Here I have compiled six multimedia resources, and a review, for you to check out to increase your knowledge about fast fashion, climate change, and the environment in general.
The True Cost documentary (Amazon prime)
This documentary is about pain, exploitation, environmental destruction, and the greed of corporations. Whenever we buy clothes from the high street, all we tend to see is the enticing low price tag, and believe that that is the only cost that was incurred. But, what tends to be kept quiet, is the terrible human exploitation and environmental degradation that happens as a result of ‘fast fashion’. This documentary explores this different side to the industry, and reveals the true reason why we are able to buy clothes so cheaply ,such as a pair of jeans for £15, for example. I don’t want to give too much away, and want to allow the documentary to speak for itself, but as I mentioned, this is one that will stay on your conscience for a long time after watching. It’s possibly the best documentary I’ve ever seen, all I can say is watch it now. The filmmaker has an excellent style, taking us through the situation in an easy-to-understand, logical order.
Before watching this, I had already heard of the term ‘fast fashion’ and was aware that the industry had negative impacts. But, since watching it, I could not be convinced enough to stay away from high street shops for good. I am proud to say that I have only bought clothes second hand since then, although it has only been a few months, but I plan to continue this way. I have attached some pictures of some of my recent finds from charity shops, and I would encourage everyone to shop this was because it has so many benefits, to you and others (including the planet).
Kipling bag - £6
Furry jacket - £8
White jeans - around £12 (I lost the receipt!) - also I didn’t buy them this creased!
I especially like how it is relevant to SwopItUp’s ethos about improving our behaviour when it comes to clothes and the environment. This is truly a life changing documentary - it is not a light one to watch, but I couldn’t recommend it enough. I would perhaps say young children under the age of eleven may find it distressing to watch, but I think it is good to educate any younger children, for example siblings, about these issues. This could be done through other ways, for example making a game.
Chasing Coral documentary (Netflix)
This is a feature-length documentary which follows divers, scientists and photographers from around the world as they try to document the disappearance of coral reefs. Many of these individuals have grown up around nature and marine life, and it feels personal, as you can see their own attachment to the situation. You feel their pain as their commitment often goes unrewarded - corals are very hard to document, and oftentimes corporations whose actions cause coral bleaching and disappearance, don’t want to listen.
I found it to be very informative - it is on a topic which I find is rarely discussed within the environmental community. Many of us know about the extent of plastics in our oceans, but not about the specific effect that climate change has on our marine life - that is, coral bleaching. Coral bleaching occurs when coral polyps expel algae that live inside their tissues. It can be caused by multiple factors, but primarily from increases in seawater temperature (due to climate change). It ruins corals, which are very important for our ecosystems, and it is particularly moving to watch the end sequence, which shows us the previous colourful, vivid corals in comparisons to the withering ones which now exist today because of humans’ effect on the climate. While this documentary is not always the most uplifting, it is an important one, which doesn’t shy away from harsh realities. I would recommend it for all ages, and especially those who are interested in science or marine biology.
History 101 docuseries, Season 1 Episode 4: Plastics (Netflix)
This is part of a docuseries which takes us through various aspects of history in jam-packed 20 minute explanations, and is extremely informative and filled with facts. It takes us from where plastic was just emerging 60 years ago, and there was a ‘plastic museum’ where people witnessed a home entirely made of plastic (this would’ve been very futuristic at the time) and how difficult they found destroying it was, foreshadowing the colossal problem of plastic nowadays. I especially liked how it managed to fit in lots of statistics in a short space of time (I find these very useful to convince people when I am talking about the environment) - like how 1 million plastic bags are used every minute; in 2015 the world used 332 million tons of plastic, enough to fill every skyscraper in New York City; and how ever since plastic was invented we have produced 7.8 billion tons of plastic waste - enough to fill every New York skyscraper 3x over. I think that this was very well explained because sometimes when talking about large numbers, people find it difficult to comprehend the reality, but quantifying the amount of plastic in this way gives people much more perspective. I was also shocked to find out that even we are becoming plastic - microplastics have been found in our waste - we may be ingesting up to a credit card’s size worth of plastic a week.
The episode perfectly demonstrates to us how essential plastic has become to our everyday lives, but encourages us to question our lifestyles, as the narrator asks ‘We can’t live without plastic - but can we live with it?’. It exposes how our plastic-based society was a flawed one from the start and we must act now if we are to make amends for the lack of foresight from 60 years ago. It is also great for both chemistry as well as history lovers and environmentalists because it takes us through the chemical makeup of plastic, which is what makes it so difficult to break down.
Broken (docuseries): Episodes: Deadly Dressers and Recycling Sham
This is a general docuseries on Netflix, which isn’t specifically about the environment, but there are two of its episodes which are very much relevant: ‘Deadly Dressers’, and ‘Recycling Sham’.
‘Deadly Dressers’ was an eye-opening episode for me. It revealed another industry which I didn’t realise was highly unsustainable - the furniture industry. It taught me the history of furniture - it was once designed to be high quality, and long lasting, but changes in the economy and the greed of some corporations meant that this had to be changed drastically. Now, companies such as an international Swedish company, have mass-produced, cheap, low quality items, which use immense amounts of packaging, and the cheapness of their products means they are able to throw away any items that aren’t sold - which ends up happening to many of the items. It is easy to be disheartened by just how many aspects of life can include unsustainable shopping, but I have taken away this message and told my parents about the documentary - I will be sure to show it to them. As someone who comes from a family who have been regular IKEA customers, we are definitely not there yet but I am motivated to change our habits when it comes to furniture shopping.
