Information and news about sustainability

Fast FashionWhen Nikki Reed isn’t on the big screen fighting evil vampires with the rest of the Cullen clan, she is creating ethical jewelry, clothing, home and beauty items for her sustainable brand, Bayou with Love. In 2017, the Twilight actress launched Bayou with Love in partnership with Freedom of Animals founder Morgan Bogle to create “a zero waste model with the smallest footprint possible.”

“I think what initially made me want to start Bayou was the desire to find products in the fashion industry that were ethically made, sustainable and chemical-free, and I couldn’t find any,” Reed said in an interview on her website. “I thought, ‘If I’m looking for them, other women must be too.’”

Fashion trends are constantly changing — driving consumers to frequently purchase new products.

And there’s a term for this: Fast fashion.

What Is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. This might seem ideal, but it causes a host of ethical and environmental concerns.

Ethical Concerns

Many prominent fashion brands, such as Forever 21 and H&M, contract with suppliers in underdeveloped countries to receive high quantities of clothing for a low price. Oftentimes these suppliers are unregistered, meaning they do not have to abide by any laws to provide safe working conditions for employees.

To keep up with big-brand demands, sweatshop workers are often forced to work 14 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Further, their salaries do not align with the extreme hours. For example, in Bangladesh workers are paid around 33 cents an hour.

Sadly, this is often their best option. Unethical clothing manufacturers typically target the poor — specifically women and children.

Working conditions in these sweatshops are toxic. Without proper ventilation, employees inhale toxic substances, like fiber dust and sand.

Additionally, the infrastructure of these buildings is often unsafe. A devastating incident in 2013 revealed the extreme danger of these sweatshops. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Rana Plaza sweatshop collapsed and killed 1,134 garment workers. The building could not support the number of people and generators that were packed in at once.

Environmental Concerns

The pace at which the fast fashion industry produces clothing pushes consumers to buy new products — often, this means discarding old ones. According to reports, the average person buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago but only keeps them for half the time.

Many of these discarded clothing items are in great condition but head straight to landfills. More than 100 billion garments are produced each year, but 87% end up in landfills or incinerators — emitting toxic gasses into the atmosphere.

On the bright side, brands like Bayou with Love and thrift stores are working toward sustainability in the fashion industry.

Bayou’s Sustainability Efforts

Bayou with Love’s partnership with Dell is one of the unique ways that it practices sustainability. By extracting gold from e-waste like old computer motherboards, Dell and its partners help Bayou with Love create recycled jewelry ranging from engagement rings to everyday necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more. The process is more environmentally friendly than extracting gold from the earth.

Bayou with Love also uses environmentally friendly materials for its clothing. These include cupro, recycled cotton canvas, tencel, post-consumer plastic, low-chemical-content chambrays and dyeing techniques and organic cotton to name a few.


The idea of thrifting or buying second-hand items is not new but is rapidly growing for a variety of reasons — TikTok among them. Many fashion and lifestyle creators post videos on the app of different outfits they created completely from thrift stores. For example, @halleykate rose to popularity on the app by posting “thrift hauls.” Now with more than 1 million followers on the platform, Halley’s videos promote sustainable yet trendy shopping habits.

Online thrift stores are a relatively new concept, too, with the launch of eBay and Craigslist in 1995. Since then, sites such as ThreadUp, Poshmark, DePop and others have made second-hand shopping easier. ThreadUp’s annual resale report for 2022 showed that thrift shopping is expected to grow 127% by 2026.

The push for sustainable fashion choices could play a vital role in protecting both the environment and people working in unsafe conditions. By combatting the fast fashion industry with Bayou with Love, Nikki Reed is promoting a new, healthier way to shop and be stylish.

– Taylor Barbadora
Photo: Unsplash

Sustainability in PalauForeign investment, tourism, agriculture and fishing all play an essential part in supporting the economy of Palau. These areas ensure that the employment and well-being of the Palauan people are maintained so that poverty and hunger decrease significantly. These economic drivers also play an important role in sustainability in Palau.

