Sustainability; everyone’s talking about it, but few are doing something about it. Metropol caught up with fashion designer Maggie Marilyn and head of sustainable beauty brand Ethique, Brianne West about paying much more than lip service to the most pressing conversation of the century.
The subject of sustainability has been increasing in intensity over the past three years, Maggie says, but she believes there’s a lot of talk and not a lot of action.
“In our industry, fashion apparel, there’s no standard to hold you accountable to what you’re saying that you’re doing,” she says.
“So it’s very easy to say you’re sustainably conscious or that you’re transparent or that you use sustainably conscious fabrics, but what does that really mean?”
Having grown up on a farm in the Bay of Islands, she has long been environmentally aware, but hadn’t connected the dots to the fashion industry.
“It wasn’t until I got to university where this really unglamorous curtain was pulled back on the industry and I didn’t like what I saw behind it,” she says.
She spent the next four years learning everything she could about how to build a sustainable fashion brand and what that looked like.
“I feel lucky that we launched in a time when sustainability was gradually growing momentum, but I still think there’s a lot of greenwashing versus actual proper work being done,”
Catching up ahead of the pair joining designer Juliette Hogan and Kowtow’s Emma Wallace as part of a sustainability panel hosted by Ballantynes pre-lockdown, the sisterhood of sustainability really got down to the heart of what it means to run environmentally-centric fashion and beauty brands.
Biologist Brianne West says sustainability in business is a must-have.
“If you don’t have some kind of sustainability standard, most millennials and bugger all Gen Zs will shop with you. So if you don’t have something sustainable – and unfortunately often it’s fake – then you don’t get a look in.
“Sustainability has gone beyond ‘cool’. Now it’s kind of a non-negotiable.”
If the amount of consumer momentum Greta Thunberg has managed to create on a global stage, was created around a brand, the business would have no choice but to adapt.
So it’s consumers that need to take responsibility for affecting change, by demanding transparency and by demanding fair trade.
“And consumers are already doing it, they just need to do it more and faster!” she says.
For fashion, that means shopping smarter.
“The fashion industry is the second greatest emitter of fossil fuels,” Brianne points out. “Everyone goes on about air travel… stop buying clothes!”
And even if the sentiment seems detrimental to her own luxury fashion label, Maggie not only agrees with it, but it forms the basis of the Maggie Marilyn brand philosophy – one which sees slow fashion as the way of the future.
“It’s not just about being in business to sell Maggie Marilyn clothes, but to change the conversation and, in turn, change our industry.”
With unsustainable options becoming cheaper than ever before, it’s about educating consumers about buying less, but buying well, with the value of re-sale and product lifespan making up the difference in price point.
“It’s not actually the people who can’t afford designer clothing that’s the issue,” Maggie says.
“It’s the girl who goes to H&M and Zara and gets a new dress every Friday night, who could actually afford to buy a more consciously made product; it’s the consumer that’s the issue.
“It’s about changing a whole mindset of mass consumption that we’ve just been in for the last 40 years. We’re not going to unwind the situation in five minutes and that’s something I have to remind myself of because I’m incredibly impatient!”
Over four years in business, the goal post has shifted for Maggie from what she thought a sustainably conscious brand would look like to where the label is now.
What she thought would be all about building a transparent supply chain, using fabrics that had the least negative environmental impact, and supporting and building a community of manufacturing in New Zealand, has expanded to measuring carbon emissions, to educating customers on garment care and after-life.
“Fifty percent of the impact clothing has from an environmental perspective is actually done after the customer buys it, so how they care for their clothes and what happens to that clothing once they’ve fallen out of love with it.”
You’ll find garment care instructions on the brand’s website, detailing how best to look after your beloved pieces.
“Start by getting rid of your tumble drier! That’s a way to ruin absolutely everything that you own. Gentle machine-washing clothes, hanging them in the sun… all those things can make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s small, incremental changes that can make the biggest difference.”
Maggie’s new line, launched at the end of last year, is intended to become fully circular in time.
“It’s designed to have a take-back scheme whereby the fabrics can be shredded down and repurposed into new fabrics and then into new garments, so eventually in our Utopian model of a brand, we wont use any virgin resources.”
Ethique’s products are already completely circular.
