Case study: Promoting reflection and behaviour change towards sustainability
Together with TU Dublin, we produced a case study showing why they started using Sulitest, how the team chose to do it and the impact already noticed. With students, they use Sulitest followed by a reflective piece, which “allows students to deeply think about sustainable development, explore the issues and what they mean to them.” This has pushed candidates to go beyond awareness towards action. In one of the courses, the professor asked the students, “‘have you changed any aspects of your lives due to this assignment?’ 78% of students said yes,” showing how the Sulitest tools can be used to promote a sustainable mindset AND behaviour change.
Full Case Study available here: [PDF]
This is Fashion Revolution Week. It is a global campaign calling on the fashion industry to conserve and restore the environment, and to value people over growth and profit. It coincides with today’s 50th anniversary Earth Day celebration, another global initiative seeking transformative change for people and the planet. And here we are, globally united, but under very different circumstances.
I was reflecting on this time last year when I organised a showcase initiative with my retail degree students to help raise awareness for Fashion Revolution Week on our university campus. We took it for granted being together under the one roof, at liberty just to chat and joke with fellow students and visitors with ease. This was the world as we knew it, before social distancing and the fear of an ‘invisible killer’ lurking among us. What a difference a year makes.
Yet we can still be activists, if only from the safety of our homes. Last year during our campaign, we wondered what would become of our planet if we were to continue to consume its natural resources at a ferocious rate. But it still felt like we were talking about an unimaginable reality to drastically change lifestyles and government policies.
For example, could we really cut air travel and reduce carbon emissions at the rate needed to save our planet? How could we? Our economy would surely crumble. And economic prosperity was ultimately, the bottom-line. Until it wasn’t. The fragility of life was exposed late last year when the silent yet deadly killer infected thousands of people in Wuhan, China before rapidly expanding its reach globally, and without discrimination.
In only a few short weeks our human needs shifted from self-actualising, self-aspirational goals to a more base and primal need for survival. And many of us now realise what really matters is the health and safety of our loved ones, our neighbours, our communities. Celebrities, brand names, influencers, prestige luxury items – all now seem frivolous and superfluous. Give me fresh air, freedom, and a hug from a close friend any day these days.
Suddenly, the undoable, the inconceivable, is now possible. Airports have shut down. Non-essential air travel has come to a halt. It is estimated airline’s carbon emissions could drop by over one third this year. Our behaviours have shifted. But let’s not make it a temporary shift. Yes, we would like many elements of our former lives back. But could we hold on to the realisation that some needs are more important than others? And if that starts with the seemingly innocuous clothes on our back, can we start there?
The fashion system is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, pollution, water contamination and mass extinction on our planet. Every one of us consumes clothes. Yet do we appreciate the human cost behind each garment we buy?
For instance, did you know 77% of UK retailers believe it likely that modern slavery is happening in their supply chain? Did you know we buy 60% more clothing than we did just 15 years ago, yet only keep the item half as long before they inevitably end up in a landfill? Or were you conscious that 60% of our global fibre production is now made from polyester, a plastic fibre that sheds thousands of microfibres into our oceans every time we wash them? (Take a look at the Fashion Revolution website for a wealth of information on these issues and more).
Every day our fashion choices are impacting our people and our planet. I think COVID-19 has made us realise how our own behaviours and choices most definitely impact our communities, locally and globally. We have the power to make better choices. We just need to better inform ourselves. One question we can ask ourselves is, who made my clothes?
A starting point could be to check out the Fashion Transparency Index 2020 released just this week. You can explore statistics on your favourite brand’s commitment to transparency in their supply chains. Another interesting initiative is Patagonia Action Works. The longstanding sustainable clothing brand has created a global network for budding environmental activists to get in contact with local movements in their vicinity. Take a look and see what’s happening in your local community.
“Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till its gone”
Coinciding with the world’s first celebration of Earth Day back in 1970, Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote these lyrics, fearing for the future of our environment. I think COVID-19 has given us a wake-up call in 2020. We cannot sleepwalk through life assuming capitalist governments are making the best decisions for our health and wellbeing, least of all for this planet. We need to ask more questions. This week, keep it simple, start small, ask ‘Who made my clothes?’
by Dr. Dee Duffy
Linda Mc Weeney and Mary Jane Webberley
Susan Rossney, Public Policy Officer with Chartered Accountants Ireland
Áine Martin HR, Purchasing and Green Manager at Hotel Doolin
Alan McInerney, Adobe, Risk Consultant
Brian O’Kennedy CEO of Clearstream Solutions
Linda Mc Weeney and Mary Jane Webberley organised a Sustainability webinar with 4 panelists for a very informative session on Sustainability, reporting of and impact on business, and the future trends in this area as part of TU Dublin Green week. Susan Rossney, Public Policy Officer with Chartered Accountants Ireland, Chair of the Institute’s Expert Working Group on Sustainability, and member of the Sustainability Expert Working Group of the Global Accounting Alliance. Áine Martin HR, Purchasing and Green Manager at Hotel Doolin, Ireland’s first and only certified carbon neutral hotel. Alan McInerney, Adobe, Risk Consultant In his previous role as a Manager with PwC Alan worked with some of Ireland’s leading companies assisting them to build out sustainability policies, best practices, and their sustainability reporting. Brian O’Kennedy CEO of Clearstream Solutions, a leading independent carbon management, and corporate sustainability consultancy. Clearstream helps many local and international companies to measure and report responsible business practices in their organisations, products, and supply chains. A passionate believer in the positive impact business can have on sustainability.
Nearly 300 attended the webinar and a survey was sent out after the webinar for the attendees to complete. The results of the survey showed a large increase in attendees knowledge about this subject area.
World Water Day – 22nd March 21
To coincide with World Water Day, Dr Patrice Behan, College of Sciences & Health, and Alacoque McAlpine, College of Business hosted an SDGliteracy.ie event for staff and students, to raise awareness of the global water crisis and the role of everyone in achieving SDG6.
The theme of World Water day, this year was Value in Water.
- Dr Conor Quinlan from the Environmental protection Agency (EAP) presented a very informative talk on ‘Water and Climate Adaptation – healthy catchments are resilient resources’ highlighting the need for bringing stakeholders together for integrated catchment management. Ecologically healthy, unpolluted catchments are robust and resilient catchments and can best provide the range of ecosystem services to meet our needs.
- Linda Ball from the CEO of A Different Ballgame, a UK based brand who make sustainable clothing and accessories from recycled ocean waste spoke about the problems caused by plastic pollution in our oceans. Linda described how her company in partnership with the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE, clean waste from the ocean including PET, PP, PA, metal, rubber, and glass, and how through innovative processing techniques they turn this plastic waste into yarn and eventually into clothing. Thereby, reducing plastic waste in our oceans and contributing to a circular economy
- Dr Joe Brady gave an excellent informative presentation on ‘Valuing Water for a Sustainable Future in the Biopharmaceutical Industry’. The importance of high-quality water as a raw material and the role of engineers in ensuring water is at the
picture courtesy of a Different Ball Game
required specification was highlighted. The advantages and challenges of systems put in place by the biopharmaceutical industry, to save and value water in their processes, led to an interesting discussion during the Q & A session.
Students won prizes; accessories from a A Different Ballgame for the most innovative questions to the panel.
To increase awareness around the Value of Water Dr. Patrice Behan and Alacoque McAlpine have also published an article on RTE Brainstorm called 5 ways for us to value water in our daily lives.
A member of the SDGLiteracy.ie team Alacoque McAlpine recently wrote an article for the RTE Brainstorm series “10 ways to become a sustainable fashion consumer”
Find the article here: https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/1214/1184346-10-ways-sustainable-fashion/
Informative and engaging presentation from Bobby McCormac at Development Perspectives on the SDGs for TU Dublin as part of Green week. Great to hear of the actions we can take to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs and the inspiring work of @devperspectives