Earth Day is fast approaching and with its theme Invest In Our Planet, it got me thinking about the best ways we can invest in this beautiful place we all call home, and what that investment should look like.
To help me ponder some of these questions, I spoke to Orsola de Castro - author of Loved Clothes Last, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, and a grand dame of fashion itself.
This Earth is our only home. Together, we must protect and cherish it.
- Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary General
Earth Day: How to Invest in Our Planet
Investing in our planet can take many forms - there’s the literal sense of course, and it’s encouraging to see that financial investments in businesses focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles are in high demand.
So much so, in fact, a recent report by PwC found that since 2020 there had been an “unprecedented acceleration” in the move towards ESG-orientated investments. Simply put, demand for sustainable products and businesses is outstripping supply.
It’s also fantastic news that last month US President Biden used his presidential power of veto for the very first time to allow pension fund managers to invest in ESG funds - potentially making trillions more dollars available for funding green initiatives.
But what about how we, as individuals, invest in our planet? And what about at a business level? And a governmental level?
As you might imagine, the Fashion Revolution's Agitator-in-Chief, Orsola de Castro, has thoughts...
How to Invest in Our Planet: Governments
“The UK government should just fuck off - that would be the best thing they could do in terms of the action they’ve taken on sustainability,” eco-fashion expert, Orsola de Castro begins.
Indeed, the High Court ruled last year that the UK Government’s Net-Zero Strategy was unlawful. The ruling found the strategy did not contain the level of funding or detail needed to be aligned with net-zero by 2050, nor with the UK’s interim carbon budgets.
And we’re still waiting for that detail to come.
Governments are not acting quickly enough and legislation isn’t robust enough. Let’s face it: we are now three years into this crucial decade for climate action and the UK government is lagging behind.
Last month our European neighbours announced critical new details as part of the EU Green Deal which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become the first climate-neutral continent. It spells out how it will help encourage and legislate for more eco-friendly business practices - and help combat greenwashing.
Instead our government seems intent on tying itself in knots over politics rather than policy.
Meanwhile, Australia is forging ahead and is set to become the first country in the world to launch a standard for compostable textiles. When garments are worn out, they’ll safely biodegrade back into usable compost and, crucially, will avoid landfill.
How to Invest in Our Planet: Businesses
When it comes to the fashion industry, what businesses should be doing to invest in the planet is plain, according to Orsola:
“Pay garment workers a living wage, and slow down production. It’s the only thing that mainstream brands can do,” she says.
This year’s Earth Day comes just two days before the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, which killed 1,132 garment workers in Bangladesh.
For many - including De Castro - it was a landmark moment, leading to her founding and spearheading Fashion Revolution, a global activism movement with one simple question at its core: who made my clothes?
Since then the hashtag has been shared millions of times around the globe, raising awareness about social issues within garment factories.
And there has been concrete action too with the agreement of the Bangladesh Accord - a legally binding set of rules ensuring worker health and safety in the country.
But although this is the case in some places, it’s not the same everywhere. And unfortunately, it’s like a game of whack-a-mole, with factories in countries without legislation in place happy to undercut manufacturing prices at the expense of garment workers’ pay and conditions.
Back to the race to the bottom, where the lowest production cost wins - no matter the environmental and social cost.
It's a tried and tested get-out-of-jail card for large businesses to say wages and conditions are simply out of their hands, but as the old saying goes, he who pays the piper, picks the tune. And it’s time multi-national giants got their fashion houses in order throughout their entire value chain.
The other thing established businesses should do, according to De Castro, is “focus on not growing, and instead just being”.
But with most corporations beholden to profits and shareholders, slow growth or degrowth will be a hard pill to swallow for fast fashion businesses whose modus operandi is more, more, more…
“When it comes to business it’s the small and micro businesses that are where it’s at,” says Orsola.
“It’s easier to scale up a small brand with a great ethos and principles than retrofit and scale down a large one built on poor practices and unethical working conditions.”
And this is the nub of it. Investing in small businesses like mine, which have sustainable principles right at its very heart, can be the change we need to see in the world.
As the business gets bigger, we’ll stay true to our ethical principles and find new solutions that meet the criteria of our purpose-driven brand. Rather than make compromises to maximise profit alone.
I would love for shoppers and customers to join me on my journey now, as a small sustainable children's clothing brand, and help me grow My Little Green Wardrobe into something that can really make a larger difference to the planet and to workers’ lives.
And this speaks to the very core of what De Castro advocates: individual action.
How to Invest in Our Planet: Individuals
When it comes to investing in the planet, citizen action - where individuals or community organisations take on big issues at the centre of transforming society - is where change will really come from.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead, American anthropologist
Small actions, and small wins can feel trivial and hardly worth the trouble, but it’s in everyday actions and everyday conversations where mindsets are shifted.
“There’s a huge opportunity if we take matters into our own hands,” agrees Orsola. She points out how particularly when it comes to waste reduction and reducing consumption we have the power to simply and easily make changes.
The truth is when it comes to clothing - or any possessions - the biggest factor in determining an item’s environmental impact is the number of times you use it.
