Finally re-opening the store!

Finally re-opening the store!

If you have been on this site recently,  you may have noticed that the shop page has been unavailable for a little while.  Well, just like most of you, my life has been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.  However, I am very thankful that my health and the health of my loved ones have not been affected. I also have managed to keep my day job, for now anyway, so I am one of the lucky ones, I know it may not have been the case for you, so I would like to acknowledge any suffering that this crisis may have caused to you.  I am also thankful to live in a country that has an excellent health system as it is not the case in other countries.  And of course, thank you to all the dedicated health professionals and support staff that are so essentials.

Some of the things you will find in our shop: reef safe sunscreen, eco-fashion

This post is a bit more personal, but I thought I would share with you what has been happening in the last few months. I started with this business idea a long time ago but did not have the time, money to do much with it.  Very, very slowly it evolved from a blog to a shop last November (2019). I did not have much time to dedicate to it as I was working full time and needed to educate myself about business (that is still ongoing). Nevertheless, I was very proud of my achievements.  But then,  all that came to an abrupt end in March. Like most Australians, I went into lockdown. Unfortunately, that meant that I was away from my shop items in order to be close to my loved ones.  I was working from home with my day job and wondering if this was ever going to end. Well, it still has not ended but I would say that things are on the up-trend. Queensland has re-opened its borders and interstate visitors are slowly coming back. Albeit, some delays for Victoria.  So, great to see that despite everything, Australians have not lost their taste for travel. International travel is off the table for now but with such a blessed country, there is so much to see! 

I also sincerely hope that one of the things that will change is that we will travel more sustainably and ethically.  Because our health is intrinsically related to the health of the planet we inhabit, it would be a natural progression.  If you are ready to make a bit of a difference,  I invite you to come and visit our website, we have some great blog articles to help you make better choices and contribute to our collective wellbeing.  Shortly, there will be some more information about how to travel more sustainably in North Queensland.  So stay tuned for more info on this. 

But today, I really wanted to tell you that I am really excited about announcing that I will be re-opening the ‘’shop’’ section of the website on the 1st of August 2020. You will find there, eco-friendly fashion and travel essentials. Helping the planet by packing eco-friendly has never been more fun! Have a browse here….. and thanks for your patience during these unprecedented times!  See you soon and until next time, travel safely and sustainably!

Cheers,

Julie

Fashion and petrol: a love story – concluding remarks

Fashion and petrol: a love story – concluding remarks
Warning:  If you find that this article is little too long or just want to see the videos , feel free to register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol. Otherwise, enjoy the article below ! 

In the past few weeks, we have learned that petrol and fashion go hand in hand with each other. From man made textiles such as polyester and rayon which are directly derived from hydrocarbons, to pesticide and fertilisers used to grow cotton, to petrol based dyes and transport. We cannot seem to escape the black gold. 

The use of petroleum derived products has several effects on our planet. First up, is climate change. By burning fossil fuels we increase greenhouse gases emissions and contribute to rising sea levels, biodiversity destruction such as coral bleaching, more severe weather events like cyclones.

Secondly, there is also plastic pollution. Plastic is derived from hydrocarbons and has invaded our daily lives. From single use plastic bags to toothbrushes, it seems we cannot live without it. The problem with plastic is that it breaks down in fine and invisible grains but never really goes away. It is plaguing our oceans and affecting wildlife. It can be found throughout the food chain from fishes to bears.

Third up, for the communities producing the goods we love to buy at the shops, there is a risk that water and air become contaminated, increasing the risk of diseases.

The question is, as a consumer, what can I do.   Of course, there are no perfect situations and, as much as we want to put our heads in the sand, we, as consumers do have a massive impact on the planet and our fellow animal species. But that also means that we can have a positive impact and be agents of change in our communities. Fashion is big business and we are part of it.  Remember when everything went directly to the garbage bin?  Now, it is mainstream to put things in the recycle bin. Things do change.  They can change. But we need to make a little effort by making better choices.  The size of our addiction to petrol can be overwhelming, but we can start with something simple.

Next time we need to pack up our suitcase and need to do some shopping before travelling, let’s stop, think and make a better choice. Tackling what is in our suitcase is less intimidating than what is in our wardrobe, so why not stop, think and make a better choice before buying something new to put in the suitcase.

