Ecotourism has changed. What does it mean for you and me?


************ Don’t feel like reading? Check out the Youtube Video here instead *********************

From ecotourism to sustainable tourism and towards destination stewardship. What is eco-travelling and what does it mean for Australia

We are really blessed here in Australia. We have so many wonders, sometimes we go straight past them and do not notice them.  Other times, they are so big, it is hard to understand them in their entireties. 

Great Barrier Reef

That big Kauri tree pine that you passed by without too much thought is classified as a near-threatened species. Do you know why?  Alternatively, some wonders like the Great Barrier Reef are so big that they can be seen from space, yet, comprehending its size by looking at the horizon is near impossible.

Jane Goodall famously said, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”

― Jane Goodall, Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe

I think that is probably on this premise that eco-tourism was born from.  Ecotourism was first coined in the 1980s and referred to visiting exotic and rare environments without causing too much harm.  It has since been an evolving concept supported by a myriad of certifications. 

Crucial in the evolution of eco-tourism are the concepts of sustainability and the impact of climate change.  Nowadays, it is not so much about the exotic environment but rather about the impacts of tourism and the stewardship of a destination. 

Sustainability explained
Sustainability development concept

Let’s first talk about the sustainability concept. Officially first defined in 1983 in the final report of the Brundtland Commission.  It was defined as “ development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  Sustainability was intended to reconcile the ecological,  social and economic dimensions of life.  From limiting causing harm to the environment to being considerate to local communities, being socially responsible the eco-tourism took a more holistic approach.  The term sustainable tourism started to pop up here and there to show this expanded consideration.

These days, not compromising the needs of the future encompass consideration about climate change.  Climate change is in fact central to the present and future challenges of tourism and eco-tourism. On the one hand, the co2 emitted by planes and transport contribute to the rising of the temperature and on the other hand, climate change, for example in the form of sea-level rise and increased number of heat waves affect the places we travel to.  It is really a two-way street and we get what we put in.  Now, one thing we can learn about eco-tourism and sustainability is that purely focusing on preserving the environment will not work.  Other dimensions of human life such as social and economic need to be considered.

Green certified quality vector emblem isolated on white background

Enters destination stewardship or how to take care of a destination as a whole.  It changes the focus from the operator or the hotelier to consider the destination as a whole. It allows focusing on climate change mitigation solutions for the whole of the tourism sector in a region.  For example, the Whitsundays region has embarked on a project to decarbonise the tourism industry in the region and gain eco-destination accreditation.  This will also include considering social and economic dimensions in achieving destination certification.

So let’s go back to us, avid travellers and experience seekers.  What can we do to encourage a better way of enjoying the world we live in that is positive for future generations and that considers social and economic aspects of tourism.   For example, we can consider where we travel,  how we get there and favour eco-accredited destinations and operators.  If you are interested in learning how to travel to Far North Queensland,  check out my guide to travelling more sustainably. The guide is free and includes two, seven days itineraries ideas.

Hope you enjoy!

Until next time, travel with the planet in mind.  Stay safe and leave only footprints.



Bushwalking with a View – Hamilton Island – Whitsundays

Hamilton Island Bushwalking

******* Don’t feel like reading? Check out the Youtube video here ***********

Hamilton Island is well known for its beaches, marina, restaurants and bars but did you know that there are a number of bushwalking trails that will get you to peaceful coves, deserted beaches and stunning viewpoints. This is the perfect experience to reconnect with nature and make you feel like you are a castaway on a deserted island.  All this, not far from the resort area. 

Hamilton Island map
Hamilton Island bushwalking trail map

In fact, about half of Hamilton Island is not developed and there is plenty of space to get away from everything.  If you plan a trip to Hamilton Island, do not forget to bring your bushwalking shoes! 

The first hike that you might consider is Passage Peak which is the highest point on the Island. The view is fantastic, but it will get your heart pumping.   This is most definitively the best sunrise spot.  You will need to check the weather the day before for a clear day and start the trail when it is still dark. If this is what you intend on doing, do not forget your water bottle and your camera! 

