From drab to fab: this marketplace shows that ethical and sustainable fashion can be fun

Making ethical and sustainable fashion choices can be a minefield. 

There is the issue of the fabrics themselves. Which chemicals are used to process and dye them? Will the material they are made from flush microplastics into our oceans whenever we wash them? What happens to the garment at the end of its life? 

And then there are the conditions under which the clothes are sewn. Is the factory providing a safe working environment? Are the employees being paid a living wage? 

The team behind ethical and sustainable fashion marketplace, Thread Harvest.
The Thread Harvest team celebrating their Good Design Award.

The good news is that awareness around many of these issues in the fast fashion industry is growing. And there are many new labels popping up online who vouch for more sustainable and ethical practices. But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier for consumers.

Many of these brands are selling online only. These small independent designers often have limited market reach, meaning they can be harder to find. But even if fashion labels claim to be eco-friendly and treat their workers fairly, it can often still take a fair amount of research from the buyer to ensure that these claims are in fact true and not just an effort to make a quick buck from a growing trend. 

Enter Thread Harvest. The Australian Certified B Corporation is an online marketplace for ethical and sustainable fashion. I recently had the chance to catch up with its Managing Director, Davyn de Bruyn, to chat about the company’s approach and the challenges of bootstrapping a business while juggling a full-time job and family life at the same time.

A curated hub for sustainable fashion

“We’re on mission to make it a lot easier for people to buy ethical and sustainable fashion,” says Davyn. “And we want to break with some of the most common and persistent stereotypes in this category.”

Entrepreneurs
sustainable beef farming in Tasmania

Could sustainable beef farming help solve the climate crisis?

In our current debate on the impact of our eating habits on the planet, beef is getting a pretty bad rap. 

Raising livestock requires a lot of water. Overgrazing and deforestation cause land degradation and biodiversity loss. And then there are the direct emissions from the sector and chemical pollution from fertilisers. The list of environmental impacts of the beef and livestock industry is long. 

But to Tasmanian sustainable beef farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey the cows are not really the issue. To them, and a growing number of regenerative agriculturalists, the problems we associate with meat consumption are the result of industrial agricultural practices, not the meat and dairy producing animals themselves. 

Or as Steph puts it: “It’s not about the cow, but the how.”

Sustainable beef farming entrepreneurs Sam and Steph Trethewey
Regenerative farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey.

In 2019, Sam and Steph gave up their corporate careers in Melbourne and bought some land near Deloraine in Central North Tasmania to found the Tasmanian Agricultural Company (Tas Ag Co). The pair is now on a mission to prove that sustainable beef farming is possible and that it can be part of the solution to fight the climate crisis.

Entrepreneurs
Jess Harwood Art bushfire cartoon

Art as activism: bright cartoons with punchy messages

Jess Harwood is a Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and communications professional who is passionate about protecting the natural world, wildlife and combating climate change. She has long been involved in community groups and the not-for-profit sector and has recently started using her art to support her activism.

Jess loves telling important stories to highlight campaign moments and shedding light on the underhand methods that big mining companies, developers and lobby groups use to profit at the expense of people and the planet.

Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and activist Jess Harwood.
Sydney-based artist, cartoonist and activist Jess Harwood.

Jess recently took the time to chat about her art and campaign work.

I read in one of your Instagram posts that you used to work as a lawyer briefly. Why did you decide to stop? Is your art now your full-time vocation?

I have always been keen to change our environmental laws, so they protect and preserve our precious environment, our wildlife and our heritage.

Art with a clear message.
Art with a clear message. Copyright: Jess Harwood Art.

However, once I graduated I saw that the changes I could make as a lawyer would be incremental. I also realised that I was actually more interested in building social movements to generate the change we need. That’s why I left the law and then started working in the NGO sector.

Activists Creatives

Aussie plant-based meat convinces Michelin star chef

The rich flavours of a bolognese sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of slow-cooked meat. There are some dishes that are irresistibly delicious and comforting. So much so that they are making it difficult for many people to adopt a more plant-based diet. Even if they are otherwise convinced that it’s a better choice. 

It’s a conundrum that is all too familiar to Sunshine Coast entrepreneur Michal Fox. After becoming vegetarian four and a half years ago for ethical, health and environmental reasons, he sometimes still craved his favourite dishes that were difficult to recreate without meat. 

And the former CEO of now closed shoe retailer Shoes of Prey kept hearing similar stories in his network. People want to reduce their meat consumption, but are struggling with the practicalities. 

