fast fashion &
the fast climate crisis
by Rebecca Boland. Interview with Elesha Webber
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by the millions of people, can transform the world.”
Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion
The climate crisis is rapidly closing in around us. We are moving land at an unprecedented rate only to refill the holes with landfill and a hope to smooth out the surface with an ignorance that has lasted decades. More people are becoming aware of the greater challenge of climate change, but not everyone is knowledgeable at an everyday individual scale about the smaller ethical choices we can make that will have great impact when exercised by the many.
As the founder of By Webber and with the recent launch of her new business, I was fortunate to discuss some of the themes around climate, fast-fashion, and ethical choices for our home and lifestyles with Elesha Webber. Having a passion and commitment to educating others, Elesha’s business model goes beyond addressing the fast-fashion crisis and tackles several larger climate issues through her brand.
Elesha discusses the many ways we can adapt buying habits from mass-production consumerism to a mindset more conscious of shopping choices. Through an awareness of what exactly we are buying, these practical and ongoing shifts to a simpler minimalistic lifestyle will enable the planet to heal when we all play our part.
– Rebecca Boland
The climate crisis is unfolding at a rate that is almost incomprehensible, so there are a number of topics that am eager to discuss, but I thought it would be great to start off by hearing your thoughts about what inspired you to start By Webber? Was it something you always planned for, or is it something you have developed an interest in over time?
Where to begin . . . Taking this story back to the top.
My journey of vegetarianism/veganism started about 7 years ago, which then led me down a path of minimalism. I was once a shopaholic that thought I needed a new outfit every weekend! Like most, I wanted to keep up with the latest fashion trends and seasons. Never would I ask myself (or anyone for that matter) “WHERE is this made?”, or “WHO made this piece of clothing?”. Not only was this lifestyle burning a hole in my savings, but it was also burning holes in far worse ways than I could ever imagine!
A little while after committing to a vegan diet, I was watching a documentary, or I had seen something on social media, of the term “fast fashion”. I decided to research it and I was horrified, furious and angry with what I had read. And with myself too, for being so oblivious and selfish with the way I had been living. From that moment, I stopped buying clothes every time I went to the shop and when I did shop, I would buy locally and ethically made organic fabrics where possible. Not only did I consume like this for clothing, I transformed and took this approach with food and produce, then taking it a step further and reducing the purchase of single use items and going plastic free (but that’s another story).
Being an Indigenous person, we have an immense connection to the land and culture, we are taught to respect others and the land on which we are. I wanted to build a brand to create awareness through fashion, a business that aims to shift consumers’ mindsets away from fast fashion ideals, to appreciate the quality of a garment, and to observe longevity and living with less. I understand not everyone likes to thrift/buy second hand. ByWebber was born, giving consumers a more sustainable counterpart to fast fashion, and unethically made products. As well as giving back to the land by planting trees, cleaning oceans, and educating Indigenous communities on waste, healthy eating and much more!
It’s notable that By Webber is providing an ethical clothing brand, but even more so, that you then go a step further and give back to the land in numerous ways. This approach to embracing parallels of climate change is a business example that could lead the way for the future. It’s not something I have previously thought about when it comes to purchasing clothing, it’s exciting that you are addressing issues of deforestation and recycling through purchases of By Webber products.
Research shows that, in 2020, 48% of fashion’s supply chain is linked with deforestation. The bad news is that the demand on cutting trees for fabric production is estimated to double by 2050
By Webber is committed to help regenerate and replant as many trees here in Australia. By Webber has partnered with NFP Reforest Now, a percentage of all sales made with By Webber are donated toward Reforest Now. This is just one way we aim to give back to the land.
Additionally, we aim to assist in ocean clean ups and provide waste education to remote Indigenous communities here in Australia. This is just the beginning, and I cannot wait to see how much change I can make with the brand! I’ve said it from the start, By Webber is NOT another fashion brand. When you purchase at By Webber, you’re not just a customer buying a product. You’re a voice contributing to a bright and sustainable future for generations to come.
. . . if you’ve ever wondered how many trees are cut down every year, the shockingly short answer is that 15 billion trees are lost annually to deforestation.
Looking at the production of clothing more specifically, including the development of By Webber garments, I am interested to discuss how the manfacturing of sustainable clothing differs to that of fast-fashion clothing? How did you approach choosing materials, packaging, or production methods that would have a positive or better environmental impact than many of the current practices in clothing production?
