Podcast 95, DETOXING FASHION WITH GREENPEACE'S KIRSTEN BRODDE

THIS EPISODE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY OUTLAND DENIM - “Humanitarian denim. Made on purpose.”

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EPISODE 95 FEATURES KIRSTEN BRODDE

Have you heard the one about rivers turning blue outside of denim factories in China? Or being able to tell the colours of the season by looking at the waterways? Horrendous, right? But change is possible. Meet the Greenpeace activist who led the Detox My Fashion Campaign, which led to an industry-wide commitment to phase out harmful chemicals from fashion.

Kirsten Brodde is a former science journalist on a mission to clean up fashion. We talk about what it takes to be an affective activist (think dogged persistence!), passion obviously, but also a willingness to be unpopular.

The Detox campaign took time, major pressure, and careful negotiation to make change, but it actually worked. Kirsten describes what’s resulted as “a paradigm shift,” and says companies have come a long way on detoxing their supply chains, and there’s no going back.

The message, activism matters. We need these dedicated, gusty individuals to rock the boat.

Thank you Axl Jansen for permission to use the cover portrait of Kirsten.

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WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…

DETOX MY FASHION is a campaign by Greenpeace aimed at cleaning up fashion’s hazardous chemicals footprint. Their 2011 Dirty Laundry investigation focused on two facilities in China that were found to be discharging a range of hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties. These results, they say, were indicative of a much wider problem posing serious and immediate threats to both our precious ecosystems and to human health. Download the report here.

It was estimated that 70% of lakes, rivers and reservoirs in China were polluted, while HALF of the WATER DEEMED UNSAFE FOR HUMAN CONTACT. How crazy is that?

See how brands responded here.

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WHAT ARE THESE DANGEROUS CHEMICALS? “Heavy metals like chromium, used in in tanning processes; thalatates used as softeners; alkylphenols used for washing and cleaning processes; and PFCs used to make clothing water and stain resistant,” says Kirsten.

Chemicals that cause particular concern when released into the environment display one or more of the following properties:

• persistence (they do not readily break down in the environment)

• bioaccumulation (they can accumulate in organisms, and even increase in concentration as they work their way up a food chain)

• toxicity

Clare mentions POPs, which stands for Persistent Organic Pollutants, and include: Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene; Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and. By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.

THE STOCKHOLM CONVENTION on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants. Read it here. Didn’t that solve the problem then? Sort of, but according to The Arctic Institute, “Despite the implementation of the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, in some parts of the globe they remain in use even today.” The initial agreement excluded Perfluorooctone sulfonates (PFOs, which are used to make textiles stain- & water repellant) from the so-called “dirty dozen” of 12 worst offenders, even though most everyone agrees PFOs are POPs. Oh, and the US, Malaysia, Israel and Italy refused to ratify the agreement. See the list here.

RIVERS LITERALLY BLUE In some places, you can tell the colour of the season by looking at the water in the river outside a garment factory. Is this still true? Kirsten said the situation has greatly improved. But “When we started the campaign the use and release of chemicals was a blackspot for the industry. It was clear that major brands had no idea what kinds of hazardous substances were being used in their supply chains. They were hiding their toxic trail to some extent. The problem, besides the colours of the rivers, were the invisible chemicals.”

The movie River Blue website is here.

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“When it comes to emissions, discharges & toxic pollution, the fashion industry is not very glamorous.”- KIRSTEN BRODDE

The ZDHC (Zero Discharges of Hazardous Chemicals) is the fashion industry coalition of brands behind Roadmap to Zero Programme, aiming to phase out this stuff by 2020. Find them here.

Last year, Greenpeace Germany released a report on progress made by the 80 companies that adhered to the campaign. The report shows that all these companies have achieved significant progress and are well on their way in the detox process. Read it in full here.

“Hazardous chemicals can be released into waterways either directly (from industrial facilities) or indirectly (through the use of industry’s products in agriculture or by consumers). Some of these chemicals can persist in the environment, build up in waterways & enter the food chain – impacting both wildlife and human health.” GREENPEACE DETOX MY FASHION

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“If the fashion industry has the power to influence trends, then it also has the power to play a positive role in protecting the planet.” GREENPEACE, DETOX MY FASHION

A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING THE WARDROBE CRISIS CONVERSATION. WE'LL HAVE A NEW EPISODE FOR YOU EVERY WEDNESDAY. CAN YOU HELP US SPREAD THE WORD? WE'D LOVE YOU TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS & LEAVE A REVIEW IN APPLE PODCASTS.

Until next time,

Clare x