Organic Crew: fashion that treads lightly

Introducing another partner for this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Chilli Beach – the wonderful folk over at Organic Crew. You may have noticed our tribe rocking the beautiful organic cotton tees that Organic Crew created for the expedition. Read more about the brand below.

We love the story behind Organic Crew – can you tell us how you went from working in the corporate world to starting a sustainable, ethical and organic clothing brand?

The seed was planted when I was quite young and working at Esprit with a visionary leader who cared. His name was John Bell and he taught me that you had to be mindful of every part of the process and do as little harm as possible (to the environment, animals and people) whilst creating beautiful product.  More recently, I have worked for some larger corporates and seen firsthand the effects of fast fashion – I wanted to create a brand that manufactured the right way, stood for something, and inspired and educated.

Tell us why organic cotton is so important for the health of our planet and our bodies?

The way organic cotton is grown is better for the planet, the animals and the people who tend to the crops. The process uses way less water and the waste is clean. The effect of organic cotton on our bodies is non-toxic, which is so important as reducing the volume of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis is important. You need to do what you can.

Do you think there is a trend towards more companies using organic textiles, or is there still a long way to go?

Prior to starting Organic Crew, I ran a cold pressed juice company and could see the growth of organic in the food industry. I think there is a movement happening where people now care about what goes into their food and onto their skin. So the movement has started with food, then moved to skincare and now clothing. The skin is the largest organ in the body and therefore can absorb the most chemicals. People are beginning to understand the differences and effects.

Melbourne was the original hub of Australian fashion, why was it so important for you to produce your garments in Melbourne rather than offshore?

It was very important as I needed to be able visit the factory and oversee what was happening at every point. We have just been accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia who have very strict guidelines on the use of labour and conditions. I wanted complete transparency and having a factory located in Melbourne made this possible. It was also so nice to go “old school” in our approach. I grew up working in fashion and to be able to give these local factories the work when so many go offshore felt so good. One of our garment workers has been sewing in our factory for 38 years! Plus the quality is amazing, you will see this in our garments, they are made with love!

What advice would you give to other brands wanting to start using more sustainable textiles or produce in Australia?

It is possible and there are so many options in terms of materials. The margins are obviously lower given the local production but the quality is amazing and the people are so great to work with. It is definitely a growth category and demand is rising. I know our factory makes many well known Australian brands with more coming on board every day.

Lastly, why did you want to support the Trash Tribe expedition as a brand partner?

We are passionate about the environment and making a small difference where we can. We heard about the Trash Tribe whilst on holiday in Byron Bay and wanted to help in any way we could. Our beaches are the best in the world and we all need to look after the country we are so blessed to live in. We are so grateful that we could contribute to this initiative and hope that education and awareness will lead to cleaner beaches in the future.

@mishkusk wearing @organic.crew at Chilli Beach, Cape York

Surf Collective: supporting independent labels

There was a time when the surf retail industry was dominated by the big name brands, but now we see more and more smaller independent brands emerging – brands that care for the environment, brands that are more interested in slow fashion, brands run by surfers like you and me!

We spoke to one of our partners, Surf Collective, about how they’re supporting small independent surf brands.

 

Firstly, can you share with us the inspiration and story behind Surf Collective?
We were inspired to launch Surf Collective with a very simple, clear ambition… to promote and support smaller, independent Aussie surf brands. Our purpose is to provide these brands a greater voice, by connecting them to each other in one place, so customers all over the world can more easily find them. We’d noticed a number of small surf brands at local markets with some really amazing products. And whilst most had their own website, they struggled to reach critical mass and move beyond being a side gig. So at the end of 2015 we launched with just 12 small brands and now, less than 2 years later, have over 75 brands on board – across fashion, art, jewellery and hardware.

There certainly seems to be more smaller independent surf brands on the scene these days – have you seen a shift in the surf industry with more of these brands emerging? Or are we just more aware of them now?

I believe there are more of these smaller independent surf brands these days and hopefully we are contributing to people being more aware of them too! Technology such as the web and e-commerce have certainly helped budding entrepreneurs cost effectively get their businesses off the ground and into distant markets. Culturally too, people have changed. There is increasing consumer interest in an organisation’s philosophy – where their products are made, what environmental impact they have, what the quality is like and how profits are utilised. You only have to look at the growing popularity of Farmers’ markets around Australia to see evidence of this.

Do you think the average surfer is increasingly looking to support and engage with smaller brands these days?