Cherishing the items we buy, taking care of them, making them last - and crucially not buying too much are the easiest and cheapest ways we can all invest in our planet.
An investment that costs nothing.
So many brands expand Earth Day into Earth Month and use it as just another marketing campaign to tell you why you should be buying their latest eco-friendly (is it though?) product they’re selling.
And honestly, as a sustainable brand, it’s a tough line to walk. I don’t want you to spend your hard-earned money on items you don’t need. But equally, if you’re planning on buying something, I’d rather that you did it from a brand like mine that has sustainability at its heart.
7 Ways My Little Green Wardrobe Invests in Our Planet
So this Earth Day I’ll leave you with 7 ways we invest in the planet at My Little Green Wardrobe…
- Every brand we sell has been vetted to ensure that it is behaving in a more climate positive and socially ethical way than is the current norm. And don’t just take our word for it. The sustainable baby and kids clothing brands on our site adhere to some of the most stringent certifications and standards in the world, including B Corp and the Global Organic Textile Standard.
- Our sustainable kids clothing brands are high quality, meaning they last longer and can be passed on to siblings or friends’ kids. This means you need to buy less stuff.
- All of our packaging is made from recycled and recyclable materials and printed with vegan inks - including the stickers on our tissue paper.
- We send thank you cards made from our special seed paper - a recycled pulp that has been impregnated with the seeds of meadow flowers. Great for bees and pollinators!
- Our orders are delivered using Royal Mail, which has the lowest reported carbon emissions per parcel of any major UK delivery company.
- The business is powered by renewable energy.
- For every single order we plant a tree somewhere around the world with our partners, Ecologi. Let’s grow the MLGW little copse into a gigantic forest!
And one final thought from Orsola this Earth Day - don’t be afraid of a little anarchy to bring about change:
“I’m an anarchist at heart. But contrary to what some people may think, anarchy is the opposite of chaos. You need organisation to make change.”
Earth Day Guide 2023
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22nd. It is a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection and to raise awareness about issues that affect the planet. The idea for Earth Day was proposed by Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, who was inspired by the anti-war protests of the 1960s to create a movement for environmental protection.
On Earth Day, people around the world participate in various activities such as planting trees, cleaning up litter, and promoting recycling and conservation. It is also a time to reflect on the impact that human activities have on the environment and to consider ways to reduce our ecological footprint. Earth Day is now recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, with more than a billion people participating in activities each year.
When was the first Earth Day?
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. It was organized by Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, who wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote conservation efforts. It came about after what was then the worst oil spill in US history along the Santa Barbara coastline in California, killing thousands of marine animals and polluting the waters.
The first Earth Day was a huge success, with around 20 million people taking part in rallies, demonstrations, and other activities across the United States. It remains the largest single day of protest in history.
It helped to inspire the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and saw several key environmental laws passed, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Since then, Earth Day has become a global event, with more than 190 countries now participating in activities to promote environmental awareness and sustainability.
When is Earth Day 2023?
Earth Day is always celebrated on April 22nd every year, so Earth Day 2023 will also be celebrated on 22nd April 2023.
What is the Earth Day 2023 theme?
The Earth Day theme for 2023 is Invest in Our Planet.
The Earth Day 2023 theme is focused on engaging people, governments, institutions, and businesses to recognise our collective responsibility and to help accelerate the transition to an equitable, prosperous green economy for all.
The organisers of Earth Day want to reframe the conversation to accelerate action, and bring everyone together to understand that change is within our reach if we work together.
Whether you are taking actions virtually or in person - you can join the largest environmental movement on Earth!
What can you do to help the planet on Earth Day and for the rest of the year?
Of course, we believe every day should be Earth Day, so here are a few ideas of things you can do to help the planet on Earth Day and throughout the year.
Here are some ideas...
10 things you can do for Earth Day
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of waste you generate by using reusable products, recycling materials, and composting organic waste.
- Eat less meat and dairy: it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the environment.
- Take part in an Earth Day Great Global Clean Up or organise one of your own.
- Reduce energy consumption and switch to a renewable energy provider.
- Buy eco-friendly products and sustainable clothing: Choose products made from sustainable materials, avoid single-use plastics, and buy products with minimal packaging.
- Support local and small businesses like My Little Green Wardrobe: Buy local and organic products, which helps reduce transportation emissions and supports your community.
- Support reforestation and rewilding efforts: Every order at My Little Green Wardrobe sees a new tree planted. Planting trees and flowers at home to attract insects and pollinators. Do this using our thank you cards on seed paper!
- Use public transportation, carpool, or bike: Reduce your carbon footprint by walking when possible or using public transport, carpooling, or biking instead of driving alone.
- Support environmental organisations: Donate to or volunteer for environmental organisations that are working to protect the planet.
- Educate yourself and others: Head here for a great reading list on issues about the planet and climate change - and share what you know with others to raise awareness.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember, every little bit helps, and the more people who take action, the greater the impact we can have on the health of the planet.
Happy Earth Day!