It is high time that we as global citizens adopt better and more sustainable practices, which is just what Jasmine Tuan, a sustainable fashion advocate and activist behind SmilesLikeGreenSpirit.com and Cloop.sg, has been doing.
It isn’t news that the fashion industry has a deleterious impact on the environment. While brands are putting their best efforts into reducing their environmental impact, other egregious issues have come to the fore. According to the UN environment programme, the industry is the second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8 to 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, consuming more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.
Besides the overconsumption of energy, the immense pressure of the global fashion calendar puts designers in a frenzy as they scramble to produce a growing number of capsules in between seasonal collections. By having multiple collections every year, fashion trends become obsolete quickly. Looking to runways as inspiration, fast-fashion brands follow suit with new collections hitting the stores every week. With an influx of garments come excess stocks. These leftover stockpiles would often be thrown into the landfills — essentially posing threats to our environment.
As part of the Temasek Shophouse’s “Carbon Copy Challenge”, Jasmine Tuan shares with us how she reduces her carbon footprint and mitigates the vicious problem.
How Did You First Venture into A More Sustainable Lifestyle?
I have been recycling all my life, thinking I am an eco-friendly person! During my polytechnic days, I learned about the term ‘recycling’ and became mindful about what I throw. The notion carried through to adulthood as I avoid printing and repurpose printed papers as notepads. I will also reuse envelopes whenever possible.
Being a shopaholic then, I would sell off clothes I stopped wearing at flea markets and use the money to buy something new. Handing down some of these clothes to my family and friends or donating them made me think that I am doing something good. While I certainly was doing something good for the economy, my overconsumption was not eco-friendly at all. I used to own a room full of clothes, bags, shoes and accessories! Yet I still had nothing to wear! And I would keep buying more to the point when my walk-in wardrobe became a monstrous nightmare.
What Propelled You Towards a Sustainable Lifestyle?
After a series of adversity, I began questioning my true purpose in life. I wanted to change. I had nothing but a lot of time and clothes. So, I started downsizing my life, selling the items one by one for survival.
At the end of 2017, I met a Zero Waste group in Malaysia. That was when I got introduced to the world of the 5Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycling, Rot or compost the rest. Before this, I had this false perception that recycling is how consumers close the loop.
In 2018, I took up the challenge to apply the 5Rs in my lifestyle and added ‘Rethink’ in front as I believe everything starts from the head. At the same time, I also committed to zero shopping on new fashion items. It was not an easy ride, but it was exciting for me to exercise my creativity to a whole new level. I had the opportunity to rediscover myself all over again.
What Are Your Efforts to Reducing Carbon Footprint?
I take public transport, cycle, or walk most of the time. Spend time with nature, learning about its biodiversity and the importance of it. Reducing my plastic consumptions by bringing my own bottles, grocery bags, containers and cutlery. I frequent places like The Social Space when I need to refill my home essentials like dishwashing liquid, hand wash and detergent as refilling is better than recycling. I have also volunteered with GroundUp Initiative (GUI) to learn how to grow my own food. With food scraps, I turn them into multipurpose cleaning solutions or, I will drop them off at community gardens that accept food waste for composting.
Your Motivation Behind Your Initiatives and Movements (Cloop and Fashion Swap!)
Six months into my zero-waste journey, I had the opportunity to share my story and learnings. I met two amazing ladies who started the ‘no straw’ movement in Malaysia at a speaking session. They organised an Earth Weekend event and invited me to curate a segment on fast fashion pollution. Individuals and organisations came together on this day including the Fashion Revolution Malaysia chapter. It was then I finally watched the True Cost documentary entirely. The fact that our clothes are causing environmental and human rights issues is mind-boggling to me. The exploitation of kids in the industry is the epitome of modern-day slavery. That is not fashionable at all.
My fashion world changed when I was invited to swap events in Malaysia and Singapore when they first started. Swapping is amazing! Swapping is the perfect solution for someone who yearns for seemingly new clothes but does not want to compromise the environment.
When I moved back to Singapore, I decided to put my emptied walk-in wardrobe to good use since no one was renting it during the lockdown. I started My Zero Waste Wardrobe and called for clothes donations from friends who wanted to keep good fashion pieces circulated within the community. I soon met two other fashion lovers (original members of Cloop) who shared the same sentiment about fashion today. We joined forces and organised our first collaborative fashion swap event in two weeks, and the rest is history. To date, we have rehomed 1,859 items for 385 participants. We have raised a total of $2,213.80 for Charity: Water, World Vision and the Fashion Revolution.
Your Future Plans to Continue Advocating for A Sustainable Fashion Industry
I hope to be able to share my story with more people. Be it in schools, in corporations, or organisations. Cloop also hopes to be able to bring swapping to the offices. We have been popping up at venues and hope to have a permanent space to do collection, sorting, restoration, curation, swapping, talks and workshop, all under one roof. To create a space for the community to enjoy sustainable fashion together.
What’s Your opinion on the Fashion Industry and How can we Play a Part in Reducing Waste?
I seriously wish the factories would stop producing already. We do not need 80 to 100 billion fashion items every year. We have so many clothes and things made on this planet already. If we have grown out of certain items, it would be ideal to pass them on to others who would find them in good use.
No demand, no supply. Exercise our consumers’ rights. We should rethink our consumption habits. Think before we buy and think before we throw. Think circularity. Before we throw, think. Can I repurpose it? Or repair it? Or re-gift to someone who can put it to good use?
What Advice Can You Give to Avid Fast-Fashion Shoppers?
When I was downsizing my life, I came across a quote that inspired me: “If you want to fly, you have to let go of the things that weigh you down.” I wanted to be free from the vicious cycle of buying things, having to spring clean, and selling to rid them for cash to buy more. That is not what life should be. You think you are getting good deals when in fact, you are paying too much for poorly made ‘trendy’ clothes which are part of the planned obsolescence. And who is paying The True Cost?
Take a good look at your wardrobe, wear what you already have. If you stop wearing them, take them out for a swap with Cloop. If you must buy, buy second-hand first. There are plentiful beautiful pieces out there already. If you absolutely must buy new, you can find sustainable brands from Zerrin. Buy from brands that produce ethically, are kind to people and the planet, using natural or recycled materials.