I do…though not necessarily because the brands are small but because of what they are motivated by. The ‘average surfer’, like most people, wants to feel engaged and enjoy an emotional connection with a brand. To feel appreciated as a customer and know there is an interesting story behind the brand…that they care not just about making a profit but in making a difference. As companies grow they often lose sight of why they started in the first place – though Patagonia is a powerful exception to the rule! We’d like to think that as our collective grows, we will remain true to our
original brand ambition.

Not only does Surf Collective support independent brands, but you’re also encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs – can you tell us about your high school initiative?

Sure. Last year we approached our local high school, Barrenjoey High, and proposed a way we could help bring a subject to life for their students. The school was very receptive to the idea and suggested the Year 10 Business Studies class would be ideal. So we had the kids develop ideas for a surf-related product together with a marketing and business plan, with $2,000 up for grabs for the winner, to help bring his/her product to market. Some worked in a group and others individually. I spent some time in a few of the classes providing feedback before we put the kids in front of our
very own ‘Shark-Tank’ – a few of our local brand guys – to pitch their ideas. The eventual winner presented a great idea to recycle unwanted skateboard decks and convert them into wax combs – clever and environmentally responsible! We’re going to promote her idea on our website and in our retail collab, the Sneaky Grind Café, in Avalon Beach. The winner plans to make other products under her company, ‘The Coastal Upcycling Co. The program was so successful in engaging the kids
in their studies that we’re going to be repeating it next year!

You recently partnered with us to help fund our recent expedition to Cape York to remove over 7 tonnes of marine debris off a remote beach – why did Surf Collective want to be involved in this trip?

We just love what you guys are doing and we want to support causes that are close to our hearts and aligned with our brand philosophy. You’ve done an amazing job and we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential you have for meaningful change.

What can we expect to see next with Surf Collective?

We will continue to provide an online platform and new ways to support and promote our collective of amazing, independent brands. Each has a great story with products uniquely different to the mainstream offering. Our aim is to make more people aware of these brands and provide an easy
way to discover them. We’ll be doing more markets and events this coming summer and we’re also looking into some pop-up stores!

You can explore Surf Collective’s range of independent surf brands on their website: www.surfcollective.com.au

Earth Bottles: Stopping Plastic Pollution At The Source

We love Earth Bottles and they have been big supporters of our clean up expeditions for a long time. This year, they’re a brand partner for our 2017 Cape York Trash Tribe expedition. We spoke to the creator of Earth Bottles, Danni Carr, on her vision and passion for our oceans.

 

Tell us what inspired Earth Bottles.

Initially the idea for doing water bottles came about after many trips to Bali – we are always down on the beach and I was continually appalled by the amount of plastic water bottles on the beach and in the waterways. At the same time, I was looking for more eco friendly products for Ash’s merchandise (my husband is a musician) and decided it would be a great idea to do a really good quality water bottle. So, after some research I found the bottles I liked and had Ash’s logo printed on them. They sold so well that we decided I should start my own company with my own logo – and that’s pretty much how it started!

 

Just last week, our clean up partner organisation Tangaroa Blue removed over 10,000 plastic water bottles from a beach on the west coast of Cape York – with so many plastic bottles polluting our oceans and waterways, what keeps you hopeful about the state of our oceans and planet?

10,000!!! That’s INSANE! I feel that the more educated people get about the plastic pollution problem, the more people will be aware and start to make changes. People like you guys (Clean Coast Collective) and other organisations, music festivals, touring acts, and some councils are helping to make people aware of the damage that all this plastic is causing, to make better choices and to clean up – I’m very hopeful.

I think every little change can make a difference. We had a big spike in sales last month and (we live in Bali but) I am told that there has been some really great documentaries screening in Australia about plastic pollution – this is great and will help to get the message across to the wider community. So we can see that from those docos, that there are people making changes, which is great!

 

As a company trying to rid the world of single-use plastic bottles, do you think there is a trend towards consumers using reusable bottles?

Absolutely! There are heaps of awesome water bottles and eco-friendly companies out there making lots of great alternatives available for people. I notice more and more these days when we travel that people have their reusable water bottles in hand or are carrying reusable bags, much more than ten years ago. I think it’s pretty uncool to be seen with a plastic water or plastic shopping bag these days.

 

Besides offering an alternative to single-use plastic bottles, Earth Bottles supports a number of social and environmental causes – can you share with us the causes your bottles support and why you chose each of them?

