Have you ever thought about hosting your own climate café?
In a bid to combat the increasing rates of eco-anxiety, Force of Nature – a nonprofit that aims to mobilise mindsets for climate action – is hosting climate cafés: safe spaces to navigate difficult conversations, and turn eco-anxiety into action.
Founded by Clover Hogan, Force of Nature wants to enable young people to take action in their own ways. With research by the nonprofit showing that 70% of young people are eco-anxious and 56% feel that humanity is doomed, they believe climate cafés can be a tool to help people navigate this fear.
So what actually is a climate café?
They’re community-organised spaces for people to have open yet structured conversations about how to navigate difficult climate emotions, and translate these feelings into action.
Force of Nature has launched afree resource to help people host their own climate café; featuring a step-by-step plan.
They’re looking for young people to host these cafés. “We will provide you with an instruction guide on setting up a café, and support bringing it to life,” they say.
What’s needed for a climate café?
A venue to host the climate café (this could be an existing café, shop, community space, or even someone’s living room).
Seats and tables.
Hot drinks and snacks (e.g. biscuits).
Clarity on who you want to participate in your climate café. This could be friends or strangers off the street; other young people or an intergenerational audience.
A readiness to facilitate climate conversations. It’s up to you how long you run the café for; it could be one day or it could be for two weeks.
How are they helping?
Force of Nature is also offering micro grants to young people who want to host a climate café but face financial barriers.
“The micro-grants are up to £150 and will prioritise cafés that are reaching groups often left out of climate conversations and for those who are most affected by the climate crisis,” they say.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has given out its 2022 awards honouring those who are fighting to protect Mother Earth.
Tell me more.
The UNEP has chosen five winners of their ‘Champions of the Earth’ award, designed to celebrate people who are at the forefront of protecting our planet. This year has seen the highest number of entries since the award was created, with over 2,200 people putting their efforts forward.
So who are this year’s winners?
Three winners were honoured under the ‘Inspiration and Action’ category.
The first is the environmental non-profit group Arcenciel, a Lebanon-based NGO that has spent two decades helping to clear the country of its waste.
The second is Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, co-founder of Cameroon Ecology and President of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, for the work she has done repairing damage to forests and more.
The third winner in this category is Constantino Aucca Chutas, the co-founder of Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos, who has planted more than three million trees in Peru and protected or restored 30,000 hectares of land.
What about the other categories?
Dr Purnima Devi Barman leads the ‘Hargila Army’, an all-female grassroots movement of people who are passionate about wildlife, which has brought back the greater adjutant stork from the brink of extinction. Dr Barman was the winner of the ‘Entrepreneurial Vision’ category.
In the Science and Innovation category, Sir Partha Dasgupta won for groundbreaking contributions to economics and showing people just how important nature and the ecosystem are to our world.
A baby giraffe has been born in the UK which experts say is ‘vital’ to conservation.
Adorable! Tell me more.
Born on Remembrance Day (November 11th), Wilfred was named after WW1 poet Wilfred Owen who wrote poems such as ‘Insensibility’, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’.
He took his first, wobbly, steps an hour after he was born, and is now loving life being doted on by mum, Luna, and dad, Bashu.
Why is Wilfred so cute, I mean, important?
Wilfred’s (the giraffe, not the man) birth is a huge win for zookeepers and conservationists as, when he’s a little older, he can be added to the international conservation breeding programme (EEP).
This is so important because reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, meaning that right now every birth counts.
Once almost a holiday in its own right, the cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday has sunk in people’s estimations in recent years.
From complaints that the deals are not all they are cracked up to be, to accusations of overconsumption being bad for the environment, Black Friday is no longer the saving grace for people late on Christmas gifts.
Still, it’s a day observed in many countries around the world, with even small, independent businesses running some kind of ‘Black Friday’ event. So should we get involved – and if not, what’s the alternative?
What’s wrong with Black Friday?
The main concern people have with Black Friday is that it encourages over consumerism and, because of that, often produces a lot of waste.
