of volunteers ready to scour Kingman Island for trash.

A beautiful day for cleaning up trash along the Anacostia River.

After the welcoming speeches, we got to work but first we had to find a good spot to find trash. The popular areas of the island were already very clean– the Living Classrooms Foundation, which manages the island, does a great job keeping the trails free of trash. However, when we passed below overpasses and bridges, we found cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and beverage bottles, which, according to NOAA, commonly end up in our oceans.

Volunteers pick up trash below a bridge on Kingman Island.

Finding trash treasure troves required digging into the marshy areas of Kingman Island. Once we crawled under cattails and other tall vegetation, we found great piles of trash — most of it plastic, particularly plastic bottles of all kinds, and sports balls. The three of us ended up with two soccer balls, one basketball, one tennis ball, and one football. For all the times you lost a ball as a kid and wondered where it went, we found your answer: It went downhill until it reached your local waterway.

We aren’t afraid to get a little muddy in the name of cleaning up our waterways!

At the end of the day, OC tallied up our total results and announced that 1,153 volunteers had collected 6,365 pounds of trash. We were proud that we beat last year’s haul of 5,000 pounds of trash!

Learn more about ocean trash, current efforts to solve the crisis, and what you can do to help here.

Meagan Knowlton manages sustainability programs at Optoro, a technology company that helps retail be more sustainable by eliminating waste from returns. Prior to Optoro, Meagan was a corporate sustainability manager in the Coca-Cola bottling system. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Tulane University. In her free time, Meagan can be found baking pie, escaping to the mountains, or exploring yoga studios in D.C.

 

 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

As the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit gets underway today in New York, DC EcoWomen asked UN Women  to send us their thoughts about why it’s important to integrate gender equality into the fight against climate change. The following blog post by Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, and Anita Bhatia, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships, talks about the challenges and opportunities women and girls face because of climate change – and introduces a gender equality initiative that will be unveiled at Monday’s summit.

Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

By Ulrika Modéer and Anita Bhatia

Photo: UN Women/Bundit Chotsuwan

Climate change is already altering the face of our planet. Research shows that we need to put all our efforts over the coming decade to limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the catastrophic risks posed by increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.

But our actions will not be effective if they do not include measures to ensure social justice, equality and a gender perspective. So, how do we integrate gender equality in climate change actions?

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on women

Climate change affects women and girls disproportionately due to existing gender inequalities. It also threatens to undermine socio-economic gains made over previous decades. With limited or no access to land and other resources including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer more in the aftermath of natural disasters and bear increased burdens in domestic and care work.

Droughts, floods and deforestation all impact duties typically carried out by women and girls – such as water, firewood and fodder collection. These duties take more time or are thwarted in the face of these climate disasters, causing them to take up time that could have been used for education or leisure. For example, women and children accounted for more than 96% of those impacted by the flash floods in Solomon Islands in 2014 and in Myanmar, women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Despite challenges, women play a key role in climate-related sectors

Women and girls also remain marginalized in decision-making spheres — from the community level to parliaments to international climate negotiations. Global climate finance for mitigation and adaptation programs remain out of reach for women and girls because of their lack of knowledge and capacity to tap into these resources.

Despite these challenges, women and girls play a critical role in key climate-related sectors and have developed adaptation and resilience-building strategies and mitigation techniques. Women and girls are driving the demand for renewable energy at the household and community levels for lighting, cooking and productive use solutions that the international community must now support. Women are holders of traditional farming methods, first responders in crises situations, founders of cooperatives, entrepreneurs of green energy, scientists and inventors, and decision-makers with respect to the use of natural resources.

Women comprise an average of 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and manage 90% of all household water and fuel-wood needs in Africa. Some studies have shown that if women were afforded equal access to productive resources as men, their agricultural outputs would exceed men’s by 7-23%. It is therefore imperative to embrace and scale-up the initiatives of the 51% of the world’s population.

Women and girls lead in mitigation efforts

In recent times, women and girls have used their knowledge and experience to lead in mitigation efforts. From developing apps to track and reduce the carbon emitted as a result of individual consumption, to reducing food waste by connecting neighbors, cafes, and local shops to share leftover and unsold food. Young women scientists, like South-African teenager Kiara Nirghin, are making a difference in the fight against climate change. They are building on the legacies of women and girls such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who empowered communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way.

At the same time, UNDP and UN Women have been collaborating to advance gender equality and women’s leadership on climate change. For example, in Ecuador, the two UN agencies have teamed up with the government to support the inclusion of gender in the country’s climate action plans. UNDP and UN Women have also collaborated globally to ensure that gender remains a key factor when world leaders make critical decisions on climate change.

Engaging women will help limit warming

If policies and projects consider women’s particular roles, needs and contributions to climate action and support women’s empowerment, there will be a greater possibility to limit warming to 1.5°C in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must continue to engage women and women’s organizations, learning from their experiences on the ground to build the evidence for good practices and help replicate more inclusive climate actions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, September 23 is a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change.

Gender equality initiative to be presented at UN Climate Action Summit

At the Summit, there will be several initiatives put forth to address climate change, including one focusing on gender equality. The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective. It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals.

For climate action to get more traction and be effective, we need a critical mass of governments and other stakeholders to sign on to the Climate Action Summit’s gender-specific initiative. The world cannot afford to keep limiting the potential of women and girls in shaping climate actions, as all evidence points towards the benefits of their involvement.

There is already interest by United Nations member states, as shown by the increased integration of gender considerations in their national climate plans, but a broader movement is needed. We need multi-stakeholder partnerships and to engage a critical mass of supporters – governments, UN entities, financial mechanisms, and civil society organizations to support the gender-specific initiative of the SG’s Climate Action Summit.

The time for gender-responsive climate action is now.