The brains behind Fable's plant-based meat alternatives: Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR).
Jim Fuller, Michael Fox and Chris McLoghlin (LTR) are the team behind Fable’s plant-based meat creations.

 “I’m a terrible activist, but have some entrepreneurial experience” says Michael. So, after a six months sabbatical during which he kept diving deeper in the complex issues of industrial animal agriculture, he decided to use his skills to help people reduce their meat consumption and launched Fable Food Co.

The plant-based meat company is promising to make it easier for people to create meat-free versions of their favorite recipes without having to compromise on flavour or texture. 

A plant-based meat that harnesses the natural goodness of mushrooms

“When I started to explore the plant-based meat category, two things became really important to me. Firstly, I didn’t want to create another burger or mince alternative. There were already quite a few very good products in the market,” explains the self-taught food entrepreneur. “And secondly, I wanted to use only natural ingredients that required minimal processing.” 

Entrepreneurs
Jane Goodall's masterclass teaches valuable lessons in conservation

Jane Goodall’s masterclass: 3 lessons on driving change

Since starting this blog a little less than a year ago, I’ve been lucky enough to speak to some incredibly inspiring people that live a life with impact and have learned a lot from them. But I am also keen to understand if there are general rules that I (and others) can apply to drive meaningful change.

One recent experience that has pushed my thinking in this direction, was taking Dr. Jane Goodall’s masterclass on conservation.

A scientist turned activist

Jane Goodall is probably most well-known for her work with chimpanzees, starting in the 1960s. While observing chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, she discovered – amongst other things – that the animals were picking leaves of sticks and used those modified sticks to fish termites from a nest.

Goodall’s discovery was ground-breaking since scientists up until then thought that only humans were capable of toolmaking. Her insights re-shaped the definition of man and our perception of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.

In the 1970s Goodall realised that to protect chimpanzees and their habitat from increasing deforestation and destruction, she needed to get out of the forest and spread her message. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute and since then has been working as a tireless advocate for the environment, social justice, poverty alleviation and peace.

Activists Conservationist

Returnr wants to make single-use packaging a thing of the past

The lunchtime trip to the local cafe or takeaway shop is a ritual for many professionals of all collar colors. A nice diversion in the middle of the day. Even if it’s only for a few minutes and the lunch is actually eaten at the desk or on the road.

But our daily habits come at a price – both literally (Australians spend $8.3 billion per year on buying lunch) and metaphorically in terms of the impact our routines have on the environment. The majority of take-out plastic containers are in use for less than 30 minutes before they end up in landfill where they’ll continue to live forever

The good news is that reducing single-use packaging might soon be a lot easier – thanks to initiatives like Melbourne-foobased co-op startup Returnr

A closed-loop reusable container network

“The idea behind Returnr is to completely get rid of single-use packaging,” says Founder and CEO, Jamie Forsyth, about the company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

To achieve this Jamie is building a closed-loop network of cafes, restaurants, take-away stores, businesses and individuals that uncouples packaging and containers from the idea of ownership.

Jamie Forsyth is looking to reduce single-use packaging
Jamie Forsyth is the Founder & CEO of Returnr. Image credit: Returnr

“One of the problems with owning a reusable container is that it’s so easy to forget at home or it hasn’t yet been cleaned to be able to use them again,” says Jamie. “This friction completely disappears if ownership is taken out of the equation.”

Entrepreneurs
Australian bushfire crisis Kangaroo Island

Australian bushfire crisis: how you can help long-term

The past months have been incredibly tough. Australia is fighting an unprecedented bushfire crisis which has burned across an area of at least 10.7 million hectares. Over 1,700 homes have been destroyed and 23 people lost their lives.

Over 1 billion animals are estimated to have died in a country where over 1,800 native plant and animal species had already been at risk of extinction. Conservationists fear that we may have lost some of them forever. Meanwhile, the bushfires are still burning across vast areas with no real end in sight.

Each day seems to bring more bad news. And while there are countless stories of incredible generosity and community, it’s still hard not to feel overwhelmed and helpless at times. Donating to causes that provide immediate support and relief is fantastic and vital, but I have spoken to many people who still felt they were not doing enough.

Managing the emergency right now still must be the priority. Yet the reality is that we will have to deal with the fallout from the current fires for many years to come – long after the haunting images will have disappeared from our newsfeed. This blog posts provides some ideas on how you can help long-term.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I will keep adding to it over time. If you have any other ideas on how to get involved, please add them in the comments below or drop me a line for it to be added to the main article.