Marine Life

Marine life is vital to the island nation of Palau. It is its very heartbeat. The Palauan government has organizations in place, such as The Palau National Marine Sanctuary, established in 2015, which covers an expanse of 500,000 square kilometers of protected ocean area that prohibits actions such as fishing and any other commercial business.


To thrive, Palauans also need to use their abundant resources. If overfishing and industrialism take over, it could be detrimental to the island nation, increasing hunger due to the depletion of resources. A few answers to this challenge are:

  • Palau collaborates with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which partners with The Pacific Community (PC) “to improve sustainable fisheries in Palau…” and collaborates with the organization OurFishOurFuture, established in 2021, which “addresses the social and ecological drivers of IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing) that are degrading coastal fisheries and biodiversity, as well as negatively impacting local livelihoods, food stability and maritime security.”
  • Generations of skilled fishermen practice “the local custom of bul,” which “temporarily closes certain areas to fishing in order to allow marine life to recover.” This is a necessary and crucial step to protecting Palau’s valuable resources and protecting its biodiversity for the future.
  • Businesses such as fish farms, where responsible fishing is encouraged.
  • Palau has partnered with the FAO to reduce hunger in Palau and promote sustainable farming.
  • Producing and trading certain crops, such as marijuana, which grows abundantly on the island.

The Promise to Move Forward Together

Palauans have a strong sense of identity and belonging and deep respect for the well-being of their island nation. The government of Palau now mandates that every single tourist who visits the beautiful archipelago have the Palau Pledge stamped proudly on their passports — a promise to take care of the island on their visit. It says, “Children of Palau, I take this pledge, as your guest, to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home. I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully. I shall not take what is not given. I shall not harm what does not harm me. The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.”

– Matha Mathieu
Photo: Pixabay

Desserto Offers Sustainable Fashion
In a world, increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the fashion industry, Mexican entrepreneurs introduced a groundbreaking solution that combines sustainability, innovation and style. Meet Desserto, a remarkable material made from organic cactus plants, specifically the nopal cactus. With its exceptional properties and minimal ecological footprint, Desserto offers sustainable fashion products to customers, paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future.

The Eco-Friendly Alternative

Desserto’s production process is a game-changing innovation in the fashion world. Unlike traditional leather, which comes from animal hides and has a significant environmental impact, Desserto provides a cruelty-free and sustainable alternative. By using the nopal cactus, a plant known for its resilience in arid conditions, this innovative material requires minimal water and land to grow. This aspect alone distinguishes it as an eco-friendly choice, substantially reducing water consumption and land usage compared to traditional leather production.

Sustainability and Biodegradability

One of the key advantages Desserto offers sustainable fashion is its biodegradability. Unlike synthetic materials that contribute to the accumulation of waste in landfills, cactus leather naturally decomposes without releasing harmful toxins into the environment. Desserto is an excellent choice for those seeking to minimize their ecological footprint. By embracing Desserto, fashion brands and consumers can actively participate in the shift toward a circular economy, where these fashion products are designed with their end-of-life impact in mind.

A Toxic-Free Future

In addition to being biodegradable, Desserto is entirely free from toxic chemicals commonly used in the tanning process of traditional leather production. The manufacturing of Desserto avoids the use of toxic substances like chromium and formaldehyde, ensuring a safer and healthier alternative for both the environment and the people involved in the production process. By opting for cactus leather, fashion brands play a vital role in reducing hazardous waste and safeguarding human health.

Positive Impacts on the Environment and Communities

The benefits of Desserto go beyond its sustainable production. The nopal cactus helps mitigate changing weather patterns through its exceptional carbon absorption capacity. By choosing Desserto, fashion brands reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve natural resources.

Moreover, Desserto promotes fair trade practices, has the potential of providing thousands of employment opportunities for local communities and preserves traditional knowledge. This sustainable initiative empowers local farmers and supports economic diversification, contributing to the overall well-being and development of the Mexican economy.