At Earth Bottles we support charities that are close to our own hearts, so we donate a percentage of profits to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia – my sister came through a long breast cancer battle and I know a lot of women still fighting and who have fought breast cancer. The work that BCNA do for those women and their families is amazing, so we brought in the pink bottles and we donate 25% of the sales of those bottles to the BCNA.

The same for Beyond Blue (with our turquoise bottle) who are an amazing resource for those suffering from mental illness. We also recently teamed up with 15 Trees, a really amazing organisation where anyone can buy credits to plant a tree. I think one tree costs around $4.50 to planet, so for each gift pack sold, we plant a tree. Recently we attended the Finders Keepers market in Melbourne and for each bottle we sold, we planted a tree.

We also support other small community charities and fundraisers when we can.

 

Corporate greed has done so much damage to our society, so to be a company that gives and is not just driven by profits makes me feel that, in a very small way, my little company is making a difference and that makes me happy.

 

Why is it important for Earth Bottles to give back as a brand?

It’s very important to me personally to give back to those who are also giving so much. It is really important to keep these organisations going and supported so they can continue the work they do. Corporate greed has done so much damage to our society, so to be a company that gives and is not just driven by profits makes me feel that, in a very small way, my little company is making a difference and that makes me happy.

 

It’s all about educating our kids and if their voices are loud enough the government and big corporations will have no choice but to be more ethical and more eco friendly.

 

As mothers, do you feel hopeful about where our world is headed and the state of the natural world?

Um… I AM hopeful. I am hopeful that we will ALL education our kids to make the right choices and to tread lightly on the planet. It’s all about educating our kids and if their voices are loud enough the government and big corporations will have no choice but to be more ethical and more eco friendly.

 

What does the future hold for Earth Bottles?

Well, we are starting to branch out into some different countries – Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the US. I am just trying to take it slowly as I’m still learning about this whole business caper. As long as it is still fun and a great environment to work in, then we will take each day as it comes and see where we end up!

 

Grab an Earth Bottle for yourself on their website: earthbottles.com.au

 

Mayde Tea: Reducing Plastics in Business

 For tea lovers like us, it sounds like a pretty dreamy job to be crafting up tea all day – how did you end up with your own tea company?

It definitely is! It all started like that, recipe testing and sampling almost all day long, and slowly blending and packaging teas one by one until it became much more than that! Days are now filled with lots of emails, organising accounts and all of those other fun back-end necessities!

So it all started while I was mid-way through studying naturopathy three years ago. I was discovering and experimenting with the magic that is herbal medicine. I was using herbal medicines at the time to help many of my own ailments like anxiety and digestive issues – and I got such wonderful results. I wanted to be able to share this with people, as soon as I could so I figured that organic naturopathic teas would be the most gentle and effective way to utilise natures’ resources, and share it as freely as possible! I actually didn’t really plan on starting a business, it just happened after people were asking to buy the herbal mixes I had made for myself. I’m so glad it started out the way it did, it’s been such a fun journey, without any expectations of where the business should be or needs to go.

 

We’ve heard you talk a bit on social media about cutting plastics out of your company – why was this something that you were interested in?

Waste, its environmental impact; and finding ways to improve it is definitely something I’ve always felt passionate about. I’ve always at the least avoided plastic packaging where possible, and made sure I’m disposing of waste thoughtfully at home. It’s only since starting my business and watching it grow that I’ve been taking the time to research ways to really make a difference and to try and bring attention to how much of a problem packaging waste is. It’s opened my eyes up to how much plastic is used in packaging, even for a small business like mine, and I think it’s really important that people are aware of the changes they can make to help improve the problem.

Something that I’ve been researching is takeaway coffee cups and their impact on the environment – especially because I know my teas are being sold in cafes in these. I think there needs to be more attention brought to the fact they’re not as environmentally friendly as they’re marketed to be – they’re piling up in landfill because they actually have a plastic lining that prevents them from being biodegradable. I know it’s inevitable, takeaway coffee cups are a convenient option for takeaway, but I’ve had some Mayde Tea flasks made to encourage people to use these for their takeaway teas and coffees they buy and hopefully reduce the amount of coffee cups used.

 

Can you tell us what sort of changes you’ve made to reduce plastics at Mayde Tea?