Hamilton Island view

If you are up for a longer stroll, do the loop at the back of the island.  This will take you to South East Head where you will find probably one of the most Instagram ready spots on the island.  The vegetation changes and becomes a bit more arid, this area gets blown by heavy winds and salted by sea fog.  No tick forest here but rather low vegetation which enables uninterrupted sea and island views.  As you may know, the Whitsundays is blessed with 74 islands, and you can see a few from there.  Pentecost Island was named by Captain Cook when he travelled in the area on the Endeavour. Also observable in the distance are the Linderman Islands group. 

Less of a steep hill but still a healthy heart-pumping activity, take a right at Saddle Junction and head for Coral Cove or Escape Beach.  Bring a pick nick and enjoy the secluded beaches all to yourself. Spend the afternoon splashing around, try the big swing and relax.

The loop will also bring you to the big chair, where you can be the king of the hill for a moment and admire the Whitsunday kingdom for an instant. Bring your imaginary crown and you will feel like the middle kingdom is all yours.  The steep hills may bring you out your dream but worth the snaps.

If you decide to partake in any of those wonderful bushwalks, don’t forget to wear appropriate footwear, fill up your refillable water bottle, and wear reef-safe sunscreen if you are going to go for a dip in one of the secluded beaches.  Don’t forget to leave only footsteps and take only photographs.

So, there it is, just one more good reason to plan a trip to Hamilton Island. I hope to see you soon in the Whitsundays.  Until next time, travel safe and give a little bit of love to our planet. 

For cool travel eco-friendly fashion and accessories don’t forget to check out our shop here. Hope you like it.

See you next time,

Three simple tips to reduce your carbon footprint when travelling

Travel tips to reduce your carbon footprint

***** Don’t feel like reading, check out the video here *****

Have been bitten by the travel bug again? Your itchy feet have got enough of those four walls? Well, that is understandable. Last year was a serious damper on travel plans. 

There is just one little thing though: what about my carbon footprint? It is a well-known fact that travel increases our carbon emissions. Transport and just generally changing our routine will have an impact on our emissions. Now, travelling is part of the human experience, open our minds and makes life so much more enjoyable. How does one reconcile carbon emissions and travels? Well, I thought I might suggest three very simple tips that can help to make things a bit more digestible to this inner conflict between travelling and our desire to help the planet. 

I think that using those three principles when planning for your next adventure can considerably help with reducing your carbon footprint. Firstly, consider your transport. We all know that the biggest problem when travelling is transport. In fact, it will likely account for the biggest part of your emissions. Here is something to consider: did you know that when doing short distances, it is better to take the car than the plane? This is because a plane’s emissions are at their highest during lift-off and landing. 

As the trip length increases, the average carbon emissions will decrease with time. If you want to compare modes of transport, you can see which one is better. This calculator can help you compare your options. You can check what is the difference between taking a plane or taking a car. I think the most important is to compare and then make an informed choice.

The second tip is all about your accommodation. Did you know that hotels are big carbon emitters? Air conditioning, waste disposal and laundry are all normal hotel activities contributing to carbon emissions. So, when planning your next trip, consider checking if the hotel has a plan to reduce its emissions. Perhaps, consider looking for an eco-friendly accredited accommodation and try to choose wisely.  

Should I take the car or the plane?

Last, but not least, is packing your suitcase. Simple things like bringing a reusable shopping bag and coffee cup can go a long way. Using products that are not costing the earth and have a low carbon footprint is a better alternative. Did you know that plastic comes from hydrocarbons ( same as the petrol that we put in our car)? Extracting hydrocarbons and transforming them contributes to increased carbon emissions worldwide. So, if you need some inspiration as to what to put in your suitcase, check out our shop where you will find sustainable fashion and travel accessories.

I hope that those tips will help you to reduce your carbon footprint next time you plan a trip. And don’t forget, it is all about the small steps! Reducing your carbon footprint does not have to be complicated! And, most of all, enjoy discovering our beautiful planet!

