Podcast 99, MP MARY CREAGH - FIXING FASHION & THE ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE

THANK YOU TO PHOTOGRAPHER ANNIE JOHNSTON FOR PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS PORTRAIT OF MARY. THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN FOR THAT’S NOT MY AGE - the grown-up guide to great style, edited by Alyson Walsh.

Mary Creagh photographed by  Annie Johnston Photography  for That’s Not My Age

Mary Creagh photographed by Annie Johnston Photography for That’s Not My Age

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EPISODE 99 FEATURES MARY CREAGH

Why do we need to "fix" fashion? Try because textile production consumes vast amounts of water. Because fashion contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. And if current consumption levels continue, the industry could account for 25% of the world's carbon budget. Because our wardrobes are full of clothes we don't wear, yet we keep buying more and more garments, most of which are made from polyester and shed tiny plastic microfibres every time we wash them.

Because we buy fashion to throw it away.

This week’s guest is Mary Creagh, chair of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) and the Labour MP for Wakefield - the woman responsible for raising these issues with the British parliament this year.

This interview was recorded in Portcullis House during Boris Johnson’s unlawful prorogation of Parliament.

 “The longer the supply chain, the more blind eyes can be turned and the more exploitation can happen.” - Mary Creagh

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SOMETHING ABOUT MARY

Mary grew up in Coventry where her father was a factory worker and her mother was a primary school teacher. After studying Modern Languages and then European Studies, Mary worked in Brussels before becoming a lecturer. She served as a councillor for 7 years until 2005, when she was selected as Labour’s candidate for Wakefield.

In 2005 she was first elected as MP for Wakefield after her predecessor retired. She was re-elected in 2017, winning 49.7% of the vote. In 2010, Mary joined the shadow cabinet where she served as Shadow Environment Secretary, Shadow Transport Secretary, and Shadow International Development Secretary. She left the shadow cabinet in 2015. In 2016 Mary became Chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee.

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…

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The ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE is a select committee of the House of Commons in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The remit of the committee is to examine how government department's policies and programmes will affect both the environment and sustainable development.

FIXING FASHION is the title of their 2019 report looking at clothing consumption and sustainability. Evidence was heard from brands including ASOS, Boo hoo, Marks & Spencer; anti-slavery experts; academics; sustainable design leaders and experts in areas such as waste, supply chains and textile innovators.

Many Wardrobe Crisis podcast guests gave evidence, including: Christopher Raeburn, Claire Bergkamp from Stella McCartney, Dilys Williams and Orsola de Castro. Common Objective, Fashion Roundtable and Eco-age all made submissions, about everything from worker exploitation to water pollution and of course over consumption and waste. The whole process took many months.

It was a groundbreaking thing for a parliamentary committee to address fashion’s impacts. They made a bunch of recommendations, including a 1p tax on garments to be put back on the brands to pay for better clothing collection and sorting. Download the full report here. HOW WAS THE REPORT RECEIVED? Fixing Fashion made headlines around the world and got a lot of people thinking about sustainable fashion vs. fast fashion. The British government rejected all 18 of the report’s recommendations. Mary hasn’t given up.

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The latest report from the EAC is Our Planet, Our Health. Here’s the summary: “Everything we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. The health of the planet matters because it affects what we eat and whether we can eat in future. Nearly 20 per cent of the UK’s fruit and vegetables come from countries at risk from climate breakdown. We are facing a food security crisis, exacerbated by uncertainty over the UK’s future trading position with the EU and the rest of the world. Ministers must now publish all the information they hold from Operation Yellowhammer on food security and likely costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.More people are living in cities at risk from over-heating and water shortages, they’re breathing polluted air, eating more fast food and getting less exercise. What’s needed is a planetary health champion to put this agenda at the heart of government.” Download it here.

Find out about FASHION ROUNDTABLE here.

Listen to the podcast with LOLA YOUNG here.

SHOPPING DETOXES are taking off. Mary calls it her “shopping diet”. There are loads of stories on the causes and benefits of taking time off from buying clothes. Try this one, and this one.

Find out about the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield here.

MARY SAYS…

ON CONSUMPTION: “We over-produce clothes, we underuse clothes. In the UK, we buy more clothes than any other country in Europe - two suitcases per person, [or] 27 kilos a year. By comparison the Italians buy 15. The average piece of clothing is worn 7 times in the UK. Brits throw 11 million items of clothing into the bin every year.”

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND THIS: “Our insatiable desire for more, the kind of psychological kicks that we get of going shopping and buying a tonne of stuff, getting it all home, it doesn’t last that long.”

ON COTTON: If we consider the water stress that’s on the horizon, “cotton is going to be luxury fabric in 10 years from now.”

ON MENDING: “Sewing on a button can remind us that someone has to make our clothes and it’s not that easy to do…When you see something that really neatly sewn, that is an absolute work of art.”

ON THE SDGS: “Is government policy going to help us reach these goals in the UK, and globally, by 2030? Sadly the answer all too often is - hmm, not trying hard enough yet.”

“Talking about ‘environment’ is too abstract - you have to make it tangible.” - Mary Creagh

Here’s Nancy Pelosi in her pink suit. That’s all.

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Until next time,

Clare xx