Hale Magazine, by Emma Feloy 

 Sustainable consumption means many things. It means (among others) a fair wage for workers, a focus on longevity, and making conscious material choices. But it can also mean a lot of research and time if you’re looking for a new item. Susan Stevens founded Made With Respect in order to simplify ethical shopping. The MWR website is a collaboration of over 70 designers from across the world. Each brand must meet the required criteria in order to list products on the site and orders are then sent direct from the brand to reduce shipping. To find out more, we spoke to Susan about the organisation, what motivated her to set it up and the stories behind some of the MWR designers.

 

Hi Susan, what were your ambitions when you set up MWR?

My ambition for MWR is to be part of the movement to protect our planet. 

In 2014 I launched my first business working with artisan brands and overseas suppliers and saw first hand the transparency (or lack of) in supply chains.  Through my work over the past few years I’ve become more aware of the negative impact we as consumers have on our planet, it stirred a passion within me to create a business that made a difference.  

The stats are quite scary.  If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050 (currently 7.5 billion and projected to increase by 1 billion in the next 12 years), the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles.  Given we’ve only got one planet, that is quite a concern. Add to that the WWF 2018 Living Planet report recently released, shows evidence that nature is dying with 60% decline in the animal population across the planet, 83% decline in freshwater species and 90% of seabirds consuming plastic. We have to stop burying our heads and being ignorant of our behaviour because unless we change, our future looks bleak.

I created Made With Respect to not only be a platform for sustainable brands, but through MWR.Movement, we are educating and informing consumers that we play a crucial role in the problems our planet face and through taking consistent conscious actions we can start to be part of the solution.  

 

Can you tell us about the criteria you use when deciding whether to work with a brand?

Brands who we partner with must fall within the following four pillars;

  • Devoted to craftsmanship; making quality products that last and can be passed down through the generations.
  • Transparent supply chain; good working conditions, no child labour
  • Natural materials & natural ingredients; no chemicals or toxins (organic where possible), recycling, upcycling, regeneration and reduction of waste, embracing renewable resources and preserving the environment
  • Contributing to make the world a better place; supporting local or disadvantaged communities, being more than a profit driven operation

We have amazing brands producing products for self-care, fashion, home & outdoor who are giving back on so many fronts. One of these brands is Elvis & Kresse who recently featured on the BBC.  They are a UK based sustainable designer handbag label with a zero waste policy, they rescue raw materials including decommissioned fire hoses and reclaimed leather. Since they started making their bags a decade ago, none of London’s fire hoses have gone into landfill. Additionally, they donate 50% of their profits to charities.

 

Why did you start the ’31 Days of Sustainable Habits’ challenge? We love the idea!

I see this as being the crucial place to start, because it’s often the starting that is the hard part, once started it’s much easier to build momentum.  The objective is to show consumers that we don’t need to go to extreme measures, we simply have to make more conscious choices in our everyday life and we want to reinforce that small changes do ultimately make an impact.  

I think people can become overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start, the mentality then becomes `how can one person possibly make a difference’.  What our Sustainable Habits challenge does, is it shows consumers there are simple things they can easily implement into their lifestyle that will make a difference. For instance, place lint in the trash rather than wash it down the drain, why? because microfibres, which are too small to be caught by waste treatment plants, are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.  Buy wooden over plastic coat hangers, why? because over 90 million plastic hangers ended up in landfill last year, the plastic used is non-recyclable and leak toxic chemicals into ground waters. Buy natural fibres instead of synthetics materials, why? Because they are by-products of petroleum and are non-biodegradable plus during the wash cycle these micro plastic fibres are released into our water waste and end up on the shoreline, eaten by wildlife and fish and polluting our food chain. Carry a reusable drink bottle, why? because 50 billion plastic drink bottles are consumed every year, for every 10 bottles, only 2 end up recycled the rest end up in landfills and polluting our oceans and beaches.

The Sustainable Habits challenge isn’t just about telling people what to do but also educating and informing them why they need to do it.

 

We love the style choices you’ve made on the site. Do you have a particular aesthetic in mind when selecting products?

One of our key criteria is craftsmanship, we partner with brands who produce beautifully designed quality products made to last – that is what guides us aesthetically.  

A part of being sustainable means buying less and buying better, to avoid trends that encourage mass production of cheap items that are made to be easily replaced.  We encourage consumers to instead buy fewer timeless pieces that are made well and can be passed down. This is not only better on the environment but is also better on your bank account in the long run.

 

Can you tell us about some of the designers you work with? Are there any that really stand out for you?

They all stand out, I love that each and every one of our brands are not faceless organisations, the Founders have chosen to create a purposeful business that is socially conscious, respectful to craftsmanship, people and the planet.  They haven’t put profit first, but they are proving that you can earn a profit and be good. They are the game changers and we need to embrace and support them because without them our planet is in trouble. MWR is bringing them together under the one virtual roof to make it easier to support them, to buy from them and to shine the light on them.

To give you an understanding of the depth of these businesses, these are just a few of our brands amazing stories.