Until next time, travel safe !



News from the Great Barrier Reef. The Good, the Bad and Cool Projects

News from the Great Barrier Reef

If you have not visited the Great Barrier of Reef this year, well you are not alone. Here are some news, some not great but some hearth warming ones two, from Australia’s iconic travel destination.  In the past year, this living architecture masterpiece has continued to deploy its colours and its surrealist picture-perfect frames filled with fishes and other amazing creatures whilst we were all inside due to COVID. However, quietly, in the background of all this pandemic whirlwind, some important events have happened this year for one’s of Australia’s World Heritage Classified area; The Great Barrier Reef.  

Great Barrier Reef

Every three year, UNESCO listed natural world heritage areas around the world (252 in total)  are assessed and given an outlook for their conditions; tracking their progress or their deterioration.  This year’s report came out in November and shows that our beloved reef is deteriorating to the point where it was reclassified from “Significant Concern” to “Critical”.  Unfortunately, this was expected.   In the austral summer 2019-2020, the reef saw a widespread coral bleaching event. Corals may be able to recover when there is bleaching caused by high water temperatures but when they come repeatedly, there is just no time to recover and this is what is happening.  Throw in the mix other treats like ocean acidification, outbreaks of predatory species,  cyclones and pollution and you have a struggling reef, running on empty, out of breath and struggling to get back on its feet. 

What can we do

The most important treat to the reef is climate change and out of the 252 natural world heritage area, the reef is not alone.  The IUCN Committee has identified that it is the most important treat to natural world heritage areas around the world.  This really shows that climate change is not something that will affect us in the distant future but that it is affecting the planet right now, under our very eyes.

If history has sown us something though, humans, like the reef, are adaptable and resilient. We are also able to be creative and cooperative. There are a number of initiatives and incredible people working on giving a hand to the reef and all of us, in our own way, big or small, can contribute.

The most important thing we can all do is to reduce our carbon footprint and to make sure our politicians put this on the priority list by signing petitions and sending them letters.  There are a number of options to help understand our carbon footprint.  If you are wondering where to start, check out my article on how to calculate your footprint. We all have different lifestyles and what I do may not suit someone else.  What is important is that we all do a little something and make incremental changes. It is not about being perfect from the start but every little bit count.

Some really cool projects

There are several other ways in which we can help the reef without the need to leave our home. Citizen science projects are a fun way to help out.  The virtual reef is now here! Through this portal, you can help classifying photos from the reef increase monitoring and contribute to scientific projects.  You can also upload photos if you happen to be lucky enough to visit.  You can spend a few minutes on the platform and contribute to monitoring projects.  Bonus, you get to see the reef from the comfort of your home. Check out the platform here.

Museum of underwater Art (MOUA) - Photo by Matt Curnock
Museum of underwater Art (MOUA)
Photo by Matt Curnock

A pretty cool project can be found on Kickstarter. The project is an interdisciplinary initiative composed of scientists, tourism operators, local businesses and a world-renowned artist.  Just off of Townsville, the MOUA or Museum of underwater art is the first of its kind in Australia.  The world-renowned artist and conservationist Jason Decaires Taylor has made a monumental installation in the form of a living underwater greenhouse.  The building is now in its underwater home but planting reefs would help to really make it come alive. The Kickstarter project will help to do just that.  Check it out here!  Funding deadline is 25th of December 2020. Just in time for Christmas! Get in quick!

Another way in which we can contribute is to help out fund a coral farm project.  What a great Christmas gift! If you want to contribute, check the Reef Restoration Foundation here

There are many ways in which we can help the reef,  as you can see, even if you live in the city or are stuck at home, get your keyboards going!  Most importantly, spread the word. Share this article and let’s help the reef to be more resilient. Oh, and if you visit the Great Barrier Reef, you will be stoked. There is still just nothing else like it. Make sure you take only memories and leave only footsteps on the beach.