Reducing our petrol addiction starts with small steps. Let’s not throw everything we own to start afresh. Let’s wear what we have for as long as possible and repurpose it.

Next time we need something, let’s start by avoiding polyester and the like.  Because life is about getting better, not about stressing out to be perfect, I invite you to come with me on a journey.  Come along and discover……

Cheers,

 

Julie

Fashion and petrol: a love story – A rainbow of dyes from a crude oil barrel

Fashion and petrol: a love story – A rainbow of dyes from a crude oil barrel
Warning:  If you find that this article is little too long or just want to see the videos , feel free to register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol. Otherwise, enjoy the article below ! 

So far, we have seen how hydrocarbons sneak in when textile is made. However, we are far from reaching the stage where clothes are proudly displayed in a window shop and we have already made an extensive use of the black gold. From making petroleum derived textiles like polyester to pesticides and fertilisers to grow cotton, the petrol bowser is flowing.  But now, fast forward to the next step in the sexy “supply chain” of garment making: dyes.

Pre-treatment and dyes

An other way in which the garment label keeps the consumer in the dark is the absence of details about the dying process. Unless the garment brand really wants to let you know that it’s using an alternative dyeing process, you could be led to believe that cotton just grows in various hues…..  of course, it’s not.  The shocking thing is that here too… you can find abundant traces of hydrocarbon derived products.

Beautiful hues of blues, yellows and red have long lost their connection with nature and these days, the vast majority of dyes are derived from tar-petroleum products.

There are a phenomenal amounts of dyes out there, each one has a specific composition and particular use. Some are more suited to celluloid (plant based, like cotton), others to protein textiles ( from animal source, like wool) and others for synthetic textiles like polyester. The process by which textile is impregnated with colour also varies. From the temperature, amount of water, solvent, pre-treatment and post-treatment the process is variable. From a bleach before starting the process to finishing where the product is treated so that colours won’t fade and leach in the washing machine.

Those processes, including the formal dyeing stage, involve a staggering number of chemicals in a what sounds like a toxic potion. Acetamide, benzene, trichlorobezene, Etylene…. Mixes typically include, water, solvent, emulsifier, Tickner, white spirit, catalyst, binder and pigment dispertion agent. All of which, except water, can be derived from petroleum products.   The list is long and scary.

These days, dyes have evolved quite a lot in terms of human toxicity for the end user (the consumer) but there are still derived from petroleum or coal tar. Toxicity though is still an issue for the communities living and working in and around dyeing houses. Chemical leaching in water, air  and soil is a major issue. This is especially true as the majority of dyeing houses are located in developing countries where waste disposal and wastewater treatment is either subject to little or no standards. That is, if standards are enforced.

One of the clear problems with dying houses is that they are heavy water users which can create water allocation issues for nearby other uses. Conflicts between agriculture and the textile industry are common in developing countries. In addition, the lack of effluent treatment and appropriate waste management can create serious health issues as well contaminating the natural habitat.  

Dyes are clearly involved in our petroleum dependency, yet, unless you really start researching the issue, there is no easy way to find out about the dyeing process clothes undergo.  Unlike synthetic textiles, which have to be identified on the garment tag, there is no easy way to identify what was used and certainly no way of finding how it was done. Furthermore, it is not because the textile is of an eco-friendly type (like organic cotton) that the dyes used are any better than common practices.

One would think that the natural dyes would be the solution, however, this is not that simple. Natural dyes often need more mordant and more water. Mordant, although not necessarily a  derivative of petroleum contain nasties such as chromium and copper. Furthermore, natural dyes are agricultural products (such as tumeric, tea and natural indigo) which can be hard to scale at an industrial level and where unsustainable agricultural practices can create additional problems.

Still a lot of work needs to be done to break the dependency on petroleum derived products in this area. The efficiency of natural dyes, non -toxic mordant still needs to be worked on as very few manufacturers appear to have developed such dyes. 

In the meantime, innovations on the dyeing process by which water can be treated and re-used or even not needed (closed loop system)  was developed to reduce the impact of pollutants in the surrounding. Have a look at some examples here and here.

The use of low-impact dyes which focus on the impact of dyes, but are still petroleum derivatives, lessen water use and the need for pre and post dyeing chemical treatment.

If you are interested in reading about the complicated world of dyeing, I would suggest reading this article.