80% of products bought at Black Friday end up in landfill, are incinerated, or are recycled poorly, according to stats. Add onto that the 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions we’re expected to produce on Black Friday 2022 from deliveries alone, and it becomes obvious that there are a lot of valid environmental concerns.
There’s also the issue that the “deals” aren’t quite as deal-y as we thought. Which.co.uk found in 2020 that 98% of the ‘Black Friday’ deals advertised were available for the same price or cheaper in the six months after the ‘big day’.
So what are the alternatives?
There are plenty of businesses supporting alternatives for Black Friday – and one of those is Teemill, a platform that allows people to start a sustainable clothing brand, based on a circular model.
For Black Friday 2022, they’re encouraging people to give back. They’ve launched #TakeBackFriday to encourage people to think about the environment and consider what they already have that they don’t use, before buying more.
“Black Friday is a symptom of how waste has been woven into the way our world works,” says Teemilll co-founder Mart Drake-Knight. “Products are designed to be thrown away, meaning the only way to create growth is make and sell more products and create more waste.”
This Black Friday, Teemill is giving customers the opportunity to send back clothes they bought from them that they no longer wear, which means the company can recycle what people no longer need.
Using their Remill process, Teemill turns the old cotton clothes into brand new garments, creating less waste from their products.
The Ethical Consumer, a publication encouraging people to learn how to use their spending power to help change the world for the better, also suggests supporting alternatives to Black Friday this year.
“We’d say check out Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHNG week,” says Ruth Strange, from the Ethical Consumer. “But you can also take inspiration from what Green Friday suggested: rather than being stuck indoors on our phones and laptops, competing for discounts and buying products we don’t necessarily need… let’s join in with the Green Friday ethos!”
While Black Friday is all about buying new, alternatives such as Green Friday, Buy Nothing Day and MAKE SMTHING week are about moving away from consuming too much. Instead, they encourage you to focus on other aspects of life like going out into nature, putting time into creating something, volunteering with worthwhile causes and spending time with the people you love.
“Don’t forget, there are many other ways to meet your needs, and save money, all without lining the pockets of giant corporations,” reminds Ruth. “Clothes swaps, second-hand shops, growing, making, and even sharing through Libraries of Things!”
So, is Black Friday bad? In a perfect world, no – and if there’s something you need that you’ve had your eye on for a while, Black Friday can be a great day to make that purchase. But if you’re hoping to be a bit more eco-friendly this year, or even if you just want to hold tight to your hard-earned cash, it might be worth looking closer at some of the alternatives.
Greta Thunberg’s campaign has donated £158,000 to support a Sami campaign.
Tell me more – who are the Sami?
The Sami are a group of indigenous people who inhabit the region of Sápmi, what we once called Lapland. They are the descendants of the nomadic peoples who have inhabited Scandinavia for thousands of years, and many of them still observe similar nomadic practices today, including travelling with the reindeer they herd.
In a nutshell, a group of Sami are currently campaigning against a British mining company, that obtained permission from the Swedish government for an excavation project. However, the land earmarked for this excavation is on land used by the Sami for reindeer herding, which is a huge part of the Sami way of life.
The excavation would destroy grazing areas and cut off the only viable migratory route for reindeer herded by the Jåhkågasska Sami community.
What will the money go towards?
The money donated by Greta’s charity (two million Swedish Krona, or £158,000) will go towards legal fees. This will help the Jåhkågasska Sami community continue to fight against the excavation, a fight which has been going on for a decade.
“For the last 12 years, the Jåhkågaska Sami community has been defending its grazing lands by resisting this iron-ore mine,” Greta told The Guardian, when she visited the area last year. “By doing so they have been safeguarding what keeps us all safe: biodiverse forests, intact carbon stock as well as clean water and air.”
“There’s a lot of unused paint out there that could be put to good use.”