Until next time, travel safe,



Thoughts – Some hope for our Post-COVID19 live

Thoughts – Some hope for our Post-COVID19 live

Like most (all?)  of you, my life got turned up side down when that whole virus thing started. 

Now that the “new normal” is somewhat settling in for at least the next couple of weeks, in my case anyways. As uncertainty is becoming the norm I though I initiate a reflection on what it means for our world and in particular for our western societies, how we see traveling and the environment. I think this is only the beginning of my reflection, but let see where it leads.

Somehow, one my reactions was to look back in history and turn to philosophy to try to make sense of all these rapidly evolving changes.

From a historical point of view, let’s remind us that this is not the only period of great uncertainty or pandemic, that we, as a human race have been facing.   For one, there is reassurance in knowing that despite the horror of history, we as a human race, are still on this planet. Secondly, from those great schisms in history, great innovations have sometimes emerged. For example, agriculture appeared as a way of coping with great famine in the middle east.  New visions of the world have also seen the day following horrible world traumas. For example, the United Nations started after WW2 as a platform for countries to discuss issues and avoid wars. Somehow, I think that there is some comfort in knowing this despite all the human catastrophes happening right now. 

Another element to look at, I think, is the concept of balanced ecosystems.  I think it has been some time now that we have been made aware that our way of life requires more resources than what the earth can provide.  I have recently seen an interview with an astronaut, David Saint-Jacques, who lived for a year in the international space station circumnavigating around the earth. He observed the earth from above and was able to internalise the concept that everything the atmosphere contains is all we have and that all this is just recycled over and over.  Furthermore, I would add that also means that we are all interconnected.

Today, more than ever, with the coronavirus being spread from countries to countries at lightening speed, we are definitely all in this together.

We still do not know what all of this will bring into the future but let’s hope that there will be a better world that will come out of this.  For one, the environment is better.  This has clearly demonstrated that hiding behind economic growth for allowing the destruction of the planet is not an excuse. Other things are more important than economic growth at all costs.  By damaging the environment, really we are damaging us. I sincerely hope that our relationship with our environment will be transformed. What we previously thought impossible, is now possible.  From working from home to teleconferencing and being conscious of our supply chains. The world needs to change.

Let me know what you think and until next time, don’t forget to wash your hands.



How to calculate your pre and post COVID 19 ecological footprint?

How to calculate your carbon footprint

Bored at home? Watched too many Netflix series? How about figuring out how your pre and post COVID19/coronavirus ecological footprint compare?

Amidst all the chaos, one thing that we are noticing is that our impact on the planet has reduced.  Fewer planes in the sky mean less carbon. Less tourism leaves some time for nature to regenerate. Let’s just think about Venice and it’s cleaner canals.  In cities where the pollution level killed so many people, the sky is now clear. Here is one interesting article on the topic I recently looked at.

As millions of people are in lockdown around the world, why not have a look at our past footprint and our present footprint.  And see if it makes a difference. 

There are many different calculators out there which vary from very simple to very complex. Here is a good review of what is available for Australia.

For my part, as I am not sure how much or where some of my electricity comes and, during pre-COVID-19 life travelled, I travelled via ferry at least twice a week. I am unsure how to calculate this. As such, I decided to use the very simple “ footprintcalculator” that you can find here.

I was amazed to figure out that during my Pre-COVID-19 life, if everyone on earth would live like me, we would need 5 earths whereas now it is 3.5 earths.

Wow. For me, working from home has had the biggest impact on my footprint. That is reducing my footprint by 20%.

There you go. In theory, by changing the way we work, we can have a significant impact on the planet. Clearly, we can do it.   

I understand that not everyone can do it, as this depends on the nature of our work but a lot of office bound employees could make a big difference.  Something to ponder for our post-COVID19 life. 

Where did the difference came down to for you? Do you see how this could help you improve your post-COVID19 footprint? Please comment below!

All the best to you and don’t forget to wash your hands!