There is a lot of ugly in the world of dyeing, high use of petroleum based product, high use of toxic chemical released in the environment, negative impact on health and safety for workers and surrounding population.  The question is how, as a consumer can we make better choices.

As the garment tag will not likely tell you anything about how the textile was dyed, the consumer is left with third party certification parties to help them choose. Several third party certification processes exists and the most relevant relating to dyes are as follows:

 Bluesign

Bluesign is a third party certification system that ensures that chemicals and raw materials are safe and take into consideration consumer safety, water and air emission occupational health and safety of workers and ensures that resources are best used to limit impacts.  Unsure if they have any “natural” dyes on their approved list of suppliers considering that those dyes can also be toxic, can use lots of water and are not very scalable. That leaves us with low-impact dyes which although petroleum derived, have a lesser impact on the environment that traditional ones.

Oeko-tex standard 100

Okeo-tex Standard 100 will test textiles (from yarns to finish products)to make sure there are no nasties in them. Many unsafe chemicals can be detected at the final stage of manufacturing through laboratory testing. It does not, however, ensures that clothes are made with organic components such as organic cotton and natural dyes. It does not either look at the way the clothes were made. For example, how much untreated water was released in the environment. An other standard, the Okeo-tex Green will have a look at those.

The made in green label is also lab tested for any nasties but in addition, adherence to sustainable practices must be demonstrated. With do’s and don’t practices that needs to be verified.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

An other third party certification is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). We have come across this one before as it is also relevant to organic farming and covers the entire supply chain.

It includes ecological and social criteria. From the farm to processing, manufacturing and distribution. The Standard cover things such as fair wages and environmentally friendly dyes.

Dyes are probably one the areas of clothing manufacturing that is the most damaging for the environment and where alternatives to hydrocarbon based products are a rare find. Lots of work needs to be done in that field. The main challenge is scalability of natural dyes. There is hope though, for example, Sodhani Biotique, has developed GOTS certified natural dyes that can be used as alternatives to hydrocarbon products.  As consumers, finding low impact dyes is a challenge in itself so  finding products that uses natural dyes that respect sustainable practices is an added bonus. 

So, as consumers, lets cheers for those who do and put our money where our mouth is by asking for low impact and natural dyes.

Next time you pack up your suitcase and need to do some shopping before you travel, stop, think and make a better choice.

Until then… go on…. Come with us and explore the world.

 

Cheers,

Julie

Fashion and petrol: a love story – Agriculture – How much petrol do you need to grow cotton?

Fashion and petrol: a love story – Agriculture – How much petrol do you need to grow cotton?
Warning:  If you find that this article is little too long or just want to see the videos , feel free to register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol. Otherwise, enjoy the article below ! 

Our dependency on petroleum products is a well-known ill but less is known about the extent at which it has invaded so many aspects of our lives including our wardrobe. Incredibly, most of the items in our closet are somehow related to the black gold. 

Leaving the petroleum derived textile like polyester and spandex (See previous blog entry) , we are left with products issued from the agricultural industry; the “natural fibres”.  As plants or wool, one would think that they are totally natural. Well, technically they are; However, the mean by which they are obtained can be far from natural. Agriculture has evolved to become an industrial process which relies heavily on the petrochemical industry.

There are lots of products issued from agriculture and husbandry in the fashion industry. Those include cotton, linen, bamboo, wool, leather and others. For example, let’s take cotton which is the most important crop for the fashion industry. There are approximately 29 million of ton of cotton produced every year. According to  World Count, that would be 29 tee shirts a year per person on earth. That is a lot of t-shirts!

But how cotton production is reliant on petrol?

There is of course petrol use for mechanical purposes such as tractors, irrigation pumps, planes to spray pesticides and machinery to spread fertilisers but less obvious and more worryingly is that a large number of fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and pesticides are derived from hydrocarbons.

In order to boost the agricultural production of land to an industrial scale, organic sources such as manure were abandoned in favour of petroleum derived fertilisers. This process started as early as the 19th century and was seen as a positive step to increase crop yield to allow more people to be fed. At the time, this supported an important population growth and the industrialisation of cities, particularly in England.

Today, cotton is a chemically intensive crop. It uses pesticides against all sorts of pests such as fungi, mites, and rodents. Insecticides are a type of pesticides used to fight against one of the 100 types of bugs that could affect cotton crop.