They are fully biodegradable, so if a packaged bar fell out the bathroom window, both the product and packaging would rapidly break down into something that plants can use to regrow.
Although naked products would be superior, retailers won’t allow naked stock, so Brianne has the next best thing – packaging made in New Zealand from sustainably-sourced stock.
“For every tree they cut down, they plant two,” she says. “
Ethique is also carbon neutral, double offsetting any travel.
They’re working towards sea-freighting everything in the future, along with opening up warehouses in the UK, Australia and US to minimise the affects of global distribution.
She’s passionate about her fair trade and charitable partnerships, with the company donating 20 percent of its profits to charity every year; a figure that’s soon to double.
There are also some exciting carbon emissions plans Brianne is looking forward to announcing soon.
Meanwhile a circular business is also in sight for Maggie.
“It’s definitely our Northern Star to be a fully circular business and it’s not going to happen in five minutes; there are huge complexities to doing that in our main line and we are figuring it out with this new line we launched last year.
“Circularity is really key to being a fully sustainable brand and ultimately have a regenerative impact, so that’s the goal.”
Ethical clothing range Willou has been in hot demand this summer, which has seen stylish new designs added to an already evolving collection that’s all made right here in Christchurch.
Founded by sisters Sarah and Dominique Dougall, this sustainable brand aims to create “small collections of trans-seasonal pieces” by supporting local businesses and manufacturers along the way.
By working with New Zealand fabric suppliers, cutters and machinists – and both sisters completing garments themselves – they can track every stage of their product’s lifespan.
The range includes tops and tees, jumpsuits, pants and dresses, all in a chic, natural colour palette of ivory, charcoal, olive, dark navy, paprika and oatmeal.
New styles just launched include the Daisy singlet, Poppy blouse and Paper bag pant available in tones of mustard, sage, ivory and dark navy. Linen hair ties and scrunchies are available to purchase online, as are gift vouchers.
Made from 100 percent linen – a material known for its ability to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter – the high-quality wash and wear collection is designed to last for many seasons.
If your New Year’s resolution was to buy sustainably, Willou’s online store is the best place to start. Visit today to browse the exciting new range.
Nestled in the heart of Sumner and somewhat now an institution, The Ivy gift and homewares store has moved into its sixth year of business. While favourite brands and labels remain, fresh products are constantly being sourced with an ongoing emphasis on sustainability and ethical production.
Owner Karen Aitken, who has a background in food and nutrition, has recently added a side-branch to her business – The Ivy Kitchen.
Karen’s love of good food has led to the establishment of this catering branch of The Ivy, which includes the creation of delicious morsels for all occasions, locally and within Christchurch.
Thanks to the ongoing support of locals and regular customers from all over Christchurch, ‘The Ivy’ continues to grow and looks forward to exciting new product lines and twists in the future.
Find The Ivy at 55 Nayland Street, Sumner, open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm and weekends from 11am to 4pm. Phone 03 326 6481 or find them on Facebook and Instagram.
The Fermentist is one of the hottest newbies on the culinary block, with beer at its roots and sustainability at its heart. We caught up with the brewery’s passionate General Manager Simon Taylor about this story of sustainability and making history.
Simon, can you tell us a bit about your brewing journey and what attracted you to the industry?
When I look back on my passion for brewing it started when I was about 10 years old, making ginger beer in my parent’s garage. I then progressed to making cider. Ask mum and dad about the many bottle fermented eruptions that sprayed all over the garage! I studied microbiology and plant science at Canterbury University and was employed by Lion Nathan on their graduate programme back in 1990. What I most enjoy about brewing is that making beer is a craft; it’s hands on; it’s about the best ingredients coming together to make an amazing product. I have never met a brewer who doesn’t love their job and this passion is infused into every beer.
How did the story of The Fermentist start?
I was talking with a brewer I have known for many years, Kirsten Taylor, about the great memories we had working at Speights and Canterbury Breweries, both as trainee brewers and then as brewing leaders. We both lamented the loss of Canterbury Brewery during the February Earthquake. We started talking about what type of brewery we would build if we wanted to build one here in Christchurch, and out of that discussion came The Fermentist. We wanted to build a brewery that was future-focused and would be around in Christchurch for a long time. So, we started looking at what we would do differently, not what we would do the same as other breweries we have worked at.