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……




Fashion and petrol: a love story – Transport – How far our clothes have travelled?

Fashion and petrol: a love story – Transport – How far our clothes have travelled?
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 ! 

We all know that we heavily rely on hydrocarbons for our transportation needs. Passenger and freight transport all contribute to climate change by their gas emissions. In fact, transport is the third most important source of greenhouse gas emission.

But how do our clothes contribute to greenhouse gas emission via transport?  Made in China, Made in Bangladesh, Made in Vietnam…. We all know our clothes have travelled before we get them, but how much?

Well, without doing a comprehensive investigation about where our clothes are from (that would be really great thought) , I thought I would investigate the “statistical pants”. What does that mean? Well, by deconstructing a pair of pants and following its trace around the  world via its most statistical likely provenance and trowing some fun facts in the mix, we can have a better grasp of the footprint of our “real” pants.

So lets keep tab of our kilometres on the way and go for a world trip.

Despite some Made in Bangladesh tags being more common, Made in China is still king in the garment export world. With a market share of 38.6%, chances are, our “statistical pants” proudly wears a Made in China tag.

But where in China was it made. After all, China is a big country. Chances are it was made in one of the five provinces that produce 70 percent of China’s clothing. Those provinces are :  Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong in the eastern coastal area.

Of those, Guangdong has the largest economy, so lets start here.

If we keep narrowing things down, we have the town of Humen in Dongguan which is known for its ladies fashion.

First dot on the map and behind the “made in China” is “Made in Humen”

But to make a pair of pants, you need: fabric, tread , button, zipper, needle, scissors, pattern and at least one human being.

Let’s start with the fabric.  The most widely used fabric is cotton. China is one of the biggest cotton producer in the world. However, in 2016/2017, India took over China as the biggest producer.

To feed the factories of China,  Chinese cotton is used but increasingly cotton is imported in large quantities. In fact, China it is the country that imports the most cotton in dollar value.

But where does it import it from? Most likely, India or the United States. In fact China is the biggest buyer of raw cotton in both the United States and India.

As India is the largest producer, chances are the raw cotton comes from India.

Behind “Made in Humen”, there is “Made in India.” In fact,the state of Gujarat has the produces the most cotton. Bharuch, Vadodra, Panchmahal, Mehsana, Ahmedabad and Surendemagar are the most likely sources of cotton.

A likely route would be for the cotton to be loaded at Ahmedabad and sent Mumbai via road and the from Mumbai sea port to Guangdong in China. The voyage would take about 20 days at sea and across approximately 7370 km. This does not include travelling between the cotton field to Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad to Mumbai which would be at least 500 km.

So, our statistical pair of pants does not resemble in any way, shape or form to a pair of pants and it has already travelled 7870km.

Once arrived in Guangdong, the raw cotton would need to be ginned, spinned and weaved.

Chances are that our “statistical pair of pants” is more a blend of cotton than 100% cotton. As we have previously looked at, polyester, or any of its synthetic cousin, is made out of hydrocarbons.  The question is then raised, where those China gets its hydrocarbon from.

China produces some oil but overall, it is a net importer, meaning that it imports more than what it produces. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Angola are the main source of hydrocarbons for China.

West Siberia and the Urals-Volga region in Russia are the most likely source of hydrocarbons in Russia. Of those two regions, Siberia produces the most.

Accordingly, the main material used to make the polyester in our “statistical pair of pants” is likely form this region and thus could also wear a “Made in Siberia” tag and have travelled 4320 km to Guangdong. 

Just keeping km tabs here: 12 190 km.

If we consider only the textile, we already have, “Made in Gujarat” , “Made in Siberia”, and “Made in Humen”. But wait, there is more.  What about the buttons and the zipper?

Where are buttons made?

Once again, most buttons are made of plastic by mixing dyes and liquid polyester. 

As we know plastic and polyester are siblings and made out of hydrocarbons. So we are back to Siberia to get some oil. Then we go to Qiaotou (Yongjia) China. In fact, 60% of the worldwide button production comes from this town.