Note: this may not be suitable for younger viewers because it deals with some distressing themes.
The title of ‘Recycling Sham’ is self-explanatory; essentially, we have all been lied to and the idea of recycling is really not a solution at all, or really possible as often as we thought. As obvious as this now may sound, I was shocked to find out that the majority of the numbered recycling graphics do not actually indicate a product that is recyclable - they just show what type of material it is. This was at first saddening for me to hear, because the majority of people don’t know this, and many will just assume that they can all be recycled, pop them in the recycling bin, and then their whole effort goes to waste. But, I felt privileged to be able to have the time to research these things myself, and inform others on the reality. The documentary also mentioned that less than 10% of waste gets recycled, and of that, only around a third actually gets upcycled (turned into something more useful or just as useful) - evidently, reducing and reusing are vital before any recycling can take place.
This documentary inspired me to create this (sort of) poster which is currently on my fridge, to remind my family and myself of how to recycle. I did extensive research and this was pretty much a summary of the essentials- what is recyclable, what isn’t, what common recycling symbols mean, and some tips on how to make recycling just that bit easier. As I learned in the ‘Recycling Sham’ episode, recycling as a process is already difficult enough, so it is important to make it as simple for the people working in recycling to figure out as possible.
Previously, I would say I was what the documentary described as a ‘wishcycler’: someone who puts way too many unsuitable items in the recycling in hope that somehow they’ll magically be recycled - initially when I started to educate myself on what is and isn’t recyclable, I was shocked at the ratio of recyclable to general waste (too much waste!!), but I’ve been encouraging my family to buy recyclable products where possible and affordable, and I would encourage you to do the same, and make it fun (I hope!) like I did. I would recommend using a stick-on blackboard like I did, or even just a large sheet of paper and sticking it somewhere everyone in your home will see - this way it should be most effective. Feel free to copy what I wrote in your poster, if you find it helpful!
How to give up plastic - Will McCallum (book)
This book is amazing. If you are someone who cares about the environment I’d say this is an essential because, as I discovered further in the History 101 docuseries (see previous review), plastic is one of the greatest threats to our environment that we need to tackle if we are to improve living conditions for future generations. If anyone isn’t already convinced (or knows someone who isn’t) about why plastic is so harmful, there is a great introduction briefly explaining how plastic came to be so ingrained in our society - the author highlighted how desperately he wanted to make the book plastic-free, but there was no glue without plastic which was strong enough to hold the book together. There are lots of fun interviews with eco-activists, dispersed throughout, which is more promising in that people are beginning to go down the right track to save our planet.
The main content of the book is all you need to know surrounding advice and tips on how to cut out (or reduce where this is not possible) single-use plastic from our daily lives and homes, covering: bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, on the go, in the workplace, and more! I took notes from it (but you definitely don’t have to), and bookmarked what I found to be the most important sections. I am sure this will come in handy whenever I’m trying to convince my family to cut down on plastic! I couldn’t recommend it highly enough, and I will definitely be passing this book on in future.
The book inspired me to commit to stop buying products with single-use plastic where possible, and here are some examples of products I bought fairly recently. Lush is a really great shop for eco friendly products, which are often also vegan friendly, and are made freshly - the products can be pricey but I guarantee that they will last you much longer than an alternative, and the quality is really high. I was surprised to find that the toothbrush was only £3, as bamboo toothbrushes have a reputation for being very expensive (this one is Colgate, I bought it from Boots). And, to save the best for last: the water flosser is the strange looking device in the middle - so far I have found it to be much easier to use and more effective than normal floss, and as someone who, until recently, wore braces, and now wears retainers, it saves so much time and effort. It is an investment to make but I guarantee it will last me years and years. Even if it stops working I will find a way to use it because it’s just so good!
Although none of these purchases were in any way a solution to the environmental crisis, I hope this goes to show how fun it can actually be to shop sustainably, and that it is all about making investments for the future, just as we should do with our planet.
There’s something in the water - Netflix documentary
This is a feature film documentary on Netflix about the effects of environmental destruction on ethnic minority communities in Nova Scotia, Canada. It showcases the correlation between contaminated well water and increased rates of cancer in their Black community and how it went unaddressed, as well as the impacts of unnecessary water pollution on the First Nations (native) community in Nova Scotia. It particularly focuses on the native community living in an area called Boat Harbour, and how they have been affected by a local company’s senseless decision to dump their waste in the First Nations’ river. The shocking image can be seen below.
Impacts included serious illness and death in extreme cases. It was touching to see that one of the surviving members of the community keeps a collage of pictures of the dozens of those who have died from the water pollution, young and old, out of a community of only a few thousand. I already knew about how marginalised communities were disproportionately negatively affected by the environment, from resources such as The Yikes Podcast, but it was still shocking to visually see these effects. I liked how the documentary particularly focused on learning the experiences of the people themselves, rather than trying to tell it from an outsider’s perspective. Overall, it was an insightful documentary which I think is suitable for anyone to watch, and especially those who are interested in social and environmental issues would enjoy it.