Why was sustainability so important to you right from square one?
If there is one thing that everyone is starting to think about, it would have to be our future here on earth and the impact our current practices are having on the world around us. The big, scary thing however, is often just where to start making a difference. So, when we started thinking about The Fermentist, we said we must do things differently. We can’t build a brewery that was good just for 2018, we must build a brewery that is good for 2033 or 2043. We are not perfect in any way, shape or form, but we are just trying to do better than we did previously. All our team are on this journey and we all try to do small things better every day. We have made a start and we know we can keep getting better and improving the way we work.
What are some of your main ‘green’ initiatives?
In the build of the brewery we went straight in with solar electricity and solar hot water. They are easy to do, you just buy the gear. What we started to think about were the subtle things that can make a difference, so we said we will only buy malt from Gladfields in Dunsandel, we will use hops from the Nelson/Tasman region. In the taproom we will buy as much as we can from Canterbury producers, we will grow produce in our own garden bar. When it came to our team, we wanted people whose values aligned with ours and we wanted to help them build a career. Our brewery car is an Outlander PHEV and we are currently looking at installing an EV charging station. Our menu in the taproom focused on plants as we see them having a lower carbon footprint, especially when we buy local. We have wine on tap and encourage our customers to look at this as a way of reducing glass waste.
You have now made history with the country’s first carbon-neutral certified beer – your Kiwi Pale Ale. How much time and effort went into that and how much celebrating came after?
People often ask me why we strived for carboNZero certification. If you go out and make a stand on being sustainable, how do you prove it? So, we looked around and a lot of sustainability credentials need lots of explaining, whereas if you can say that we measured our carbon footprint, and it came out at 0.752kg CO2 per litre of beer we make, then we have one number to manage down. The data collection, auditing and certification process took us and Enviro-mark Solutions about 6-7 months, but we were learning. We now have one measurement that, we can manage downwards. For the carbon footprint that we can’t avoid, we have purchased offsets from Hinewai Reserve on Banks Peninsula. This is a journey and we will keep working on reducing our carbon footprint. Kirsten has now moved into a role focused on our sustainability plans and having that dedicated resource will help us get better all the time.
YHA New Zealand has reconfirmed its carboNZeroCertTM certification by celebrating a 21 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2016.
This celebration comes off the back of its nomination for the Environmental category of the New Zealand Tourism Awards. Both achievements represent a challenge from YHA to the rest of the tourism industry. “Our approach has always been to build in sustainability from the ground up,” General Manager for Marketing and Sales Brian Westwood says.
“If we can do it in an extremely price-sensitive, low-margin operating environment, we really believe everyone should be able to do it.”
The not-for-profit was the world’s first accommodation network to become carboNZeroCertTM certified and, with 13 properties, remains the largest. To remain certified, YHA’s managed hostels and National Office must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent per year. The organisation has beaten this target for the third straight year, slashing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 8 percent from 2018 to 2019.
As well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, YHA New Zealand offsets its remaining carbon emissions via an accredited carbon offset programme supporting the regrowth of natural forest on the Banks Peninsula.
YHA continues to invest in solar and geothermal energy. Replacing lights with LEDs, new solar installations, double-glazing and insulation upgrades all help shrink hostels’ carbon footprint. The new YHA Lake Tekapo, a state-of-the-art 128-bed development which opened in April 2019, is fitted with photovoltaic panels and a solar hot water heating system.
Christchurch coffee connoisseurs now have a convenient, environmentally friendly option for their daily takeaway coffee, with reusable cup sharing company Again Again launching its revolutionary system in the city.
Twenty-two cafés around Christchurch have joined the launch, including 16 Coffee Culture cafés, three Switch Espressos, Prima Roastery, XCHC and Procopé.
“Our mission is to make reuse as normal as the convenience of takeaway coffee,” Again Again Founder Nada Piatek says.
“People already want to do the right thing, now we’ve provided a system that makes that possible without sacrificing convenience.”
Again Again makes a fleet of reusable steel cups, silicone lids and cardboard heat sleeves available by deposit and return at participating cafés. Customers order their coffee as usual. They pay a $3 deposit when they ‘check out’ a cup, which is fully refunded when they return the cup to a participating café. Again Again then manages cup redistribution around its café network.
