On Sunday the 3rd of December we’re hosting the third Green Fashion Fair at the Green Living Lab. If you’ve been at the previous ones, you’ll know how fun it is to find that an old sweater from someone’s grandpa is actually a perfect addition to your hipster look, or that someone is happily taking home your bad buys. But the reason we started Clothes Swaps at the Green Living Lab has more to it. Time to share the story of how we got inspired to contribute to the fashion revolution.

Each year in April on social media, thousands of people showed their labels and asked the brands #whomademyclothes. Farmers, producers, and factory workers responded with pictures of their working process, proudly holding the #imadeyourclothes-sign. Each year this Fashion Revolution Week sparks up many conversations about  human rights and the environmental aspects of the fashion industry.

This ‘Fashion Revolution‘, as the organisation is called, was born on April 24, 2013. This was the day that the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. This tragedy was only part of a growing dissatisfaction about the treatment of the people and the planet in all layers of the clothing industry. But the tremendous anger and despair of Rana Plaza set the true revolution on fire and people all over the world joined forces to demand change.

Now, slowly the world is starting to realise that, however complicated the issue is, something’s off with the way we produce, sell, and buy our clothes. Simply put, change is necessary for:

1. The People. Human rights are being abused in the garment industry. Minimum wage is rarely enough to live off. Workers are being mistreated for demanding better conditions. Buildings have often collapsed or caught fire.

2. The Planet. To grow, dye, launder and treat our clothes, we use chemicals that end up polluting rivers. Also, a huge amount of water is used to produce clothing by growing cotton and wet processing, such as dyeing and laundering. Not only the clothes we produce, also the enormous amounts of clothes we throw away pollute the environment. Charities cannot keep up with all the donated clothes and only a small part of it is being resold in developing countries. All the others end up in landfills, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, water, and soil.

3. The Mindset. Fashion used to have four seasons, each bringing in new lines. Now, fashion has 52 seasons, and 150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually. Fashion is fast, cheap, and we like it. As we buy more and more of them, we lose our love for the quality of clothes and all the people and resources that brought them to us. Appreciation of our clothes is the first step towards a more humane and fair situation.

Without depressing you any further, I’ll refer those interested in the full story to the documentary The True Cost (to be found on Netflix & beyond). Honestly, I watch a lot of documentaries, but this is one of the two that have changed the way I think (the other is Cowspiracy, which made me go vegan in a day).

Now, on to the action! What can we do?15128819_1635957166704015_2505552897505938247_o

1. Swap! Knock yourself out at the Green Fashion Fair on Sunday or at the ones to come (keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next event). Will all this swapping have any effect? Yes! The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, in terms of carbon emissions, the amount of textiles recycled each year is equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.

2. Shop – Be a critical consumer. Every time we buy clothes that cost less than we think it should, we are implicitly imposing the cost on someone or something else. Avoid bad buys. Myself, I’m lucky to have very stylish sisters who’ve been my personal shoppers since I can remember. But I’m sure you have some friends to ask for advice as well.


3. Join the Fashion Revolution! See what you can do on the Fashion Revolution website. Ask your brands #whomademyclothes and mingle in the conversation on social media.

Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? Let us know what you think about the issue, and see you at the swap!

As the world is losing hope about the US taking any kind of leading role on the world’s most pressing global issues like environmental protection and climate change, students of America’s top universities spread a strong positive message last weekend by hosting the Ivy League Vegan Conference at Harvard University. And no, it wasn’t a bunch of rich students telling each other how awesome they are being a vegan. It also wasn’t a group of skinny, pale, sandal-wearing hippies. This conference was characterised by the large diversity of people attending, as well as the number of topics and open discussions that took place. Some speakers were even so brave to admit to an audience full of plant-eaters that they enjoy eating meat from time to time!

Location of the conference: Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram.

Location of the conference: Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo with permission from humanelemaguebos@Instagram

For me, this event was perfectly timed as I have just moved to Boston for a neuroimaging internship at the Martinos center for my MSc. Neuroscience at the Vrije Universiteit (VU). I’ll be studying the effects of meditation on the brain, so if you’re interested in this subject, stay tuned for future blog posts. Last spring, I got involved with the Green Living Lab when I followed their Green Student Bootcamp Challenge programme. I loved the experience so much that I joined the GLL team, where I’ve since helped to organise events and give tours of the location.

Now that I’m an ocean away from the GLL itself, I’ve taken up the role of reporting as the GLL foreign correspondent in the US! Volunteering with the GLL allows me to express my interest in how lifestyle choices impact global issues like sustainability and inequality.

A full audience. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram.

A full audience. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram


After making these connections perhaps it is not surprising to learn that I am vegan. So by getting the chance to attend this conference just after my arrival in the US, as the Dutch would say, ‘I fell with my nose in the butter’ (= super lucky). Or, in this case, I fell in the vegan margarine.

Organised by the Harvard Vegan Society, the conference was part of a series of vegan conferences of peer organisations from other universities. The purpose of the conference is nicely summarised by the Vegan Society’s president Nina Gheihman, a PhD candidate and affiliate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs:

“The conference explores a truly fascinating question: could a plant-based diet be a single, elegant solution to the pressing global issues caused by an increasing population with diminishing natural resources?”  

A fully-packed program included talks and discussion panels on a wide range of topics concerning humans, animals, and the earth. Perspectives came from scientists, engineers, investors, and activists. In the breaks, delicious meals were served by various local chefs and caterers. And this was gratefully received, since there is little that can make a vegan happier than getting to eat everything in the buffet.

A lovely lunch provided by WholeFoods. Photo with permission from plantsforchange@Instagram©

A lovely lunch provided by WholeFoods. Photo with permission from plantsforchange@Instagram©

One of the goals of the conference was to serve as a networking platform for all people seeking to learn how they can live healthy and conscious lives. During Saturday night’s reception, environmentalists and animal rights advocates mixed with some fit and healthy people to chat about their common values and passions. This mix of perspectives sometimes led to funny conversations. I saw a girl handing a flyer about animal rights to a co-attendant, who responded: “could I just take a picture of it? I’d rather not use any unnecessary paper”. Myself? I ended up in an all-vegetarian (can-be-made-vegan) typical American diner with my new plant-eating friends.

On Sunday afternoon I left the venue feeling inspired, complete with a long list of places to visit, initiatives to look up, and new friends to connect with. Thank you to the Harvard Vegan Society for this fruitful (pun intended) event!