My bulk supplies are almost always packaged in plastic. This is of course required for health standards to prevent contamination of herbs. There are other options though, so I have been conversing with my suppliers and enquiring about how open they are to sending my orders with no (or if not possible, less) plastic. In some cases they switched the plastic to a thick and durable paper bag which is so great!

I’m definitely no environmental scientist, but I did a bit of research and put a lot of thought into the creation of my products to lessen the mark I leave on the natural environment while running this business – all without getting too carried away and feeling guilt for the things I couldn’t change.

 All of my products have always been made with recyclable packaging. The entire packaging of the retail boxes is paper/cardboard and has a small wooden spoon and wooden peg inside; and the tea jars are made of glass. Glass is made of resources more plentiful and less environmentally damaging than to make plastic or metal tins – of which most other tea companies use. Aluminium for example, accounts for more than 90% of the environmental footprint so I’ve stayed clear of using that. Glass also does not degrade during the recycling process, which means it can be recycled over and over. They also look pretty enough to reuse as a vase or for storage of some sort around the house.

 

Did you come across any obstacles in the process?

Absolutely, having a business which falls in the ‘food’ category means I have to comply with all health and safety standards. So this means that using plastic is inevitable to some degree.

While conversing with suppliers about my wish to lessen plastic, some refused to do anything, and one of them continued to send me orders such as 10kg of the same herb in ten 1kg plastic bags! This was pretty frustrating, and their lack of compassion forced me to find a different supplier (who turns out to be incredible so that was a blessing!). With other suppliers I have been ordering an even bigger bulk of everything so it can be packaged in one giant bag rather than lots of little ones (every little bit counts!). I’m okay with it being impossible to run my business with zero plastic, and I’m so happy with how much of a difference I was able to make.

 

Do you have any advice for other companies wanting to reduce plastics in their own businesses?

I think to not feel overwhelmed with trying to make changes toward being plastic-free. In a perfect world there would be none, but plastic serves its purpose, so swapping it out for more environmentally friendly options when possible is all you need to aim for. It’s such a rewarding feeling, just don’t do what I did and get too deep with researching statistics and trends in how much of a problem plastic is, it might make you a little upset 😉

 

Lastly, it’s still pretty chilly here in Byron Bay – what tea should we be drinking to get us energised on these cold winter mornings?

Any hot drink is heavenly on these cold mornings! My morning ritual is always an earl grey tea with my brekkie, no matter the weather. But I think a huge pot of chai with a touch of honey is my favourite tea in winter, it’s so comforting and delicious; and the spices in chai are so warming in their energetics I’d suggest it to be the most warming for winter.

You can find Kate’s delicious organic teas online at www.maydetea.com  or follow her on Instagram @maydetea

All photos courtesy of maydetea.com

CLEAN COAST MUSE: LEX WEINSTEIN

Hi Lex, tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where do you call home now, and what do you love doing?

Well, I grew up in Virginia Beach, a city on the East Coast of the US with a long surfing history but lack of quality waves. So as soon as I could I was off searching for waves everywhere from Puerto Rico to Hawaii to Florida. I studied graphic design at Uni, and started an amazing career in visual merchandising but the 9-5 lifestyle really got to me. That’s when this whole journey began; about 4 years ago when I quit my job in Florida, sold all my belongings and took off to see the world and pursue a career in styling. I did a few weeks in Tahiti, a month in Bali and then Byron Bay with the intention to keep going. But (as many do) when I got to Byron I fell in love, so I stuck around and started my blog, documenting my surf adventures and styling portfolio. Now I’m mostly just styling myself on the road and writing my travel stories as that’s been the most fulfilling and the part my followers connect with the most — living a minimalist lifestyle filled with experiences not things, and embracing different cultures while discovering beautiful waves around the globe. I’ve kind of become a surf glamping expert I suppose 🙂 Now I split my time between Byron Bay, LA, and wherever else I may be traveling.

We’ve followed you on Instagram for years for your style in the water and out, and recently we’ve been noticing your snapchats about trying to live plastic-free. What prompted you to start cutting out plastics from your lifestyle?

Thank you so much for the support 🙂 As a surfer I’ve always felt incredibly connected to the ocean and nature and always make any effort I can, no matter how small, to live a less convenient lifestyle in hopes to make a smaller environmental impact. Over the years I’ve noticed an increase in plastic EVERYWHERE, and on a recent trip to Samoa, I had the incredible opportunity to visit a completely uninhabited island, surrounded by crystal clear blue water and sky high palms. When I arrived I was horrified at the infestation of plastic that had washed up onto the shores of this isle in paradise. Actually seeing the span of bottles and wrappers spread across the pristine, white sand was what really hit home for me that I needed to make a more conscious effort than ever.