Herbicides to fight weeds and fertilisers to stimulate plant growth are added. Finally, specific to cotton, is the use of defoliants which is a harsh chemical used to kill the leaves just before picking to facilitate mechanical harvesting.

There are two major pests that affect cotton crops, at least in Australia. Those are two types of moths (Helicoverpa armigera and H. punctigera.)

Those used to be controlled with heavy uses of pesticides until the genetically modified cotton called BT Cotton appeared. This type of cotton has a “built in” toxin taken from a bacteria that repels the moths. Cotton Australia tells us on their website that there has be a significant reduction in pesticide use following the introduction of BT Cotton. However, the problem now is that the other insects which used to be controlled via the pesticides used to control those two moths are free to wreak havoc on the cotton crops so that genetically modified cotton still needs pesticides.

Pest resistance to BT Cotton insecticides is increasingly common and more targeted and strong pesticides need to be developed.

Hydrocarbon derived pesticides are often dispersed on cotton crop via air spray. That means that a small plane will spray from the skies a chemical cocktail. This method of dispersion is subject to the wind and can hit nearby water sources or contaminate other crops.  It has been found that bees are particularly susceptible to insecticides used on bt cotton which is dispersed via air sprayed.

How pesticides are derived from petroleum?

Pesticides, as we know them today were originally developed by a swiss chemist by the name of Muller in 1939 and industrial production began in the 1940’s. DDT which is derived from hydrocarbons was officially born and mostly used against insects carrying malaria and other insect transmitting diseases. It was  widely used in ww2 to protect soldiers against diseases.

The agricultural uses of DDT  started after the war but eventually, the darker side of DDT was uncovered. It was actually found that the DDT stays in the environment for a long time and can cause cancer. Today it is banned in most countries.

Although ddt is not permitted in Australia, North America or EU, and controls are in place in regards to the toxicity of pesticides in the developed world, most of the clothes we wear are unlikely to come from countries were there is little regulations. In fact, more than 90% of cotton produced worldwide come from developing countries where there is little control of pesticides. It was estimated that 1 million of farmers necessitate hospitalisation every year due to acute pesticide poisoning. http://www.better-dressed.com/deadly-chemicals-in-cotton.pdf . The low level of literacy results in farmers not reading warnings. The unavailability or cost prohibitive protective equipment, is also a problem in the developed world. Children are even more vulnerable to the toxic effect of pesticides and are also the victims of cotton farming in developing countries where child labour is common. https://campaign.worldvision.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Forced-and-child-labour-in-the-cotton-industry-fact-sheet.pdf

But here is the thing, even if the cotton comes from Australia, North America or EU, most of the pesticides come from the petroleum industry which, if we put aside for a minute the debate about toxicity (and I am not saying that this not a necessary debate), the matter of the fact is that we are dependent on non-renewables that contribute to climate change for protecting our crops.

Now pesticides are not the only hidden petroleum product used in agriculture. Fertilizers are also an important part of  agriculture and you guested it, they are derived from hydrocarbons. With all the home grown food movement and week-end gardeners doing their compost and using manure, one would think that this is how soil fertility improvement is generally done even at a larger scale.  But no, it is not true. Agriculture is done at an industrial scale and uses an industrial process. Hydrocarbons are again the solution.  For example, nitrogen which is commonly used for all sorts of crops, has been issued from natural gas since early 20th century.

Here is another nerdy bit.

(Don’t feel like reading – have a look at the video)

The Haber process uses methane from natural gas. Methane reacts with steam and produces hydrogene and carbon monoxide. Only the hydrogene is taken out of this process and mixed with oxygene to produce nitrogene. The nitrogene is then cooked up with hydrogene and iron at 400 degrees Celsius and subjected to 200 atmoshpere (equivalent as if you would be under 2 km of water). Now, that is far from a natural process….The end result is ammonia being the active component of nitrogene fertilizer used to grow almost anything agricultural from your carrots to cotton.

End of nerdy bit.

So, no matter where we look, there seems to always be a trace of hydrocarbon somewhere. From textile directly derived from petroleum products like polyester to natural fibres, we cannot seem to escape it.

Even if we buy natural fibres for our clothes such as cotton and avoid polyesters and the like, we are still using a fair amount of petroleum without really knowing about it.

Haaaaa! We can’t escape it ! ( panic moment. Stop. Take a deep breath or two. Ok let’s think about it.)