A Shift Toward a Greener Fashion Industry

The emergence of Desserto represents a significant milestone toward a greener and more sustainable fashion industry. Fashion brands embracing Desserto as a viable alternative to traditional leather are making a conscious decision to prioritize ethical and eco-friendly practices. This transition is crucial in reducing the fashion industry’s environmental impact and fostering a more responsible approach to fashion production.


Desserto, a creation of Mexican entrepreneurs, is a true game-changer in the fashion industry. Its organic composition, minimal water and land requirements, biodegradability and absence of toxic chemicals make it a sustainable and cruelty-free alternative to traditional leather. By choosing Desserto, fashion brands reduce water consumption and carbon emissions and promote fair-trade practices. Moreover, Desserto empowers local communities, preserves Mexican farmland and fosters economic diversification. It symbolizes a shift toward a greener fashion industry, where ethical and eco-friendly practices become the standard. With what Desserto offers sustainable fashion, the future of the fashion industry looks exceptionally promising.

– Eva Cairns O’Donovan
Photo: Flickr

DegrowthThe idea of economic growth as the key to human progress has been a dominant force in modern society. However, questions about the ecological and social sustainability of endless growth are arising. In light of this, the concept of “degrowth” has emerged as an alternative to the growth paradigm. A degrowth model proposes that societies should move away from a unilateral focus on economic growth and instead prioritize human well-being, ecological sustainability and social equity.

What is Degrowth?

Degrowth challenges the idea of economic growth as the key to human progress. It argues that the pursuit of unlimited growth is not only ecologically unsustainable but also socially unjust. According to degrowth theorists, the current economic system leads to the depletion of natural resources, environmental destruction and widening social inequalities. “The faster we produce and consume goods, the more we damage the environment,” stated Barcelona-based economist Giorgos Kallis. “If humanity is not to destroy the planet’s life support systems, the global economy should slow down.”

A degrowth model centers on the idea that societies need to reduce the emphasis on GDP as the primary measure of improving human well-being and instead focus on sustainable, equitable and regenerative systems. While this may sound radical, evidence suggests that a degrowth model has widespread potential to improve lives around the globe.

Degrowth’s Potential for Poverty Reduction

For instance, economic growth alone has not reduced poverty and inequality. In fact, the gap between rich and poor has widened in recent decades. According to an Oxfam report, “The richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth (around $42 trillion) created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population.” In the U.S., the top 1% owns almost as much as the bottom 90% of the population combined. Such stark inequality has real-world consequences: many suffer from a lack of access to basic resources like food, water and health care. Also, there are such issues as political instability, conflict and climate-related disasters.

These issues suggest that the problem is more one of wealth distribution than of underproduction. According to 2019 Economics Noble Prize winners Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, higher growth (GDP) does not guarantee an improvement in livelihoods, especially if GDP is distributed unequally.

Degrowth offers a different vision of society. In this vision, resources are shared more equitably and the needs of all people and the planet are prioritized over the well-being of a few. In a degrowth economy, basic needs like housing, health care, education and food security would be prioritized over the accumulation of wealth and consumer goods. As London-based scholar Jason Hickel summarized, “Degrowth is a planned reduction of energy and resource use designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being.”

For example, in 2018, Barcelona implemented a “right to the city” program, which prioritizes affordable housing, public spaces and public services for all residents, regardless of income. The initiative demonstrates how, by reducing the concentration of wealth, degrowth can help create more just and inclusive societies.

Degrowth’s Environmental Vision

In 2021 alone, humans used an estimated “1.7 Earths worth of resources,” depleting natural resources faster than the planet could replenish them. Such overconsumption is leading to deforestation, water scarcity and climate change, all of which threaten the stability of ecosystems and the survival of many species, including humans.

Degrowth offers a different approach, emphasizing sustainability and regeneration. For example, Amsterdam has implemented a “doughnut economics” model that aims to create a circular economy that operates within the limits of the planet’s resources. This means reducing waste, using renewable energy sources and adopting regenerative agriculture practices.

Degrowth’s Potential for a Better Life

Ultimately, degrowth has the potential to create better lives for people around the globe. Despite the idea that consumption leads to happiness, studies have shown that prioritizing money, earning more and increasing consumption do not necessarily increase happiness. In fact, a recent study of University of British Columbia graduates found that students who prioritized money (nearly 40%) were less happy a year later than those who prioritized time.