Wolven Threads is an eco-friendly swim, surf and athletic line made with OEKO-TEX certified Recycled P.E.T fabric (RPET), a fabric made from recycled plastic water bottles. The fabric is created by breaking down existing plastic that is currently clogging up our landfills and polluting our oceans. This certification ensures that their material is free of harmful and toxic chemicals. Wolven Thread use carbon-neutral wood-pulp fibers sustainably harvested that are woven and printed with natural dyes. Plus, Wolven Thread also give 5% of their profits to teaching yoga to at-risk youths.

Conscience design and produce mens clothing using only ethically sourced organic fabrics whilst also supporting a zero waste programme.  Through their zero waste programme, Conscience design and utilise fabrics that would normally end up on the cutting room floor, disposed of into landfill. This helps those who provide Conscience with these off-cuts to cut down their environmental impact whilst Conscience create innovative designs and unique accessories using the waste material.  Using proceeds from sales to empower environment focused initiatives, Conscience operate within a completely guilt free eco-system.

Purearth skincare range is ethically wild harvested using raw, sustainably sourced ingredients from the Himalayan Mountains.  Purearth’s environmental initiatives support biodynamic and organic farming methods, carbon offsets and reforestation. With each product crafted by hand, Purearth support fair trade, income generation for marginalised producers and help reduce gender inequality.  Channeling a part of their proceeds into their Purepurpose Program they show a commitment to working with marginalised women and producer groups, building alliances that bridge inequalities in gender and pricing in urban markets. Purearth also engage with NGOs, CBOs, women micro-credit and self-help groups in the remote Himalayas in the areas of women’s health and sanitation.

Aurai Swimwear support fair trade and source materials locally.  All AURAI swimwear pieces are fully lined with biodegradable fabric or doubled, to ensure durability. The first AURAI collection experimented with fish leather, a material discarded by the food industry that often ends up polluting rivers and lakes. Other materials include ECONYL®, 100% regenerated nylon made from recovered fishnets, old carpets and other industrial components, and AMNI SOUL ECO®, a bio-degradable fibre made in Brazil. The AMNI SOUL ECO® yarn biodegrades by 50% in just over one year, with an estimation that after 28 months, it will biodegrade 100%. Using digital print allows them to create beautiful patterns without using water and harmful chemicals.

ANEAU’s range of hand-made quilts for the home are designed in Sydney and made in partnership with the Purkal women’s foundation in a rural village in the foothills of the Himalayas – teaching skills, confidence, self-worth & happiness. Preserving age old traditions, all quilts are made using hand sewn techniques. One bedroom sized quilt takes three days to make. This attention to detail and craftsmanship creates a unique item and is made to be treasured. The Purkal women’s foundation teach women in the community skills in quilting, providing them with an income and a place to be appreciated – through their work they gain respect within their family, increased confidence, self-worth and happiness.

 

What’s on your MWR wish list at the moment?

I’ve recently purchased a few things that were on my wishlist, I’ve also bought a few things for my kids and husband for Christmas – one of my team said I’m not meant to bank roll the business but I’m really passionate about supporting our brands and every purchase through MWR is giving back to our planet.  

As a proud member of 1% for the Planet, MWR donates a minimum of 1% total revenue to approved nonprofit partners who do essential work across six core focus areas; climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife.

This southern summer I spoilt myself with French brand Atode Skater Dress in navy lace and an Atode Audrey Orange Washed Silk Dress with Ruffles. I was running really low on skincare products so bought certified organic products from The Divine Company in Australia and Soley in Iceland.  For my daughters I bought them each a few pieces from Feather Drum in Australia with my favourites being the Botannica Jumpsuit in the most gorgeous shade of green and the Freya Dress in an earthy brown, made from organic cotton & linen. And for my husband I bought him a selection of all natural male grooming products from Hunter Lab in Australia and C3 in the USA.

Still on my wishlist is Icelandic brand Hannes Dottir exfoliating Seamasque and I’ve got my eye on NZ & Brazilian brand Aurai Swimwear Mytros top and AmaElla lingerie!

 

We’re very aware that it can be difficult to make sustainable choices every day. How do you ‘practise what you preach’ in your personal life?

It does require more thought and more self control at times – but it’s like anything new or when routines change, at first it seems a bit foreign and unfamiliar but after a while it becomes the norm and you start to create habits that compliment your new choices.  

I’ve also given myself a break – I no longer mind if someone sees me wearing the same clothes in the same week, I no longer need to buy something new to make me feel good and I’ve stopped seeing material possessions as a sign of success.  Success comes in so many different forms and means different things to different people but ultimately I’ve realised that accumulating things doesn’t make me any happier. Consumerism is at the heart of the problem; through irresponsible and disposable consumption habits we are destroying our natural resources.  

I think the biggest revelation I’ve had is that I now place more value on experiences instead of possessions, I know when I come to the end of my life I’m not going to wish I had bought more but rather I’m going to want to know I made the most of living and having experiences with my family and friends.

I think awareness is key, I feel I’ve stepped into this space of knowing and having a greater appreciation for what’s really important; being content instead of being consumed with always wanting more.  

I’m certainly not perfect and I don’t expect others to be either, but if we all make small changes in how we live and consume, collectively we can make a significant and positive impact.  

Being ignorant is not bliss and our planet can’t wait.