Well, let’s bring those buttons to Guangdong. That will be 1119 km. Thank you.

Km tab check: 13 309 km

Let’s move on to the zippers…..  If you are wearing clothes with some kind of zippers on you,  have a look at the letters on it….. Does it say YKK? Probably…..  Although, YKK have factories all over the world, including Shanghai, YKK is a Japanese company which, although now struggling to compete with its Chinese competition still maintains its fair part of the zipper market, mostly in the middle and upper fashion market. You can read more here

Let’s then stop by Shanghai to get some zippers then! And do not forget to add to the km tab: 1405 (Shangai to Guangdong). Current total 14714 km.

There are few elements to a zipper: the tape and teeth (or stringer), A tab that slides, a stop preventing the tab to go out of its chain and a  box and pin to open the zipper.

The tape is usually made out of polyester –  So once again, we need to go back to Siberia…..  

Brass is a common metal used for all the other bits which is an alloy made of copper and zinc. The biggest producer of copper is Chile and the biggest producer of zinc is Australia.

The two need to be smelted together and where else than China, the smelting capital of the world.

From Chile and Australia and Russia, then to china, but thanks to Japan, we finally have a zipper. That will be 18,544 km (Chile to Guangdong) and 5,820 (Australia to Guangdong). Total : 39 078 km. Oh dear!

But finally, we are back to Humen…… But we still need to package everything in plastic bags which as we know by now likely originates from the oil rigs of Siberia.

 And off it goes, shipped from Guangdong to Sydney ( add an other 7,492 km)  where it is dispatched via land wherever your shop is.   

Our statistical pair of pants has travelled approximately 46570 km. That is be a bit further than an earth to moon trip or the circumference of the earth.


From India, China, Russia, Australia and Chile, our statistical pair of pants has travelled more than many of us, Yet, it only gets one stamp on its passport: “Made in China”.  And that is quite a frustrating bit for consumers. We do not really know where our clothes come from or their true ecological footprint.

Unless we all plan on making your own clothes from scratch and grow cotton in our yards, we will likely continue to buy from overseas which is reliant on our dependency on hydrocarbon.  Developing trucks, boats and airplanes that uses alternative fuel sources would be one good thing but unfortunately, it is a bit out of every consumers hands. For now lobbying for those alternative fuel sources is one of the best avenue for changing the transport industry or labelling practices.

What we can do is to keep our clothes for as long as we can, buy quality clothes that will last and that we will continue to wear through the years. Looking at buying third party certification for organic and low impact practices also reduces the uses of hydrocarbons.

Now, back to our own suitcase. How about visiting as many countries as your clothes do?

Until next time, travel safe and don’t forget to think about what you put in your suitcase.



Fashion and petrol: a love story – The truth about polyester

Fashion and petrol: a love story –  The truth about polyester
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 ! 

Fashion is big business. No doubt. Worth $2.4 Trillion worldwide, it is definitely big business. So much so that if it would be a country, it would be the world’s 7th largest GDP economy. A quick google search indicates that France currently occupies this position.  

It involves an astounding number of actors which are all interconnected through elaborate relations. From concept to production, to market and your wardrobe, there is a long way.  Most people, don’t generally realise that there is a very intricate and mysterious beast unpoetically called “The Supply Chain” which crosses many countries and has links to other industry sectors like agriculture and marketing. It is a hard to grasp concept in its entirety for most fashion bands, let alone for the consumer. If you are interested in understanding this concept, this Good on You article is very helpful.

This means that the information we are left with, is the tag on the t-shirt which tells us where it was allegedly made, what material it is –  using words that could really mean anything to you or me, and some symbols about how we should care for it.  Unfortunately, there is a lot more to a piece of garment than this label. One has to dig really deep to understand where clothes come from and what they are made of.