Nearly 100 million gallons of paint is wasted each year. Not only that, but leftover paint is considered hazardous waste because it contains chemicals that can harm human health and the environment. If paint ends up in a landfill, it can leak hard metals and toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil and water sources.
And that’s how Cat Hyde and Kate Moree’s blossoming passion for the planet really started making a difference.
The pair, from Leeds, met in 2000. Knowing their values aligned, they wanted to do something to give back: to recycle, to create jobs for themselves and others in need, and to treasure our environment. “One man’s rubbish is another’s gold, we felt,” Cat tells Smiley News.
The pair spent time talking to the council waste department, and looking at how they could help, when someone suggested they recycle paint. “We thought, why not?” says Cat, 43. “The rest is history.” Seagulls Reuse was born.
Starting with paint banks
Cat and Kate have paint banks: big shipping containers on council sites across Leeds, where people can go with their paint to dispose of, rather than chucking it in the general waste bin.
They collect it all, bring it back to their base, open every single tin to see if it’s “good” or “bad” paint, and go from there. “We collect, on average, 300 tonnes per year – and out of that, 60% is reusable and 40% not,” says Cat.
Bad paint is paint that simply has been sat around for too long – it may change composition, or get bits in it, says Cat. It’s unusable. If the paint is bad, it’s disposed of in the right way and the tins are correctly recycled.
If it’s good, they remix it and reblend it with other similar paints, then put the full tins on their shelves – for a fraction of the price you’d find in a shop. For example, says Cat, if you were to buy 2.5L of emulsion, it’ll be just over a fiver. In shops, you could pay up to £80.
“We’ve diverted 4 million litres of paint away from landfill since we started,” Cat tells me. “This would’ve caused 11.4 million tonnes of carbon – and you would need to plant 68 million trees to offset that amount of carbon.”
To make it a success, the pair knew they needed to make it as easy as possible for people to buy it. “We needed to give people what they wanted,” says Cat, “so we learned how to blend and mix paint together to make certain colours – we do all that by eye with our expert team.”
But the friends always had a dual mission with Seagulls: social and environmental. The environmental mission was easy – but it went hand-in-hand with social justice.
“We both volunteered when we were setting it up,” says Cat. “Historically, our team is made up of people who come and volunteer, come from open prison on day release, or perhaps they’re socially isolated. It could be someone who has been long-term unemployed, or lives with poor mental health.”
Ultimately, as a social enterprise, they want to support those from minority backgrounds. “Any profits we make goe straight back into our volunteer programme and social aims,” says Cat.
“We get a lot of customers,” says Cat, “and all our business has been built on word of mouth. We’d love to take it further afield.”
So what can you do? If you live nearby, donate paint. If you want to know more, get in touch. “The more people talking about paint the better,” says Cat, “it’s such a waste of a really valuable, useful resource.”
The international animal rights charity, Peta, is running a competition to encourage people to create a vegan alternative to wool.
Sounds interesting! Tell me more.
While wool is a natural fibre and therefore biodegradable, Peta has raised issues with some of the farming methods that come with raising sheep for their wool.
The charity hopes that this competition will encourage people to explore new alternatives to sheep wool that don’t require animals to be involved in the process.
Hang on, don’t we already have vegan wool?
Yes, there are already some preexisting alternatives, such as ‘wool’ made from lyocell (Tencel) and bamboo, both of which are environmentally friendly and safe for workers involved in the creation process.
However, Peta’s hope with this competition is that it will encourage people to look beyond wool to more innovative methods, and inspire people to think outside of the box.
But it’s a competition, right? What do we get?
The deadline for initial entries is July 2023 to submit a fabric sample and production plan. After that, they will be encouraged to partner with “at least one of the top 10 global clothing retail brands” to sell their products by January 2024.
The competition comes with a $1m (£860,500) prize, which would be a huge win!
It’s common knowledge now that the fashion industry has huge flaws in it. But it’s hard to break the cycle – especially when you have no idea where to start.