Degrowth emphasizes community, cooperation and creativity. By reducing reliance on consumer goods and material possessions, its approach allows people to focus on building meaningful relationships and engaging in fulfilling activities. As University of Surrey professor Tim Jackson explained, “People can flourish without endlessly accumulating more stuff. Another world is possible.’’

Found to be a “resounding success,” recent four-day week trials in the U.K. and Europe support this idea. The reduced work week led to less burnout for workers, without negatively impacting productivity, and reduced fossil fuel consumption.

Looking Ahead

In reimagining society’s approach to progress, the concept of degrowth presents a compelling alternative to the pursuit of endless economic growth. By prioritizing human well-being, ecological sustainability and social equity, degrowth has the potential to address issues of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. Initiatives like Barcelona’s “right to the city” program and Amsterdam’s “doughnut economics” model demonstrate how degrowth can lead to more just and inclusive societies while ensuring the preservation of our planet’s resources. Ultimately, embracing degrowth offers the promise of happier, more fulfilling lives built on community, cooperation and a sustainable future.

– Sarmad Wali Khan
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Tanzania
USAID is working jointly with the Tanzanian government to reduce poverty and improve nutrition, especially in the agricultural sector. The Feed the Future initiative and the Tanzanian government provide targeted investments focused on developing the private sector. In turn, these investments will contribute to the long-term sustainability of programs that reduce poverty and improve nutrition. In practice, these investments assist small-holder farmers employed in agriculture in Tanzania to increase their production and be more competitive in the production and marketing of their products. These efforts have consequently increased farmers’ access to markets because of a greater ability to construct rural feeder roads.

Although problems remain, there are sure signs of progress for this U.S. and Tanzania partnership. Among these returns on investment, participating farmers have seen their productivity of rice per acre close to doubling and now “at least 450,000 people have benefited from the Feed the Future value chain interventions,” according to USAID. Another promising partnership addressing the sustainability of agriculture in the country is Tanzania’s own, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania.

Tanzania’s Circumstances in Numbers

According to USAID Feed the Future report from November 2019, the United Republic of Tanzania is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Success in economic growth aside, more than 49% of the population suffers from extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 per day. Furthermore, more than 34% of children younger than the age of 5 suffer from stunting and about 45% of women of reproductive age are anemic. Much of Tanzania’s public health and economic woes are in part attributable to the agricultural sector, a sector that employs 75% of the population and provides about a third of GDP.

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT)

Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), a member of the umbrella organization International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM Organics International), is a solutions-based organization that combines education, marketing, research and networking to improve agriculture in the country. SAT alleviates food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition by addressing unsustainable farming practices through educating, marketing, researching and networking in Tanzania.

This combination of tactics has resulted in small-holder farmers across Tanzania seeing significant benefits. The benefits these expertise programs have brought to Tanzania include an average 38% increase in participating farmers’ income and an increase in production reported by 66% of facilitated farmers, according to SAT. The health benefits for Tanzanians entail near-zero exposure to environmental toxins because farmers avoid the use of chemicals and 76% of facilitated farmers reported a more balanced diet.

Both of these developments have had a positive impact on public health in the country. As for gains in sustainability, after SAT programs assist farmers, such as the organization’s soil management programs, facilitated farmers saw their agricultural water consumption reduced by 59%, SAT reports. In total, SAT programs have promoted progress in attaining a more profitable, healthier and sustainable Tanzanian agriculture.

SAT has been a monumental partner in Tanzanian agriculture, hence the organization’s acceptance of the “One World Award” in February 2022, an award given to those organizations and people who make the world a better place. SAT has made leaps in progress in Tanzania getting closer to reaching the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but the ambitions of IFOAM extend to the rest of the world.

Exporting SAT’s Success

IFOAM, a coalition of successful organizations such as SAT, operates on the international level promoting organic agriculture in pursuit of the U.N. SDGs that aim for zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3) and responsible production and consumption (SDG 12). Organic agriculture can aid in achieving SDG 2 for zero hunger because it increases and stabilizes yields.