What has been the hardest part of trying to go plastic-free?

Travel. Sometimes when I’m in a third world country I have to drink bottled water so as not to get sick, or buy snacks with excess packaging or use takeaway cutlery. When resources are limited it’s much harder to minimise without access to the luxuries and stabilities at home. But I always try to be as prepared as possible and think of progress not perfection, making even the smallest efforts while on the road.

One thing we always succumb to is delicious cheeses wrapped in plastic – is there one plastic item or product that you just can’t seem to resist?

Hummus!! I don’t even have a kitchen much less a blender to make my own but I feel so guilty every time I buy it. It’s terrible! I always try to buy the biggest size possible so as to reduce the number of times I buy it… but man, that gets me every time haha.

What’s your one (or two) big tips for people who want to start ditching plastics?

1. Shop at Farmers Markets. Already you’re accomplishing two goals with that – reducing plastics as most things are left unwrapped AND supporting local agriculture and your community. We all wash our veggies before we eat them anyway, so just make the committed to NEVER buy another cucumber wrapped in that suctioned plastic wrap. I have to go with sometimes and it drives me crazy (I am obsessed with cucumber) but I do it because it’s a small sacrifice for me and, in conjunction with all the other sacrificers out there, is making a huge difference.

2. Be prepared – carry with you al ALL times a large water bottle (I recommend Hydroflack or Mizu), a couple of mason jars (one small, one big) and some reusable bags. That way you have no excuse, even for those spontaneous trips to the store, to not be able to reduce the use of at lease one plastic container.

Many people think that you have to completely alter your lifestyle to start going plastic-free, do you feel like your lifestyle has changed much?

I wish I could say “No way! It’s super easy! You won’t even notice!” But the whole point is that we’ve become addicted to convenience, so yes, there are ways that my lifestyle has changed and that’s a GREAT thing! Choosing ethics over availability is a lifestyle change I am happy to embrace, but some people may not want to live without cucumber for a week (doubtful…I’m sure I’m the only weirdo in that category) or carry bags and jars around with them everywhere. But the point is also that ANY effort is a good one, no matter how big or small. So for someone who wants to take steps to integrate plastic-free techniques it’s definitely achievable on even the smallest scale. There are so many ways in which I can still make the right call when I’m unprepared or even just feeling lazy. Next time you’re at the store, ask yourself, is there a brand of chips that wraps in paper rather than plastic? Buy that. (And the answer is yes, it’s Mission and they’re organic and only use 3 ingredients 😉 If you’re out and about and are desperate for water buy VOSS or San Pellegrino which use glass bottles. It’s all about awareness and taking the time to look for alternatives.

You’re often travelling around the world, do you find it hard to integrate environmentally-conscious habits into your life when on the road?

Yeah, for sure. I often have to eat more foods in wrappers and bags and don’t always have access to clean water to fill up my bottle. But I still always bring them with me for the times I do, as well as reusable cutlery and I’m proud to say I’m living 100% straw free. Never touching one of those silly things again!

Are there any brands you love at the moment that are reducing plastic waste or doing something else to keep the planet happy and healthy?

Byron Bay based brand Afends is killing it with their warehouse shipp ing techniques. I’ve worked in fashion a long time and every brand has always sent their garments from the warehouse to the stockist wrapped in plastic. But Afends is now using a 100% biodegradable packaging made from cornstarch. It’s incredible! Also LA based brand GREENLEE Swim make killer swimwear from fabric made of 98% recycled water bottles. The styles are amazing for surfing and you’d be shocked at the quality. Finally, what’s your favourite natural part of the world that inspires you to live sustainably? The ocean, of course, is my biggest catalyst for action. She is truly a Mother I feel passionate about protecting, and the joy she brings me every single day is a gift I try to never take for granted. Also trees leave me inspired and enamoured. The multiple functions of a left alone – providing shade, nourishment, water capture, food for its inhabitants – gives me hope that as humans we can learn from these multidimensional resources and create our own that contribute to the planet, not abuse it.

 

Follow Lex on snapchat for coastal adventures and plastic-free tips: lex_weinstein
Instagram: @lexweinstein_
Blog: http://blog.lexweinstein.com/