The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. The UN estimates a single pair of jeans takes one kilogram of cotton to make and, because cotton is often grown in dry areas, that pair of jeans takes 7,500–10,000 litres of water to make. That’s about 10 years’ worth of drinking water for a single person.
But equally, fashion is so incredibly important – for self-expression, for individuality, and figuring out your own identity. That’s why it’s paramount we discover new ways to engage in fashion ethically and sustainably, to make sure we can all enjoy the freedom that fashion brings us for as long as possible. So, how can we do that?
At some point, you may have to buy brand-new clothes – a winter coat for when the weather drops, or a pair of jeans that fit you properly.
When you do, avoid opting for the cheapest and most accessible piece you can get your hands on and instead see your clothes as an investment. Do your research into stores that aren’t just more sustainable, but invest in quality fabrics, and well-made garments that will last a lifetime. (You could check out GoodOnYou’s brand ratings).
“Don’t assume that to be sustainable it has to cost lots more,” says Cally Russell, CEO and co-founder of sustainable clothing brand Unfolded. “One of our core aims, for example, is to ensure we offer sustainable products at affordable prices – this is the only way you can drive long-term mass change and really help shoppers make the sustainable switch.”
Also, adds Cally, it’s worth knowing that if a business has a fundamentally unsustainable model, then their “sustainable line” isn’t doing much “apart from a little bit of greenwashing”.
Ultimately, the best way to make sustainable decisions is to educate yourself on what sustainability looks like – as well as the dangers of greenwashing. ICYMI: greenwashing is when companies advertise their products as sustainable or eco-friendly, without necessarily putting in the measures to make sure that’s true.
By educating not just yourself, but your family and friends, and spreading the word about how to make more sustainable choices, you’re moving the world towards a better way of living.
Another way to future-proof fashion? Swap your clothes, rather than shop for new ones. Swap with your friends, search for local swap parties, or run your own event. This is a great option if you aren’t interested in renting out clothes for short periods of time.
Anna Cargan set up My Shared Wardrobe, a clothing swap shop, with her business partner Natalie, partially because of concerns about the environment.
“There are a lot of issues that we can’t solve as individuals and it can be overwhelming when you think about it, but this is something that we can do, just to have our own small impact,” she says. “And it’s that ripple effect, isn’t it? It’s getting people thinking about their choices and fashion and where they buy things from and [to] swap instead of buying new.”
Anna’s advice is if you do have to buy something new, because it’s something you need, take a few minutes to have a look and see if you can get it secondhand first. Her main business, BuildABundle, is an online secondhand clothing shop for kids’ clothes – but there are many options for adults’ clothing too, such as Vinted and Depop.
“That’s the easiest way to be more sustainable: use something that already exists rather than creating that demand for something new.”
And lastly? Get creative. By cultivating even just some basic sewing skills, you open up a whole new world of possibilities for your clothes – you can make them last longer, adjust them to new sizes, or turn a frumpy charity shop find into a whole new outfit.
Evie Holdcroft (Holdcroft Handmades on TikTok) is a fibre artist with an emphasis on sustainability. She often uses reclaimed materials, such as non-recyclable, single-use plastics. Evie is also an avid fixer of clothing, determined to tease out every bit of life from her clothes.
“Mending and altering clothes is a way I can keep wearing the clothes I love for longer,” she tells Smiley News. “I also really like the aesthetic of visible mending, I enjoy that when I fix my clothes it adds to the story of the garment. It always reminds me of the Japanese ethos of wabi-sabi – finding beauty in imperfections.”
For Evie, fixing her clothes isn’t just a means to an end; it’s something that improves the garment as a whole. “Keep fixing your clothes – the more you do the more personal to you they become,” she says. “You’ll remember that sense of achievement every time you look at the fix, whether it’s invisible or loud and proud!”
There’s no perfect solution to the environmental issues of fashion – and we can’t be perfect. We’re human, after all. But small changes add up, and by engaging in some of these practices and integrating them into our daily lives, we can be one step closer to saving the planet.