This, in turn, saves money that would otherwise go toward chemical treatment. SDG 3 for good health and well-being is on its way to success since farmers, after learning from said programs, are ceasing to use polluting synthetic chemicals on crops, which, in turn, reduces the harmful effects of chemical exposure on people. Furthermore, SDG 12 for responsible production and consumption is closer to success because these programs consolidate value chains, easing the ability of local economies to procure food.

Organizations such as SAT have proven instrumental for Tanzania, creating long-term sustainable development in the country’s agriculture. Exporting such success is a task for far larger organizations, such as IFOAM. The path toward attaining the U.N. SDGs will require the continued commitment of governments, the private sector and local partners and NGOs like SAT and IFOAM. Going forward, the combined efforts of organizations such as SAT and IFOAM stand as promising signs of progress toward reducing global poverty and a more sustainable world.

– Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Kimuli Fashionability
Kampala, Uganda generates 350,000 tons of waste every year, much of which goes uncollected. Sorting through glass, plastic and other trash is a dangerous job, but that does not stop Juliet Namujju from collecting waste for her sustainable clothing brand, Kimuli Fashionability, and teaching people with disabilities how to turn trash into treasure.

From Tragedy to Hope

Juliet Namujju’s father had his legs amputated after a terrible accident. Because of his disability, he was not able to find employment, lost hope and eventually died. At only 6 years old, Namujju became an orphan when her mother died shortly after. Her grandmother, a tailor with little income, took her in. Since her grandmother could not afford toys, she inspired Juliet to make and sew dolls using leftover fabric and waste. After high school, Namujju attended a fashion course and joined Social Innovation Academy, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth realize their full potential.

At 20 years old, she founded her sustainable clothing brand with the hope of employing and empowering the people of her village. Kimuli Fashionability was born out of ingenuity in an environment of poverty. Namujju’s mission is to simultaneously promote inclusivity by hiring people with disabilities while also limiting the out-of-control waste in Uganda.

The Brand

Kimuli is the Luganda word for “flower.” Namujju named her sustainable clothing brand “Kimuli Fashionability” because she takes the trash and turns it into something elegant, like a flower. Not only are her fashions flowering treasures, but her budding students make her business flourish. The sustainable clothing brand has trained at least 75 people with disabilities, and these new trainers are now teaching others. Kimuli Fashionability also contracts with 120 underserved adolescents to collect waste.

The company’s slogan is “waste is only waste if you waste it.” According to its website, Kimuli Fashionability transformed 33 tons of waste into more than 9,000 products to date, proving her slogan and solidifying her contributions to sustainability in Uganda.

The Product Line

Namujju and her team makes fashionable and affordable bags, raincoats, wallets and dresses using upcycled waste from disposal sites. One of Namujju’s most recent designs is a transparent face mask to help people with hearing loss communicate effectively in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typical face masks cover the mouth with opaque material blocking people from reading lips. Because roughly half of Namujju’s staff is hearing impaired, she saw a need to design a mask that would alleviate the communication barrier. Her face mask design uses a clear, recycled plastic at the center of the mask. She has sold and donated more than 2,000 of these masks.

Upcycled sugar sacks and African fabric make up Kimuli Fashionability’s bright yellow and red rain jackets. The U.N. General Assembly in New York displayed them. The rain jackets also come in neutral colors and feature both children and adult sizes.

The brand also sells duffle bags made out of old cement bags with straps of colorful African fabric. It also sells earrings in different shapes made from vibrant and colorful recycled plastic.