Donate your skills to those affected by the Australian bushfire crisis

You might not have the money to support the relief efforts financially, but you might have the time and skills to help where it’s needed the most. What’s more, lending an active hand to bushfire victims will feel a lot more productive than continuously refreshing your social media feed.

Conservationist
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is jeopardising our reefs – government action on climate change can save them

Coral reefs are an important part of a healthy global ecosystem. They function as nurseries for many fish and provide important coastal protection for low-lying islands.

An estimated 400 million people in developing countries depend on coral reefs for protection and income. According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, tourism at the Great Barrier Reef alone is a $6.4 billion a year industry, providing 64,000 jobs.

But the future of our coral reefs is at risk. Back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by a warming climate are jeopardising their survival.

Marine biologist Professor Terry Hughes has dedicated his career to studying coral reefs. I recently had the chance to talk to him about his research on the linkages between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people and the role of governance.

The poster child of climate change

“In the context of climate change, coral reefs are often called the canary in the coalmine,” says Terry. “ I am not sure if this analogy is accurate or that coral reefs are more vulnerable than other ecosystems.”

Professor Terry Hughes
Professor Terry Hughes

“In Australia, we are currently dealing with burning rainforests, so one could argue that many other ecosystems are equally at risk. But coral reefs are very photogenic and iconic, so with their increasing degradation, they have become the poster child for the impact of climate change on biodiversity.”

The other issue with the canary metaphor is that it suggests that we’re still in the early stages of understanding and responding to the impact of climate change on the natural environment.

Scientists Thinkers
Australian farm

From tree changers to regenerative farming trailblazers

Murray Prior and his wife Michelle had been thinking about a tree change for a long time before they finally took the leap and bought a farm. “Inner City Sydney seemed like a very intense place to raise children. And as our two kids got older, it was time to make a decision,” says Murray who purchased a 220 acres property near Gundaroo in the Southern Tablelands of NSW just over 18 months ago.

The mixed-grazing plot ticked a lot of boxes. It had access to a river and the relatively short distance to Sydney made it possible for Murray to continue to work as International Marketing Director at a law firm four days per week before returning to his family and farm life over the weekend. 

Murray Prior regenerative farmer in the Southern tablelands of NSW
From tree changers to regenerative farmers: The Prior Family. Image credit: Murray Prior .

But the change in surroundings brought about much more than just a lifestyle change for the Priors. Murray and Michelle are now right in the middle of turning their property into a model for regenerative farming practices. 

Of mentors and newly minted farmers

It’s a transformation that was set in motion by a colleague’s book recommendation. Call of the Reed Warbler is an urgent call to move to less intensive agricultural practices. The author of the book is 5th generation Australian farmer, Charles Massy. His book is a powerful mix of personal memoir and scientific evidence. 

“Reading Charlie’s book changed our lives,” remembers Murray. “His story changed our perspective on the enormity of what we had just done. We started to think about our responsibility as custodians of the land we now owned.”

Entrepreneurs

The transformative power of environmental art: Creating beauty from plastic waste

When environmental artist John Dahlsen first started experimenting with what would soon become his creative medium of choice, it had some of his friends slightly worried. The huge piles of plastic rubbish – all neatly sorted by colour – that had taken over much of the available space in the artist’s house certainly raised eyebrows. “Some of my friends asked me if I was OK”, the Byron Bay based environmental artist remembers laughingly.

Byron Bay based environmental artist John Dahlsen.
John Dahlsen is an environmental artist based in Byron Bay. Image credit: John Dahlsen.

But what may have initially looked like an odd quirk, turned out to be a tremendous source of inspiration. In fact, it would change the course of his career.

The artworks that John created from plastic rubbish washing ashore on local beaches catapulted him into the Australian art scene and helped him win international acclaim.

In 2000, John received the prestigious Wynne Prize for his Thong Totems sculpture and was selected as a finalist in 2003 and again in 2004. His work featured in exhibitions in Florence, Milan, New York, Beijing – and countless places in between.

Absolut and Nespresso commissioned work from him to raise awareness about plastic pollution and recycling long before the David Attenborough effect brought the issue into the mainstream.

The accidental environmental artist

All of this was set in motion by happenstance. In 1997, John discovered the potential of plastic rubbish as a means for creative expression while scouring remote beaches in Victoria for driftwood to make furniture. “I noticed all this plastic washing up, so I started picking it up with the intention to take it to the local tip for recycling,” recounts John.

Creatives