World Environment Day with Jemma Finch
To celebrate World Environment Day, we talk to Jemma Finch, co-founder of 'Stories Behind Things', a storytelling platform that promotes living and consuming with a sustainability mindset. We chat with Jemma about her projects, how brands and customers can work together towards a healthier environment, plus she shares tips and resources to inspire more conscious living.
What journey have you taken to commit to slow fashion and sustainability and what was it that triggered this change in lifestyle for you?
For me, my journey into sustainability came through a mental health-lens. I found myself extremely disconnected from what I was interacting with on a daily basis. Engaging with my clothing and understanding the story behind them, where they were made, what they represented to me etc allowed me to reconnect. That's when I started becoming ever more curious about where things came from, and whether they have a positive journey and affect on our planet or not. Starting Stories Behind Things started as a passion project and was my personal journey to reconnecting to the material things that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis.
Tell us a bit of the story behind your amazing project ‘Stories Behind Things’ and how your community has evolved since 2018.
We started off as just a passion project, experimenting with a slower pace of consumption and life by documenting it, to see whether it made us happier and more respectful of the planet. Starting this as a passion project allowed me to really put my heart into it. I never set out for this to be a business which is why I think it’s considered an authentic storytelling platform today.
What are the first key things a fashion company should address to be more environment-friendly?
One of the main issues I see within the fashion industry is the speed. Main fast fashion giants are still producing new collections and pieces every week, this is not a model that is kind to the planet. It takes a huge amount of capital and resource to produce these units, and they are often thrown away just after one or two uses. We need to reconsider what our clothing is for and cherish it for longer. Brands should take responsibility for when their clothing breaks, and encourage the customer to fix it rather than ‘buy buy buy’.
What can we as citizens do to be part of this change towards a healthier environment? Do you have any habits to reduce environmental impact that you could share with us and our readers?
Consumers should research into the different areas that spark interest for them! I always suggest a good place to start is to identify which areas within the sustainability sphere interests you most, and then go from there. You may be interested in animal rights, or human rights, or the science behind sustainable materials - whatever it is, be curious, research, ask questions and you'll find inspiration from there.
The wider issue I want to shine a light on is the notion of mindless consumption, consumption when we are feeling happy to elongate that dopamine hit, consumption to make yourself feel better when you’ve had a bad day…. overconsumption! I’m passionate about putting a stop to the disconnect many have with what they are surrounding themselves with on a daily basis, we need to collectively slow down and re-connect to the story behind what we are buying. Many of these habits stem from a disconnected mindset or mental health attitudes, which I find interesting to explore. Through my platform 'Stories Behind Things' we address living and consuming with a conscious mindset in an engaging way - join us!
Very often customers find it difficult to understand what slow-fashion or conscious consumption means and directly associate this with zero consumption. What is conscious fashion consumption for you and what tips do you have to empower people to live consciously?
Zero waste is an unobtainable goal. I'd always suggest celebrating the smaller wins along the way. Sustainable living in general if often about slowing down, buying things when you need them from conscious brands that prioritise the planet and looking after the thins you own to increase their life span. My tips for living consciously would be to engage with online accounts that inspire you daily, this will help spur you on, every day. My favourites are Fashion Revolution, Eco-Age, and Stories Behind Things of course! Feeling like your a part of something bigger always makes the journey more fulfilling during the harder times.
We are aware of your role as ambassadors of @bbcearth, how exciting! Could you tell us a bit more about how you work/collaborate with them?
Yes! Thank you, we work together through my platform supporting and sharing information on different projects they run. We were lucky enough to attend the premiere of 'Seven Worlds, One Planet' followed by a live Q&A with Sir David Attenborough which was an incredible honour!
Do you have any favourite books, blogs, social media accounts and/or platforms that you can recommend for our audiences and anyone who wants to find information/advice?
Read: Fashionopolis by Dana Thomas
Watch: Living Life With Less - Ted Talk
Listen: Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press
Finally, what is next for you and ‘Story Behind Things’?
We host a series of offline events to help our community live more in line with their values and we can’t wait together these back on again once it’s safe! We host a series of clothes switching events called The Big Clothes Switch which invites our community to bring pre-loved clothing to switch with branded donations, second hand, and vintage pieces - they are evenings filled with community and likened humans. I love them. Apart from our new event series, we have some exciting new partnerships coming up towards the end of the year all aimed to help tell stories of brands and individuals that are prioritising the planet. Watch this space! Follow us over on @storiesbehindthings
Our commitments to a healthier environment
After this interview with Jemma, we decided to walk her talk and share our small wins with you. At Salt-Water Sandals, we care about the environment and constantly work to reduce our environmental impact. We know we still have work to do and are committed to doing it:
High quality and long-lasting products
We stick to the classic designs that the founder started making over 75 years ago from scrap leather. We are lucky to keep selling the same product and remain mindful of the amount of newness we introduce each season.
Our efforts are focused on delivering high-quality sandals that are made to last. They can be lived in, loved, and past down for years to come.
Over the years, we have heard different stories from our customers about how durable our sandals are and how they have been passed from one sibling to even generation to another. One of the most remarkable stories was that of Sylvie and her yellow sandals. One of her sandals got lost out to the sea and was found one year later, washed up along a nearby beach. The photo below was taken when the sandal was found and shows how hard-wearing our sandals are.
Recycling and plastic free efforts
- All of our packaging is 100% plastic free.
- Our boxes are single construction with no glue. This facilitates its recycling process.
- We ensure to always use recycled materials on any promotional assets and have implemented a recycling code in our offices.
- We take part in Beach Cleans to help clear up beaches of plastic and rubbish.
The MCS Official Sandal - Silver Original
The Silver Original is the official sandal of our charity partner The Marine Conservation Society with 10% of all sales of this sandal going directly to this charity to gift for seas full of life.
What's to come?
We are actively looking for ways to improve our business and make it more sustainable. We are currently researching vegan leather alternatives to use in the future. This is a complex topic that will need more work, but we are determined to continue this research.
Other initiatives are being discussed at Salt-Water Sandals and we will keep you updated on our endeavors.