An Inspirational Journey

Though Juliet Namujju creates lasting change in Kampala by employing people with disabilities at Kimuli Fashionability, many with disabilities are still impoverished in Uganda. These people count for over 12% of the population, and only 20% of them do not live in poverty. Namujju wants to continue growing her business and training more people with disabilities. By 2024, her goal is to train more than 1,000 people with disabilities and offer employment to at least half of them. She wants to expand her business and market her clothing in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. By 2025, she wants Kimuli Fashionability to own its own production and training center. Throughout, Namujju will continue to teach her fellow Ugandans to look at waste differently and recruit them to solve the waste problem in Uganda.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

South Africa Introduces Solar-Powered BusesEvery year, the talk of rising carbon emissions and how to combat rising carbon emissions surfaces. Many organizations have proposed various solutions; however, alternative solutions to fossil fuels are never viable due to the financial impact on consumers. Combating carbon emissions will require everyone, from the average consumer to companies, to make small changes in order to make the world a better place. Golden Arrow, a South African bus company based in Cape Town, is working to make a difference by introducing solar-powered buses, which make transport affordable while helping the environment.

South Africa and Bus Transportation

Currently, nearly 21.1% of all South African households rely on buses for transportation. Additionally, nearly one million South Africans use the bus to get to and from work. However, there are numerous problems plaguing the bus transportation system in South Africa currently.

Right now, rural South Africans do not get access to bus transportation because buses do not cover certain routes. As such, these groups are required to walk long distances to reach their destinations. In contrast, bus transportation in South Africa is generally considered safer than other modes of transportation such as trains and minibus taxis. This may mean that consumers will often compromise on areas such as reliability and efficiency as bus transportation will often take very long periods of time to go to and from a destination.

Additionally, many of the buses are worn down and poorly maintained. In addition, fuel costs are very high to maintain for public busing. Access to affordable fuel or alternatives to fossil fuels must be necessary in order for bus transportation in South Africa to be reliable. Typically, fuel for buses often costs 10% to even 40% of total operating costs.

The Procedure of Launching the Electric Buses

In July 2021, Golden Arrow launched two solar panel-powered buses that will be fully functional. Golden Arrow designed the buses to carry passengers like any other fossil fuel-powered bus.

As part of its three-step plan, Golden Arrow installed a small-scale solar power system at their depot to power the bus. The second and third parts of the program involved expanding the solar power system by adding another 2,500 solar panels on another Golden Arrow depot. Next, the uYilo e-mobility program funded the electric bus testing. The trial runs showed that the buses could run for 300 kilometers without recharging. This would potentially help many rural passengers gain access to the public bus transportation system. It ran two buses, one with no passengers and another with sandbags equivalent to the weight of 44 people.

However, the experiment itself was a great success, showing there is much to learn about solar-powered buses. This includes electricity usage under different conditions, charge time between trips, maintenance needs and battery degradation.

Golden Arrow’s History in Cape Town

Golden Arrow transports 250,000 passengers every day. These two electric buses will help transport many lower-income constituents, as the Metro in the local Cape Town area stopped functioning. This will help many people get to and from their jobs and will also be environmentally friendly.

Overall, Golden Arrow’s solar-powered buses program has found a balance between making environmentally friendly transportation options that have positive impacts on the environment while making it affordable for the average everyday worker in Cape Town.

– Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

Zero-Waste LivingAmid a whirlwind of environmental disasters, people around the world are looking to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Many choose to pursue the “zero-waste” lifestyle, which reduces solid waste products through mindful consumption. As a method of social and environmental activism, zero-waste living alleviates poverty by rejecting exploitative industries and uplifting ethical ones.

Zero-Waste Stores

Entrepreneurs and businesses are catching on to the rising popularity of zero-waste living. Mindful consumption is a cornerstone of zero-waste living that involves purchasing products that manufacturers produce ethically, sustainably and with the least amount of waste possible. Small grocery stores like Zero Green in Bristol help shoppers avoid disposable packaging and purchase local, sustainable goods. Zero-waste stores use reusable containers made of glass and other long-lasting materials instead of single-use products similar to plastic.

At Zero Green, everything in the shop, even the shelving and storage, is “upcycled.” Customers who visit zero-waste shops can bring their own reusable containers and bags to carry groceries back home. The rising demand for zero-waste shops could help expand the zero-waste living movement while making it more accessible and affordable to the masses. Zero-waste living alleviates poverty by uplifting small businesses that prioritize ethical, sustainable products and packaging.