The company’s research suggests fewer than five percent of coffees are served in personal reusable cups, which require users to plan in advance, remembering to wash and bring their cups with them every time.
Again Again estimates its café network now diverts 50,000 cups from landfill every month or 600,000 per year, which Nada estimates will reach 800,000 once the new Christchurch café network is up and running.
Nada says the 295 million disposable cups that go to landfill every year in New Zealand is a problem worth solving. “Our mission is to make reuse normal by making it convenient.”
With the spotlight shining brighter on sustainability and climate change now more than ever, there’s never been a better time to give love to your garden. Nourish your plants/vegetables and recycle your food scraps at the same time with compost! Here’s a guide to get you started.
First things first: a good structure to contain your compost heap. Compost bins are the go-to, but if you’re feeling creative then build your own – just make sure it has a cover. Choose a sunny, sheltered position for your compost system and ensure it is easily accessible.
Next you’ll need a layer (no more than 10cm deep) of carbon-rich brown matter; we’re talking straw, twigs and small branches, dry leaves and cardboard.
Add alternate thin layers of brown matter and green matter – grass clippings, vege scraps, manure and coffee grounds. Haven’t got the energy for layering? Just make sure there is a good mix of green and brown material.
Add a little water with each layer to keep it moist, and mix with every few additions. The content of your compost bin should have the consistency of a damp sponge.
Turn your compost every two to three weeks in order to facilitate aeration and faster decomposition. A well-maintained compost can be ready in six to eight weeks.
Mature compost should smell earthy and be dark and crumbly. You shouldn’t be able to recognise any of the original components.
With interest growing in sustainable lifestyles, we caught up with architect Craig South of Allfrey + South Architects for his thoughts on the role architecture has to play in the sustainability equation.
Sustainability means different things to different people. As an architect, what does sustainability mean to you?
I think we all have our own ideas on what comprises a sustainable lifestyle. For some people, it has a lot to do with location and wanting to live close to where they work. For others, it may be about choosing a home with a smaller footprint or wanting to install solar panels. In our practice, we listen closely to our clients and are very happy to work with them to achieve their particular goals in this area.
Discussing sustainability in architecture might once have been considered a little unorthodox, but it is now an almost universal aspiration for people to want to live in well-insulated, energy-efficient homes. We live in a world where we have to make more sustainable choices and, as a practice, this is something we consciously and actively accept. We currently have a number of projects underway from alterations to new passive houses that set very high sustainability standards.
Why is sustainable architecture important?
We want to create beautiful architecture that people can enjoy living in, so there’s still a balance that needs to be struck. It would be a mistake to prioritise sustainability above all else but, of course, it makes absolute sense to include sustainability features because these result in warmer, drier, healthier homes that are more fun to live in. Who wouldn’t want that?
Rather than designing to code, we always aim well above that in terms of insulation, ventilation, solar heating and so on. It’s not just us being ‘eco-conscious’. Many of our clients want to go down this route because it makes so much sense. While above code projects may cost more upfront, the benefits are ongoing in terms of delivering power savings and a comfortable way of life. From a re-sale perspective, homes designed for sustainability will also remain more attractive in the long-term and continue to hold their value.
What is Allfrey + South’s approach to sustainability?
It is part of our baseline commitment to our clients and, by setting the bar high, we hope we can help inspire others to follow our lead. Fundamental elements of sustainable architecture include orientation that appropriately considers sun, shade and wind; and having high standards of insulation (including the slab) and ventilation. By ventilation, I don’t necessarily mean mechanical ventilation; good natural ventilation can be achieved through effective window design that promotes air flow and air quality. Recycled materials can come into the sustainability equation too, though often we find it is the heritage value of such materials that are particularly valued.
Fundamentally, we are guided by respect for our clients and will always work to achieve their lifestyle goals. How far we can go down the sustainability road is largely dependent on the conversations we have with them. It is a real pleasure to work with clients who are passionate about sustainability and want to share their journey towards a better way of life with us.
Carbon emission, waste and pollution are in the spotlight as we seek to create a sustainable future for New Zealand.
Future Living Skills gathers and presents useful information from reputable sources to support behaviour change and consumer choices. The community education programme is now being made available for free online, making the quest for sustainability a far more palatable journey.
While earlier versions of the Sustainable Living Programme have run in participating councils for many years, a grant from the Ministry for the Environment through the Waste Minimisation Fund has enabled Future Living Skills to make its education materials accessible online, supporting Kiwis to generate less carbon, send less waste to landfills and less pollution to rivers.
Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage launched the nationwide roll-out of Future Living Skills in Christchurch on Friday 27 September, accompanied by Housing and Energy Minister Megan Woods.
“Future Living Skills begins with reducing waste and protecting waterways, and goes beyond,” National Coordinator Rhys Taylor says.
“Our learning guides help you to understand lower-carbon living, in your energy, travel and food choices and when homes are designed or renovated.”
A year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that we have 12 years to drastically reduce global carbon emissions in order to stay below 1.5°C of warming, and Rhys says this was the turning point when the world began to wake up.
“Children started their School Strike for Climate Change and they continue that action across New Zealand. They recognise the urgent need for community education of their parents and grandparents, and they are expecting adults to catch up with the younger generation’s commitment to transition to a low carbon emission economy.”
Future Living Skills’ website provides information on eight topics, informed by science and independent of commercial bias. Evening courses and public workshops will continue to be available through member councils that have driven the programme in their districts, and others are expected to follow suit.
“Much information on global issues comes from unknown sources and is unreliable and sometimes deliberately fake, so providing reputable New Zealand-relevant information on reducing your footprint is important,” Rhys says.
“To take effective action on reducing waste, protecting water and avoiding global warming’s worst effects, we all need practical knowledge on how to get more from less,” Rhys says.
Future Living Skills gathers and presents useful information from reputable sources to support behaviour change and consumer choices. Member councils fund and check programme content, support local courses and can provide geographically specific information.
The bathroom wastepaper basket might soon be a redundant commodity as we go from wasteful to tasteful in the busiest little room of the house.
We look at tips to keep the bathroom a stylish, sustainable sanctuary – where consciences will also get a good clean.
Those plastic shampoo, conditioner, and beauty product containers all add up. Imagine what a family uses in a month – then do the maths. Thankfully, solid soap and beauty bars with recyclable cardboard packaging are a popular and evolving eco choice. And some innovative products are making it simple to start, and keep, a new sustainable habit.
Christchurch-based company Ethique, who has recently won the Westpac Champion Innovation Award, has deliciously scented, natural solid shampoo and conditioners that last and last – as well as cleansers, scrubs, moisturisers and serums. Solid beauty products are value for money too, as you’re not paying for extra packaging and fillers. And soap that comes in cardboard, or handmade varieties sold simply as is, are usually as good for your skin as they are the environment.
Favour the luxury of cotton facecloths, instead of disposable wipes. Loofahs, which come from a tropical vine of the cucumber family, are biodegradable and have long been a bathroom basic for expert exfoliation. Along with natural sea sponges, they also look great in the eco bathroom, blending with the trend for natural materials such as timbers and stone.
Bamboo for the bathroom is sustainable and affordable, and right at home here. Bamboo and wooden toothbrushes can replace all those colourful plastic ones that choke the landfill. Use bamboo cotton buds, and even hairbrushes or scrubbing brushes – along with natural wood, they create a spa-style Scandinavian vibe in the bathroom too.
For the sustainably serious, toothpaste can even be bought in a jar, or you can make your own all-natural concoction. Stainless steel safety razors should last a lifetime and replace another high-turnover item that has over-taken in its mainstream plastic form. Also, go for glass containers over plastic.
Ladies, consider reusable sanitary options like menstrual cups or reusable pads – this saves a mountain of plastic and packaging over time. Buy toilet paper in bulk to save on packaging, or change to a paper-packaged brand – and recycled toilet paper is even better. Choose the refill options of your favourite products, especially cleaners.
Try and use up what you already have in the house before buying more – for example those fancy soaps that have been given as presents. Be inventive and creatively recycle. Perhaps cut up old towels to make facecloths or to wrap around soap for a DIY lathering body scrub.
Online shopping sites such as www.greenelephant.co.nz are specialising in sustainable beauty products. And many owner/operator gift shops have sustainability top of mind when sourcing for their stores.
The fresh new focus on pure artisan eco beauty is luring us away from our no-longer-viable dependence on plastics. The bathroom is a great place to start cleaning up the planet.