So, where do clothes come from…..  No, not the shop, they generally come from either one of those sources: petroleum (that oil rig somewhere), a crop (same place

as your morning cereals), an animal ( killed for the skin or sheared for the wool), some chemical cocktail or any combination of the above. And that is basically it.  No more…..

For some reason, that is not well translated on a tag.  Most consumers don’t really think about it but polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex textiles are made of the same stuff that you put in your car.  Next time you fill up your car…. Look at your socks and shirt…. Yep, both  can come from an oil rig.



The nerdy bit ( bare with me, it’s not too long)

For example, to make polyester, two petroleum derived products are used. The process can vary a bit from company to company but in a nutshell. This is how it’s made.

Hydrocarbons are transformed through steam cracking (heating hydrocarbons to ridiculously high temperatures) so that Ethylene is separated and extracted. Etylene is an alcohol also used to make plastic bottles and as a plant hormone in the agricultural industry.

The other component is terephthalic acid which comes from a mixture of tar and petroleum through xylene-oxydation which is an energy intensive process. Xylene is a powerful solvent and is considered toxic. It used in the rubber and leather industry notably.

The actual process by which polyester is made is called polymeristation which involves mixing the etylene and terephthalic acid at high temperatures. Long ribbons of polyester are then extracted from this mix. The ribbons are dried and cut, re-melted and then filaments are extracted. They can be mixed with other products such as cotton or other synthetic fibres.

Some resources to further satisfy your inner nerd can be found here, here and here.

Ok – end of nerdy bit….


Not only those fabrics are from non-renewable sources, they generally quickly end up in the landfill thanks to fast fashion and are not biodegradable. Plus, they leach out a poisonous cocktail in the soil and water streams once they end up there.

This is without mentioning that they have been associate with allergic reactions like eczema in some people.

They even start leaching out chemicals and microplastics in your washing machine drain.

So,  instead of reading polyester on a garment tag, one should actually read the following warning: This product is derived from petroleum.

 Garment tags are surprisingly misleading. So next time you read one, replace polyester, nylon, spandex by petrol, then only, it starts making sense…..  And where it was allegedly made, as per the garment tag, has nothing to do about where it all started.  Although, it says on the tag that it was made in Bangladesh, it could well be that the polyester fibre originates from the oil rigs of Saudi Arabia. You will not find this on the tag.

So, in summary, there are quite a few things wrong synthetic fibres but most notably they all have one thing in common, they are derived from petroleum.  As we saw, this has several consequences. Something that is particular to petroleum derived textile and their cousin the plastic bottle, is the fact that they do not biodegrade. They end up in our environment, whether it be the ocean, the forest or the landfill and break down in small pieces that are absorbed through the food chain. Not only do they never really go away but they can leach toxic by-products in the environment.

But it is not all gloom and doom. One way to reduce the use of polyester and the like is to avoid, or at least reduce, polyester and other petroleum derived products in favor of more natural fibres such as organic cotton. Check the garment tag for polyester , nylon, acrylic, spandex, microfiber and try to avoid them. For the ones already in your wardrobe or the garments that you just have to buy, wear them for as long as possible and donate them to extend their useful life. It can be hard to find but in some places, they can also be recycled or repurposed.

One reason why we are so addicted to petroleum textiles is that other natural fibres like cotton do not have the “elastic” property that elastane or spandex which is so widely spread in the production of swimwear and active wear.

There is good news thought and innovation has now made possible the recycling of PET bottles into textile. At least, a second life can be given to those plastic bottles and PET products can be re-used. Problem is, those recycled products can be hard to find on the mainstream market and how we dispose of those recycled products is still and issue. Nevertheless, this is better than manufacturing an entirely new product.

Reducing our petrol addiction starts small. Don’t throw everything your own to start afresh. Keeping your favourite items for as long as possible is a good option.  But  next time you need something, try to avoid polyester and the like. Try to buy second hand or recycled polyester.   

There are options,     Come along and discover……

Until then…take care.

 PS – If you have found this article interesting, please share or register here to get  a mini web-series video about fashion and petrol !