. . . if you’ve ever wondered how many trees are cut down every year, the shockingly short answer is that 15 billion trees are lost annually to deforestation.
From the get-go through building By Webber I wanted everything from the fabric, swing tags and packaging to be consciously thought through with planet sustainability at the forefront. By not producing and manufacturing more than what we need, to avoid overconsumption. Quality over quantity! All my packaging is compostable and plastic free! My “thank you” cards that I place with all my orders are handmade here in Melbourne, using recycled paper. My swing tags are all recycled, undyed and made here in Australia.
Not having any previous experience in fashion manufacturing, I had no idea what I was doing or looking for! I started the journey by googling ethical and local manufacturers here in Australia. After a few failed attempts, I found a local manufacturer which focuses on sustainable, organic, and ethically made products!! They’re an Australian based company but have their factories overseas, for a second when I had read that their factories were ‘overseas’ I thought ‘oh no! not another one’. However, delving into their products and reading up on them, they were legit! They ticked all my boxes and were fully certified and were also part of fair wear (see: https://www.fairwear.org/about-us/get-to-know-fair-wear).
Ensuring all my garments are produced using certified organic cotton (GOTs)/ sustainable fibres, cruelty free etc. Why I choose organic? Because non-organic products are grown with the help of chemicals and pesticides. The pesticides affect the soil and the water, damaging the natural resources in the process and disturbing the ecological balance.
Organic cotton uses 91 per cent less water than regular cotton and it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. By Webber is here to create awareness and provide a sustainable counterpart to fast fashion ideals.
In short – The main difference in fast vs. sustainable fashion is the amount of waste that each one produces. Sustainable fashion decreases waste by making clothing that is significantly better quality. Less waste leads to less water pollution and fewer carbon emissions during production. Buying local and certified organic products is what you should be looking at when shopping next!
As you mentioned, buying local and certified organic products are some of the conscious choices consumers can begin to embrace. Are there certain companies, fabrics, or practices to look out for when shopping local?
Pick one thing to change at a time is my advice. Going plastic or waste free and reducing your overall carbon footprint can be very overwhelming! Everything we touch from the food we eat to the clothes we wear are either made or covered with plastic (for example). My favourite quote by Anne Marie Bonneau
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
When it comes to your wardrobe, you want to try and source your products locally if possible. Ensuring that you’re buying certified organic and sustainable products, some sustainable fabrics may include – Hemp, Bamboo, Linen, Organic Cotton, Tencel. Try to remember the “R”s of recycling (see image) and support brands that have sustainability at their forefront, have the planet at heart, and are vying for a more sustainable future. But most importantly look for brands that are transparent with their products, manufacturing, etc!
A circular fashion economy needs to be celebrated loudly and all brands that sit within that!
WHAT IS SLOW FASHION?
Slow Fashion is an approach to producing clothing which takes into consideration all aspects of the supply chain and in doing so, aims to respect people, the environment, and animals. It also means spending more time on the design process, ensuring that each piece of apparel is quality made. – Kristi Soomer – Forbes
“ Sustainable fashion decreases waste by making clothing that is significantly better quality. Less waste leads to less water pollution and fewer carbon emissions during production. ”
For many people, change can be overwhelming, but educating ourselves is key to driving a preference for alternate solutions. Are there any resources that you can found particularly valuable for educating yourself around these themes, resources that others too might find useful as a foundation to begin the process toward making more ethical lifestyle choices?
I agree, change can be very overwhelming with anything we do in life. Embracing change is where the next part of your life starts; that you don’t see change as adversity, but an opportunity to improve yourself or try new things! Being open minded and not closed off, understanding others viewpoints even if they don’t align with your standards or beliefs. The world needs more of that.
My advice is simply reusing what you already have. Transform your mindset, really ask yourself “do I NEED this” or is this just a “want”. Educating yourself and others around you where possible. Social media is a platform I use to help educate others, it’s really a blessing in disguise for me. Buying second hand is not the end of the world, in fact you’re saving the world! We as consumers want everything yesterday. Australians are spoilt in how we live compared to other countries, sometimes taking a step back and appreciating the simple things in life, that happiness isn’t in that next handbag or pair of jeans. Once you reach this point of contentment, you’ll never go back to “normal’ or your previous habits.
When shopping keep an eye out for particular logos on your products (see images).
Search for “Product of Australia” tags, produced in Australia claims apply only when virtually all ingredients are from, and virtually all of its major processing occurred in Australia. “Made in Australia” claims apply when the product underwent its last substantial transformation in Australia, regardless of the origin of its ingredients. One must understand the difference here.
