How to Have an Ethical & Sustainable Summer

Traditionally the season for alfresco eating, holidays and much needed downtime, Summer is going to be a bit different for everyone this year to say the least. But whether you're still in partial lockdown or transitioning to the 'new normal', hopefully you're still able to experience many of its joys, including more time outdoors, and the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables on offer.

And with the increasing focus on the environment and our impact on it, you might also be interested in how to make your impact the most positive it can be. Read on for our tips on how to make this summer your most ethical and sustainable yet!

By Annick Ireland, Founder of Immaculate Vegan

Food

Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth – not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. According to Joseph Poore from Oxford University, “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The most comprehensive study to date of the damage farming does to the planet, led by Poore and published in the journal Science and discussed in this Guardian article, reveals the huge footprint of livestock farming (which provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland). It found that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is also the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

If you’ve been toying with going vegan then you’re not alone. There are already more than a million vegans in just the UK alone, and that number is increasing every year. There’s no denying that making the switch might feel like a daunting step but hear us out – now could be your moment. When so much feels uncertain, going plant-based is something completely within your power. And it could be something incredibly positive to take from one hell of a start to 2020.

If you need some convincing, check out our 10 reasons why now is the time to try a vegan diet, and if you're ready to give it a go, we offer our top 10 tips to ease the transition. And remember, these are stressful times – so don’t beat yourself up if there’s a lapse or two along the way.

The warm summer weather also means that eating outdoors is a frequent possibility, and quite frankly there's nothing nicer than a settling down in grassy shade with a well-stocked picnic (and maybe some Prosecco...) or a BBQ at home with all the trimmings. If you're looking for some summer recipe inspiration, take a look at our Go-To Vegan Summer Recipes from Our Favourite Plant-Based Foodies for some simple and delicious summer meals to get you started (including recipes from the BOSH boys, Deliciously Ella and The Guardian's Anna Jones). Plus our How to Have a Vegan & Sustainable BBQ will help you turn what might traditionally be a meat and dairy-filled affair into a glorious plant-based pig-out (with no pigs involved whatsoever!)

Swimwear

It's swimwear season for many of us, whether we're wearing it by the beach, the pool, the park, or at home in gardens and on balconies. But what does ethical and sustainable mean when it comes to swimwear, and how can you be sure you're making the right eco-conscious purchasing choices?

Like many other things we buy, sustainability in swimwear encompasses all the materials as well as the processes used to produce a product – and should also include the impact of the full life span of a garment, from the first initial idea and development to the end of a product’s life after use.

When it comes to materials, mainstream swimwear is made from what the industry calls 'virgin' polyester or nylon, which means that these fibres are made from scratch from fossil fuels as their raw material. Rather than using up existing waste, or being waste neutral, virgin fibres produce new waste – and because polyester and nylon are synthetic fibres that take a long time to break down just as all plastics do, this means we are adding more plastic pollution, and more specifically more micro-plastic pollution, which is much harder to measure the true impact of.

Sustainable swimwear brands (including all those at Immaculate) instead use a material called ECONYL®.  ECONYL® yarn is made up from rescued materials, like fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic from landfills and oceans all over the world. This is a much better alternative, as it uses existing materials and repurposes them into new fibres. The yarn is woven into a premium swimwear fabric which is soft and silky to the touch, and can itself be recycled again.

You can read more about what makes swimwear ethical and sustainable in How to Buy Ethical & Sustainable Swimwear, as well as can explore our full range of sustainable eco-conscious swimwear.

Sandals

We love the look of leather sandals – but we really don't like the impact! In 2017, the Pulse of Fashion Industry report put cow leather at the top of its list of the most environmentally damaging fabrics for cradle-to-gate impact per kg of material. Tanning chemicals kill 90% of all of the leather workers in Bangladesh – one of the world's top leather producers – before the age of 50, but tanning isn't the only harmful aspect of leather: recent reports found that 93% of the damage of leather occurs before the tanning stage. So “vegetable-tanned” or "eco" leather makes hardly any difference.

But isn't vegan leather made from virgin plastic? Not the new crop of sustainable, naturally derived plant leathers such as apple leather, Pinatex (pineapple leaf fibre), wine leather and so much more – plus leathers made from recycled or upcycled plastics and clothing fibres, which are taking waste materials out of landfill. The leathers of the future are kind to both animals and the planet. High fashion vegan brands like Good Guys Don't Wear Leather, Collection & Co, Mireia Playa and NAE – and many more – are making great use of these alternatives to make beautiful vegan sandals for Summer 2020. Discover our range of sustainable vegan sandals here.

Sunglasses

Most sunglasses are made of acetate, which is a lightweight and flexible material derived from wood pulp and other natural cotton fibres. And it’s not a bad material as it’s made from mostly renewable materials, plus it’s also hypoallergenic and malleable enough to be easily adjusted by opticians if needed. So far so good. So what’s the issue?  

In order to create acetate, something called a plasticiser has to be added, and plasticisers usually come from petroleum. However, there is a new kid on the block called bioacetate, and this is much kinder to the environment as it uses plasticisers made from renewable sources that are also biodegradable, instead of oil-based ones that aren’t. This makes the whole frame plant-based, created from renewable sources, and biodegradable, so therefore much better for the planet. To top it off, bioacetate is also more easily recyclable than regular acetate too, so it’s winning all round!

Our sunglasses selection, from amazing ethical brands including Pala Eyewear and Bird Eyewear, include primarily bioacetate frames, plus frames made from other ecofriendly materials such as repurposed aluminium and wood.

For more summer inspiration, including a great selection of ethical & sustainable swimwear, sandals, sunglasses, beach bags, hats, sarongs and espadrilles, check out the Immaculate Summer Shop.

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Cover image by Neu Nomads

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