Rejecting Fast Fashion

The zero-waste living movement has inspired brands and consumers to reject fast fashion. Fast fashion is the disposable, cheaply produced clothing that results from exploitative labor and environmental degradation. Fashion brands including Zero Waste Daniel and Aissata Ibrahima stand up to the fast fashion industry by creating ethical and sustainable clothes while producing minimal waste.

For example, the founder of Zero Waste Daniel, Daniel Silverstein, said his clothing company takes 12 to 18 months to fill up a single garbage bag of waste. Zero-waste fashion brands are one of many ways to reject fast fashion. Consumers opting to be zero-waste can also purchase second-hand clothes, make and repair their own clothes and buy high-quality clothes that will last for several years. Zero-waste living can help alleviate poverty by rejecting fast fashion, which exploits workers in impoverished communities.

Less Consumption

At large, the objectives of zero-waste living are to consume less and consume mindfully. Zero-waste brands and stores help consumers shop mindfully. Consuming less, however, takes place largely outside of the marketplace and inside the minds of consumers. It involves repair, reuse and recycling. Dianna Cohen, the founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, said zero-waste living is a mindset that takes time to fully adapt to. The zero-waste lifestyle involves making small, daily decisions that prioritize sustainability and waste reduction. Those who partake in the “consume less” principle of zero-waste living protest against exploitative products by simply not purchasing them.

The Goal is Progress, Not Perfection

The idea of zero-waste living may seem unattainable to the average person. Many small steps that lead toward a waste-free lifestyle, including purchasing reusable straws and ice trays, can significantly reduce an individual’s plastic consumption over time. Any progress on the path to becoming a more ethical, waste-free consumer, no matter how small or slow, can make a difference.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

city planning and poverty reductionWhen Bogotá, Colombia, elected Enrique Peñalosa mayor in 1997, Mayor Peñalosa faced an uphill battle. Informal settlements, faulty public transportation and congested roads increased poverty and reduced the quality of life for Bogotá’s citizens. Mayor Peñalosa had a plan, though, and his success in fusing city planning and poverty reduction provides a blueprint for developing world mayors around the globe.

Bogotá’s Challenges in the 1990s

Bogotá faced many challenges as a city in the 1990s. With a lack of city planning, informal settlements dominated the landscape. Nearly 200,000 illegal water connections existed and only 60% of the population had access to the main sewer system. Fearing crime and the bustle of moving cars, many could not enjoy the streets on which they lived, with impoverished neighborhoods lacking accessible public spaces.

With these challenges, Peñalosa knew there was only so much he could do. He realized that in his one term as mayor, he would not be able to lift every citizen of Bogotá out of poverty. Thus, he decided to look at the implications of poverty. To him, development constituted a “better way of living, not being richer.” The lack of access to water, food, housing, transportation and green space, which the wealthy class enjoyed in plenty, constituted poverty, not just a low monthly income. By addressing those issues directly, Peñalosa could combine city planning and poverty reduction without aiming to increase wages.

Formalizing Informality

One of the biggest problems urban populations face in the 21st century is informality. As of 2019, according to the United Nations, nearly one billion people live in informal housing or slums. Informal housing commonly leads to community marginalization and decreased access to food and water distribution networks. Fortunately, city planning and poverty reduction strategies can rectify these situations, and, Peñalosa did just that.

During his tenure as mayor, Peñalosa formalized 322 neighborhoods and provided nearly 700 sewers for informal settlements, drastically improving the livelihoods of those living in these neighborhoods. Utilizing many city planning strategies, he also provided better transportation access so that those living in these neighborhoods could access the amenities of the wider city. His strategy of focusing on formalizing and connecting informal settlements rather than increasing wages allows for a greater return on investment as the wider access to the city will naturally boost the quality of life.

Sustainability and Public Spaces

Peñalosa entered his tenure as mayor with the goal of developing Bogotá around people and not cars. In a city where just about 30% of people drove cars, designing a city entirely around this vehicle would be illogical. He especially wanted public spaces suitable for the most vulnerable, the elderly and children, aiming to reduce poverty by increasing standards of living.

