How to shower and dress and still have a conscience

Most of us recognise that sustainability is a global issue that needs to be addressed.

However, behavioural change remains at a modest level. That’s according to the 2019 Behaviour and Attitudes 'Sign of the Times' survey.

Meanwhile, Irish startups are leading the way with innovative solutions in the sustainable space. One of these is Evocco, a shopping app which lets consumers know the carbon footprint of their shopping basket.

Another finding from the B&A survey was that consumers believe that "bigger issues, such as global warming and pollution, are beyond our agency to change."

The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to pollution and is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. Sustain Sister’s founder Caitriona Lynch wants to give fashion consumers the tools to be more sustainable.

Ms Lynch studied fashion buying and retail management in DIT and worked in fashion buying before setting up Sustain Sister to provide an alternative to the high street.

Her business comprises an e-commerce site, a rental service and fashion tours. The first option is the buying side. She partners with eco-friendly brands around Europe, including Swedish Stockings which make hosiery in zero waste factories from recycled yarn. Ms Lynch has recently added runners made from pinatex, a leather-like fabric made from pineapple leaves which is entirely biodegradable.

The second part of Sustain Sister is rental. Ms Lynch says buying new clothing for occasional events didn’t make sense to her as "party dresses are worn on average 1.27 times."

Through the website vintage dresses from designers such as Nina Ricci and Agnes B are available to borrow for seven days from €20. The price includes an eco-friendly dry cleaning service.

The third part of Sustain Sister is about educating people about how to shop more sustainably. Ms Lynch has recently partnered with Finn McCools Tours to offer tours around Dublin visiting vintage and secondhand shops and educating guests about clothes swapping and local designers.

Ms Lynch believes this is just the beginning for sustainable fashion and refers to predictions that resale fashion is expected to overtake the “fast fashion” industry by 2028. Meanwhile, as Sustain Sister tackles the fashion consumer, another Irish startup is looking at water conservation.

Heatwaves and water shortages have become a typical feature of recent summers, and Jack Dooley and Cian Fogarty have come up with a unique product to help reduce water wastage.

The Greener Globe co-founders were in transition year in Tullamore College in Co Offaly when they came up with a shower head that alerts the user to water usage with a traffic light-like system.

At the time, in 2014, the water charges debate in Ireland was in full flow, Mr Dooley says. He says the Environmental Protection Agency was recommending seven minutes as an appropriate shower time.

So, he and Mr Fogarty set out to find out if that was realistic. They carried out over 900 surveys and found that their peer group spent an average of 11 to 12 minutes in the shower. As the average shower uses approximately nine litres per minute, they figured out that a reduction of four minutes would save 36 litres per shower.

Their product, the Aquacica, is a showerhead with integrated LED lights in the base and powered by a kinetic system which uses the water flow.

The B&A Survey found that sustainability was a source of guilt for many. The Aquacica aims to tap into that guilt to encourage habit changes so that "once the shower head hits red, you feel bad for wasting water."

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