Here are a few documentaries that I highly recommend watching also:
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet
For more information about slow fashion:
What Does Slow Fashion ‘Actually’ Mean?
What Is Slow Fashion? – Good On You
It’s exciting to see entrepreneurs and local businesses evolving from individuals like yourself. Making ethical decisions for the greater good, and to restore our planet, has quickly become a necessity and not an ideal. Often the world is so consumed by money and profit that caring for the land on which we live has lost precedence and substance. It would be great to know where we can find more information about By Webber especially with the launch happening in mid-November.
This business started by me wanting to make a difference through fashion. I think the wave of young Australian entrepreneurs, including Indigenous people, is really inspiring to see and it’s a refreshing change for our communities. Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic had something to do with the rise in self-governed small Indigenous businesses, or maybe it was also a result of continuous inspiration. We see one person doing good, we become inspired, we want to do something too. Either way, I’m extremely excited and cannot wait to see what positive changes and impacts I can make through and with the brand! By Webber unisex basics is launching 12 November 2021.
The first official By Webber range will consists of unisex Premium basic T-Shirts. Slim fit and oversized styles with a small colour selection. Sustainable tees that are super versatile for any occasion. Clean and ethical basics! I already can’t wait to grow the range, offer consumers sustainable options and to simply buy better and buy less.
We’ve also just finished our first official photo shoot up in Brisbane where our models rocked the looks and brought the brand to life, so I can’t wait to share those photos with everyone.
I’d love for you to check out my website and share all things sustainability with your friends and family.
“ I think the wave of young Australian entrepreneurs, including Indigenous people, is really inspiring to see and it’s a refreshing change for our communities . . .
We see one person doing good, we become inspired, we want to do something too. ”
Outside of By Webber I know you also do much more at an individual level, things that when we all embrace them, can have big impacts. When we look to building a more sustainable wardrobe are there any parallels we could make in the laundry? From product to practice, are there any conscious shifts we can begin to employ when washing and drying? Are there more ethical washing detergents or cleaning products that are easily accessible?
We don’t need just one person doing waste/plastic free perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly. I’m still and forever on my own journey of plastic free and reducing waste within my daily life and with everything I do. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a lifelong commitment. It’s hard to stay on track, I won’t lie, but making small changes within your daily life and home really does go a long way! From refilling my laundry detergents, avoiding the dryer in warmer months, choosing more ethical products in terms of what’s INSIDE, for example, going fragrance free and avoiding harsh chemicals, and using natural eco-friendly cleaning brushes and essential oils (organic). Everything we put down the drain must go somewhere – to the ocean, rivers, and land around us!
Try to avoid big chain supermarkets like Coles and Woolworth and opt for farmers markets, independent businesses and smaller stores that have sustainability at the forefront such as Biome and similar.
As consumers, there are an abundant of opportunities to switch everyday habits and ways in which we buy. Often these options are not well known and marketed. Being informed is the foundation for making more conscious choices when we shop for everyday essentials. Extending on some of the suggestions you have made for the laundry, do you have any knowledge on shampoos, soaps, and the opportunities we have to positively impact the environment and planet through any bathroom alternatives?
In this day and age with billion-dollar companies spending millions on marketing, GREENWASHING is something to be very aware about.
Furthermore, simple changes one could make within a bathroom setting for example, are opting for soap bars over plastic bottled liquids (ensuring no use of harsh chemicals and are organic and ethically made etc) avoiding palm oils and similar. If you prefer using liquid soap, try finding a store near you that offers refilling stations such as the source bulk foods (see: https://thesourcebulkfoods.com).
Swapping out plastic toothbrushes for bamboo brush. I have my shampoo and conditioner bottles refilled every few months by my hairdresser! My hairdresser now promotes this and allows other clients to refill, she’s also trying to go more plastic free with all products used in her salon!
The possibilities of going zero waste are endless as there’s more and more of a demand! And sometimes you must think outside the box and not let convince take over. You never know who you could inspire.
WHAT IS GREENWASHING
“Greenwashing is the process of providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered a false claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.
Companies engaged in greenwashing typically exaggerate their claims or the benefits in an attempt to mislead consumers. Greenwashing is a play on the term “whitewashing,” which means using misleading information to gloss over bad behaviour.
- Greenwashing is an attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for environmentally sound products.
- Greenwashing can convey a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally sound.
- Genuinely green products back up their claims with facts and details.”