Peñalosa focused on three types of public spaces for reducing poverty. He first focused on a common city planning and poverty reduction strategy: transportation. In his tenure he built roughly 220 miles of protected bike lanes, opening up the streets to more than just cars. He also formalized the public transportation network to allow more equitable access.

His second strategy for city planning and poverty reduction covered educational space, building libraries and public schools to accommodate 200,000 new students. The educational infrastructure serves as one of the most important tools in fighting poverty and boosting literacy.

Third, he focused on leisure spaces, ordering the construction and restoration of public parks. Access to these three spaces combined —  transportation, educational facilities and leisure spaces — can greatly reduce the impacts of poverty. Furthermore, the public status of these amenities meant that access would not depend on an individual’s wage.

Implications for Fighting Poverty

Mayors around the world can use Peñalosa’s tenure as a blueprint for their own cities. The strategies for city planning and poverty reduction that Peñalosa used were innovative at the time, but further research has shown their efficacy worldwide. Formalizing informal areas and expanding green space has become a norm for urbanists across the globe. While not without its flaws, Peñalosa’s strategy to combine city planning and poverty reduction helped fight poverty by focusing on raising living standards rather than pure income measurements.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia

Hunger and Poverty in the UAETo alleviate food insecurity and poverty and reach the 2030 goals of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is using technology to increase the efficiency of farming and irrigation techniques. Throughout 2020, the UAE explored new and innovative solutions to reduce poverty and hunger. Solutions such as drone mapping, mobile applications and AI crop sensors have been crucial for mitigating food scarcity and eliminating hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Drone Mapping

Drones provide a solution to effectively map agricultural areas. Drone technology grants valuable agricultural information to farmers in order to better assess agricultural progress. Drones are able to collect important data such as soil type, salinity and livestock numbers as well as information on farming facilities. According to the company Falcon Eye Drones, drones speed up this data collection process, which typically takes years.

Moreover, farmers can use the information gathered to create agricultural plans. Drone mapping also helps with the allocation of resources. With more information about soil quality, farmers can effectively plan how to distribute water and chemicals for maximum impact. Drones also allow for crop monitoring, enabling farmers to predict agricultural outputs well in advance. Drone mapping saves resources and increases agricultural output, effectively helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Mobile Applications

The FreshOnTable application is another innovation reducing poverty and hunger in the UAE. Through the digital application, users can purchase produce from local vendors and have it delivered straight to their door. This process drastically cuts the carbon footprint normally attached to food distribution. In the app, users are able to see the source of their food and choose from a variety of options.

According to Gulf News, this application also reduces food waste by giving customers the option of choosing “imperfect vegetables,” which are just as healthy as the more aesthetically pleasing options. By cutting down on food waste through technology, FreshOnTable provides a solution to food insecurity.

AI-based Sensors in Irrigation

AI-based sensors monitor the surrounding temperatures of crops to improve irrigation. The sensors can also test the level of humidity and water content in the soil. Irrigation systems are employed more effectively with AI-based sensors in use. Irrigation sensors limit water waste and help with sustainable water use.

Farmers have more knowledge of the soil quality and water content of their land, allowing for a smoother irrigation process. In turn, the process helps maximize crop output because farmers use the information gathered to make data-informed agricultural decisions.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority implemented a study between 2011 and 2013 to analyze the efficiency of smart irrigation systems that utilize AI technology. The results prove that the technology decreased water use by 10% in comparison to other estimation-based methods. Thus, smart irrigation systems are able to increase sustainability, save on costs and improve profitability for farmers. With better agricultural output, food insecurity is reduced.

The Future for the UAE

Overall, these technological innovations stand as examples of how technology can help solve hunger and poverty in the UAE, two deeply interconnected issues. Without drone mapping, the UAE would spend years collecting environmental data that can drastically improve agricultural outputs. In addition, food waste would be much higher without mobile applications to bridge the gap between farm and table. AI sensors maximize agricultural efficiency by reducing resource wastage. As countries strive to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, technology-oriented solutions will help accelerate progress, bringing the international community closer to eliminating global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr