How can fashion help the wildlife? Here’s our answer!
I don’t care how old I am: if it’s snowing, you bet I’ll run outside!
Last week, I definitely had a chance to do so. And even though I’m happy as a kid in snow, the cold wave over most Europe and North America brought unusually low temperatures this winter. This is coming just after the year 2020 was recorded as Europe’s hottest year ever.
This extreme winter weather is just one of the signs of climate change. So are droughts, fires, and floods, all of which we see more and more. Humans and animals are facing risks daily and the consequences of these changes are multiple, complex, and, in the long term, unknown. If we want to find a way to navigate such changes and build resilience, we need to rethink much of our everyday lives.
And while fashion alone won’t save us all, the clothes we wear have a bigger impact on the planet than we might be aware of. So, what if we use them to actually slow down climate change? One way of doing this could be through supporting wildlife.
Today, we explore this idea.
What’s the role of wildlife?
First, it could be useful to discuss why we should care about wildlife in the first place. Hint: it’s much more than cute animal photos on social media!
Here, I refer to wildlife as all organisms that grow or live in an area, without being introduced or managed by humans. Clearly, human activities have impacted wildlife for a long time. Rapid urbanisation, resource extraction, industrial farming, and so on, have all taken up most of the planet and reduced the wildlife. Today, according to this article published in Nature, only 23% of Earth’s non-frozen landmass and 13% of oceans remain as wilderness. The environmental crisis is only intensifying this. Natural habitats of many animals and plants are shifting, burning or melting, as a consequence of extreme weather and disasters. This alone is a reason for the alert: we are at risk of losing even more wildlife soon.
But there’s another side to consider.
Wildlife and biodiversity are the keys to fighting the effects of climate change. Scientists are increasingly advocating for so-called natural climate solutions. These solutions, which include the conservation of wildlife, can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation, needed to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C. For example, increasing the forest areas could remove two-thirds of the carbon humans have added to the atmosphere in the past two centuries. Such ecosystems have the capacity to reduce greenhouse emissions, control the water flow and protect against storms. But they can do this only if diverse and flourishing.
Every single species can significantly increase the ecosystem’s capacities. The forests that I just mentioned could actually absorb more CO2 if the mammal diversity increases. Even predators, like wolves, increase the capacity of forests to store carbon. Same with beavers, whales, seaweed, elephants, and pretty much all animal and plant species living in their natural habitats. Keeping them in the wild and making sure they thrive, might be the way to survive the climate crisis. That is why efforts to increase wildlife areas and save as many individual species matter. They are our guarantee to a safer future.
But what does fashion have to do with this?
Fashion and wildlife
The mentioned natural climate solutions are without a doubt necessary but only possible if combined with efforts to change our industries and consumption. Natural solutions aren’t enough and our strategies for the future should include both preservation of the environment and adapting human behaviour.
And this is where fashion, one of the most polluting industries in the world, comes into the picture. Fashion’s impact on wildlife and biodiversity is massive. From the excessive use of animal skins, furs, and feathers, replacing traditional farming with monocultures, to industrial wastewaters and deforestation, the fashion industry has a lot to answer. Luckily, many ideas, innovations, and initiatives in sustainable fashion fight this. It may sound dramatic, but changing the industry’s relationship with wildlife is the question of our survival.
Let me pause for a moment and be clear on something. Such change isn’t going to come from one side only nor it is going to be a result of a single change. It is a mutual effort of businesses, policymakers, activists, and consumers. And yes, we all play a role.
As a small business, GNGR Bees reflected a lot on how fashion can be a tool for wildlife protection, rather than contribute to the loss of biodiversity. After months of asking questions, searching, and learning, we found a way.
Introducing: The Freenimal t-shirts made in collaboration with Born Free Foundation.
Why this t-shirt?
The Freenimal t-shirt might look simple, but it is a way GNGR Bees supports wildlife and contributes to slowing down climate change.
The idea started last year, after seeing that wildlife is suffering too from the Corona Virus pandemic, especially as facemasks easily end in nature. So, Nathalia (our founder) reached to our community on Instagram to ask them should we support wildlife as a counteraction to this. And if yes, which animals should we focus on?
We were happy to receive so many responses! Seeing them all, we understood how important this is to you. Yet, we needed a partner for this mission: Finding one turned out to be harder than we thought. Many ignored us, others said we were just too small to make a difference. It was a hard search until Nathalia had a meeting with Born Free Foundation and the whole thing just clicked. Not only that the mission of the Foundation aligns perfectly with our values but the way they work was perfect for us. And the best part was that they had no problems with us being a small brand because they believed in our work. Coming from an organization that is protecting wildlife for over 35 years, that means a lot!
After some talks, our limited edition t-shirts, made from discarded fishing nets came to life! Based on your feedback, we decided that 100% of the profits from the t-shirt will go towards helping three animals: Asian black bears (also known as moon bears), pangolins, and Ethiopian wolves. This means that when you buy the t-shirt, your money goes directly towards wildlife conservation projects!
If you want to understand more about the projects, check out Born Free Foundation’s website.
Keep an eye out for the launch at 6pm today!