Blog by Poppy Smith for Circular Economy Wardrobe
On the 8th of July 2020, I attended the Catalyst Summit. This was an online event for women aged 16-24 years old held by Catalyse Change, a social enterprise striving to empower women towards a sustainable future. The event was hosted by Traci Lewis (Catalyse Change, green project manager) and Jenna Holliday (An adept gender researcher and practitioner). I am interning this summer with Circular Economy Wardrobe which has meant I’m take a deep dive into learning about the global environmental and human damage that the fashion industry causes. In the UK alone we spent £30 billion on fashion and throw away 1.1 million tonnes every year of which 300,000 tonnes goes to landfill at a value of £140 million.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the information and news we see about what’s going on in the fashion industry. I wanted to find a way to process this information and learn how to put my thoughts into actions for positive change. In this blog I want to share with you what I learned at the Catalyst Summit to help me do that.
Catalyst Summit 2020 hosts
The focus of Traci and Jenna’s workshop was to educate the participants on how to develop a Sustainability Blueprint. The blueprint is made up of several elements which will be discussed in this report. Additionally, the day-long online event incorporated three guest speakers; Nat Fee, Carla Denyer and Rhian Sherrington. Their talks inspired those of us watching to find the confidence in ourselves to try and actively seek positive change for our planet. I personally felt even more empowered to carry on my journey of educating myself and promoting circular fashion after attending this event.
 WRAP Valuing Our Clothes Report, 2017 Nat Fee is a truly inspirational lady who started the City to Sea organisation which runs campaigns to ‘help individuals and businesses change the world’. The campaign’s focus is plastic pollution and how we can reduce such waste ending up in our waters. The web link to the campaign is as follows: www.citytosea.org.uk. Nat explained the motivation behind her hard work, stating that she realised she wanted to actively pursue the plastic problem we were facing when she saw the impact it was having on birds’ lives who mistook the plastic in our seas as food, effectively poisoning themselves when ingested. Through her determination, she has grown a small, start-up not-for-profit organisation into a campaign that employs 27 people all eager to save our planet – a truly inspiring story.
City to Sea’s mission as published on the campaign’s website
Carla Denyer is also a remarkable woman who has worked tremendously hard, dedicating herself and her career towards tackling climate change. Carla is a Green party councillor for Bristol ward of Clifton Down. She is known for her lead role in bringing about Bristol City Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2018. Through a career focusing on sustainability, Carla gave us 3 key pieces of advice to help us kickstart or further develop our own sustainability path:
Create your own opportunities – don’t wait to be asked.
You are better off focusing in-depth on a small range of issues rather than superficially analysing and working on addressing a vast quantity of problems. Your impact will be greater this way.
Don’t expect easy wins – Keep pushing!
Rhian Sherrington was also invited to talk to us on the 8th of July. Rhian is an author, vibrant speaker and learning facilitator (http://choose2flourish.co.uk). Rhian’s point of focus was finding one’s purpose. To do this, we were asked to imagine holding a mental compass indicating what paths we should pursue. One element of this compass is Values. When we achieve our values, we live a more fulfilled, satisfied life. To try and express this point, Rhian introduced us to Martin Seligman’s ‘Authentic Happiness’ theory. Seligman discusses three levels of life and Rhian asked us to think which we associated ourselves with at this moment in time. The levels are as follows…
The pleasant life: Appreciating companionship and focusing on our own bodily needs.
The good life: Discovering our own unique strengths and using them in our everyday lives. The meaningful life: Realising a deeper, lasting fulfilment and happiness through focus on a purpose greater than ourselves.
If you are experiencing eco-anxiety and want to make a positive impact on our planet’s environment, the aim is to achieve a meaningful life and understanding what this involves can help us to achieve it. Rhian explained that Seligman’s theory of a meaningful life and sustainability blueprints can help us understand how to forge our own path with sustainability in mind.
Jenni and Traci then discussed with us the structure behind a sustainability blueprint.
The sustainability blueprint layout consists of:
A visionary question: E.g: a question of mine is ‘How can we keep our clothes in circulation and out of landfill?’
Asking yourself ‘What am I good at and what do I love doing’: Associating your skill set with what you are passionate about allows you to develop your sustainability mission.
A confidence tip for yourself: This allows you to re-engage with your mission if your confidence wavers along the way
Behaviour preferences: What behaviour do you want to exhibit when working on your mission? A helpful tool to use is colour profiling. Companies such as ‘C-me colour profiling’ ask you to fill out a questionnaire which identifies what characteristics you have from which parts of what is called the ‘C-me colour wheel’. The colour-profiling technique then shows you what values you bring based upon your personality traits. This is helpful to see when you are working towards achieving a goal and shows you in a simplistic way what you yourself can bring to the table.
Analyse what sustainability sector you want to focus your efforts in: Sustainability encompasses almost everything in our society and is a broad term that refers to the sustainability of the planet and ourselves within it. So, it’s important to identify a topic that most interests you. For example, I have chosen the fashion industry due to my interest in the circularity The pleasant life: Appreciating companionship and focusing on our own bodily needs. The good life: Discovering our own unique strengths and using them in our everyday lives The meaningful life: Realising a deeper, lasting fulfilment and happiness through focus on a purpose greater than ourselves of clothing and the environmental and social challenges of the current fashion industry that I mentioned at the beginning.
Identify your role in sustainability: This method allows you to lay out what you want to achieve and ways in which this can be done without overwhelming yourself. Working through our role in achieving sustainability is a challenge especially during lockdown when we’re questioning everything and worried about what’s going to happen in the future. The workshop asked - Are you an activist, is your career path focused towards sustainability or can you influence others? Fashion is such a big topic, but I believe I have some new tools to help me sort out how I feel about issues such as clothing that I only wear once, or how many times I shop online and send things back. I can begin changing my own behaviour and by example work towards helping others.
All in all, the Catalyst Summit was fantastic and provided me with an array of new knowledge and skills that will enable me to achieve my own personal sustainability mission. I couldn’t recommend their workshop enough!