Although this sounds depressing,  let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and see what we can do…. And the good new is yes, we can do something.

When we talk about natural fibres in clothes, organic is the way to go. Organic fibres, do not use hydrocarbon derived pesticides and fertilizers which significantly cut the use of hydrocarbons.

But how do you know if cotton is organic. Of course, you can grow it yourself if you really want to but personally not my first choice. There are a few accreditations that will ensure that high standards are maintained. Generally speaking, if it is not written “organic” on the tag, it is because it is not…. Here are a few certification systems that can be helpful to recognise.

In Australia, organic certification is performed by several organisations that are accredited by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) under the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. At the time of writing there are six accredited organisation. They certify, a vast variety of products from grapes to make wine to cattle. Some go beyond the farm itself and into the transformation of products.

I have not come across organically certified Australian cotton. However, this does not mean that it does not exist. Cotton Australia tells us that that there was a small trial made some years ago but that it was not economically viable to continue production.

Most of the organic cotton, just like regular cotton, is grown elsewhere and international certification can be obtained. The European Union, India,  the United States and Japan also have organic standards. The scope of those standards varies but they are mostly concerned about what happens on the farm. Most of them do not go further than the ginning stage which is where the seed is separated from the lint (the fluffy cotton ball stuff)– still far away in the process from the skirt hanging in the shop.

There are also two worldwide certifications, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Organic Content Standards (OCS) are the go to certification authorities.

OCS certification ensures that the presence and amount of Organic Material in a final product is documented through the supply chain but does not include processing methods such as textile dyeing. It traces the percentage of organic content in a garment.

 

 

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. From the farm to processing, manufacturing and distribution. The Standard cover things such as fair wages and environmentally friendly dyes.

So there is hope!  By buying organic, you can avoid the hidden hydrocarbon culprit in fertilisers and pesticides right at the farm. In addition to reduce dependency on hydrocarbons, organic farming has several other benefits. If you are interested in learning about organic crop for textile, I would suggest the following pages:

http://aboutorganiccotton.org/

https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-cotton-clothing.html

https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/fashion-textiles/organic-cotton/

Until then… go on…. Come with us and explore the world.  And see if you can add organic textiles to your suitcase

Cheers,

Julie

Where do clothes come from – tackling the discomfort.

Logo

Drum rolling….. First blog post! Feeling excited and yet full of doubts….. How will this new project of mine be received? Once again, looks like I am overthinking and if you are anything like me, that means ‘’overwhelm’’ is right around the corner.

Few big breaths later…. I am thinking about why I do this.  All too often, in this overly complex world, we need to stop and break things down so they become more manageable. My intention is to grab what is troubling me about what we wear, what I wear, and find ways to be a better person on this planet. Considering I am anything but an example to follow, I am proposing to tackle my discomfort in relation to how clothes are made.

In recent years, there has been an interest in where our food comes from. We have seen an interest in how our food is made. With the resurgence of the backyard veggie patch, an interest for the ‘’farm to plate’’ movement and organic food entering the main food supermarket chains, lots of progress has been made. Granted, there is still a lot to do but ‘’where does my food come from?’’ has become a socially legitimate question asked by consumers. One just has to look at the number of TV shows on the subject to see that it has now become a topic of interest.

I had been wondering why ‘’where does my shirt come from?’’ is a bit more of an uncommon and obscure question. After all, in both cases, agriculture and animal husbandry are heavily involved in the process. Just think about cotton and leather. Long-distance transport and its heavy carbon footprint implications is just as important for clothes as it is for food. Of course, extensive waste is another parallel to be made between food and clothes.   Lastly, but not least, the producers’ living conditions is ‘’question worthy’’ in both cases.

This blog is about where the discomfort comes from, exploring how the world is interconnected and making little steps to improve things. How we consume clothes have impacts for us and for others and the little steps we can take to improve things.

The angle I have chosen to approach this topic is through travels as I feel that tackling what is in your suitcase is less intimating than a whole wardrobe….. Plus travelling is associated with new discoveries and time out our daily routine which is an ideal time to change our habits.  

To see how our interconnectedness plays out, there is nothing like observing the world we live in. Because life is about exploring both our inner and external worlds, I invite you to come with me on a journey.  Come along and discover……

 

Hope you enjoy.