What You Should Know About Greenwashing. (2021)
“When moving towards living a low waste lifestyle, the bathroom is normally the last place people turn too, but the second most wasteful part of the home.
The average person uses 10 cosmetic products per day, which also means being exposed to hundreds of different chemicals on a daily basis. What most people don’t realize is that the products marketers make you think you need, are not strictly regulated. Manufacturers can add pretty much whatever they want into your skin care, personal hygiene, and hair care products.”
“ . . . with billion-dollar companies spending millions on marketing, GREENWASHING is something to be very aware about.”
Like the last two themes and questions focused on the laundry and bathroom, I would be eager to hear your thoughts on any changes that can also happen in the kitchen environment. Recently there has been a shift in the architecture industry to provide new waste management strategies that include bins for food waste and glass, as well as the already general and recycling waste. I know that food waste has risen in parallel with the abundance of availability to consumers. Our habit has shifted to buy more than we need, and in turn to waste much more than we used to. Are there any changes you have made that help to have a positive impact on planet? Do you have any suggestions for ways we can make more conscious decisions around the kitchen and our behaviour as consumers within this realm?
“On average, Australians throw one in five shopping bags of food in the bin – that’s about $3,800 worth of groceries per household each year. Australian households throw away 2.5 million tonnes of edible food each year – that equates to nearly 300 kilograms per person!”
I’m thankful to have lived in both apartment buildings and now back to a suburban home equipped with a back and front yard, which allows me to grow my own veggies, herbs and have my own compost bin. Once you take the time to grow your own fruit and veg you really appreciate and thankful of that piece food at the end of the day.
In today’s world where we can have every fruit and veg under the sun during any season, we are spoilt with choice, and I feel we don’t apricate food enough. We buy more than we need and waste more! I continue to refill all my kitchen cleaning bottles at my preferred refill stores, in my household kitchen we have four bins, compost, soft plastic, general rubbish and recycling and what I love most about living in a house dwelling, is the opportunity and easiness to recycle etc.
The freedoms we have around suitability within the home, such as composting and recycling and water saving needs to be implemented across apartment buildings too. Especially denser and more populous one across CBDs. Because more people means more waste.
In comparison to most apartment buildings where there may only be 1 recycling bin on each level (if that) and one rubbish chute that goes straight to landfill! More major body corps need to invest and implement in suitable and sustainable recycling programs for their renters and owners.
“A 2020 environmental report found that replacing just 10 percent of animal agriculture could save the equivalent of 2.7 billion trees in CO2 emissions. Two years prior, the biggest-ever food production analysis found that eating plant-based was the single-most effective way of tackling climate change.”
Further to this, I know there has been a slow-moving trend of people shifting to a plant-based diet, or a more conscious lifestyle consuming less meat and dairy. Many documentaries have appeared in recent years to inform people of the industrialised food industries and the negative impacts these have on the planet. Is this something you have investigated, and do you believe this is another way that we can make small changes that will contribute to large ethical solutions in a notion to heal our planet?
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation around the globe. It also contributes to water pollution, soil degradation, ocean dead zones, and emits 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases, according to the United Nations. The picture looks bleak. But we can turn things around. The documentary “eating our way to extinction” is a wake-up call to the public that there is true power in changing what’s on our plates. It’s a message backed up by multiple scientific studies.
When it comes to the food industry and its environmental impact. I don’t like to use the word blame, personally. I think it’s something that nearly all of us have been a part of. We’ve been eating meat for thousands of years, it’s been a part of our culture, so I think that responsibility is a word I would prefer to use. And the responsibility lies with all of us. It lies with policymakers, governments, businesses, and it also lies with us as individuals. We have to ask ourselves the question: Do we really want to stop the very worst effects of climate change by making a very small change in our eating habits?
I’ve been planted based for about 7 years going on 8 and haven’t craved meat since.
We ‘crazy vegans” are not asking you to go cold turkey and quit meat tomorrow. We are simply promoting reducing meat and dairy intake.
After 4 years of dating, my partner who would eat enough meat to feed a small village – is now planted based. He started by limited his meat days and opted for more veggie and fish days, the next step was complete plant based. You must start small and find alternatives, there’s so much more variety of foods out there in the markets for us planted based goers and some even taste like meat!
I believe the science and going plant based is the future! There is no planet B!
The future is in our hands as consumers, and we must leave this earth in a better shape for those who come after us and for generations to come.
Founder of By Webber
Thanks for reading this article about slow fashion.