The Social Policy Society joined forces with the Edinburgh University Sustainable Development Association (EUSDA) to organise a seminar to educate students on ways to live sustainably. A range of speakers discussed various departments in which students could live more sustainably, such as fashion, food sharing, and living zero-waste lifestyles.
Professor Winston Kwon of the Business School focused his talk on fast fashion. Kwon helped organise an academic trip to India to study the production of clothes using “slow fashion” techniques, which emphasise social responsibility and sustainability. The program stressed the interdisciplinary approaches to tackle the issue.
Students specialising in business, fashion and geography visited cotton fields, rural villages as well as large fashion houses in Mumbai, tracing the production from start to end.“Fashion is not going to go away, fashion is a fundamental way in which people interphase and talk and communicate. It’s about identity, so it’s not going to go away. But at least we can have a less impact about what we do. It’s not about buying things we discard after a few washes,” Kwon said.Kwon isolated the detrimental effects of BT Cotton, a GMO created by Monsanto, which grows cotton plants with built in pesticides. However, insects have slowly built a resistance to such pesticides, proving it ineffective.
Further, the crop requires intensive irrigation which farmers can’t afford and is therefore subsidised by the Indian government. Kwon contrasted this plant with the native Desi cotton which requires much less irrigation and is suited for traditional Indian fashion.
The seminar also invited local business owner Stephanie Foulds, who founded the zero-waste grocery store, The Eco Larder, through crowd fund donations. The Eco Larder sells groceries without any packaging or plastics.Shoppers bring their own containers and weigh their groceries in order to determine pay. Foulds described the process of organising and founding the store, largely based on the support of volunteers who help organize the administrative aspects.
According to Foulds, the store has saved one ton of Co2 emissions from being created and prevented 17,000 pieces of packaging from going to landfill so far.While Foulds is preventing new waste from being created, Shrub focuses on reusing products that would otherwise have been thrown out.
Shrub is an organisation that focuses on reuse of goods opened by a group of University of Edinburgh students in 2013, focusing on preventing food waste through food sharing. Shrub has recently opened Scotland’s first rescue food shop, accepting groceries that supermarkets would have been thrown out, and offering them for free to the public. While groceries past the ‘Use By’ dates are unacceptable, those that are past the ‘Best By’ date are still acceptable.
“This [event] is aimed towards how students and everyone can be more sustainable, but understanding that everyone is diverse,” Academic Officer of the School of Social and Political Science, Clare Ruane, said.
Illustration: Katie Moore