Event Recap: Marie Claire’s Sustainability Forum

This morning I attended Marie Claire’s Sustainability Forum (#ad), held at Hearst Tower, the first commercial building in NYC to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold for new construction and LEED Platinum for existing buildings.

Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire, opened the breakfast (wearing an amazing dress made out of recycled materials) with some interesting stats. Marie Claire conducted a survey among its readers and found that 92 percent care about the environment and sustainability is at the top of the list of issues they care about. When it comes to beauty, 8 out of 10 say they are willing to spend more on environmentally safe products.

The first panel called, “Why Should I Care?,” discussed the footprint of the fashion and beauty industries and what the panelists companies are doing to help reduce their impact. Shane Wolf, Founder of Seed Phytonutrients, reveled a startling statistic: 94 percent of seed varieties are no longer available.

“The seed is such an effective part of the plant. It’s where everything is embodied, it has the ability to grow roots, and we thought if we can just extract the oils from that, it would be an amazing ingredient for hair, skin and body products,” he said.

The eco-friendly beauty company helps support organic farmers and the sourcing of the seeds used in its products. They also discovered a way to innovate the brand’s packaging to reduce its carbon footprint by creating the industry’s first, shower-safe paper bottle, which reduces plastic usage by 60 percent.

Fashion is being redesigned from the inside out, and fashion brands are starting to practice sustainability, but as profitability is necessary, the items produced still have to be beautiful.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the room that’s going to keep buying a scarf that’s ugly because they feel they’re doing good,” said Cara Smith, Glasgow Caedonian University New York VP and Fair Center Founding Director. “You might do that once, but you’re not going to keep at that. To see brands and retailers bringing beautiful products out so that consumers have to make less of a choice, is really the direction of sustainability for the future.”

In another panel, “Knowledge is a Power,” Kara Hurst, Amazon’s Head of Worldwide Sustainability, discussed what the online retailer is doing to be inventive around sustainability. Notably, through its initiatives, over the last 10 years the company has eliminated 244,000 tons of packaging and avoided over 500 million boxes being used.

Finally, in the last panel, “What Can I do?” brand leaders gave advice on how we can all make a change. Some tips include:

  • Go to a brand’s website to see how much information they are releasing about their sustainability practices. You can also see if there is an email address or phone number you can call to inquire about the band’s practices.
  • Although not required, many brands list certifications on their products such as cruelty free, vegan..etc. Look out for these labels on the brand’s packaging.
  • Look at the frequency rate of how often you are buying product and what you are doing with it. Changing your behavior in this one area has a huge impact from a sustainability perspective to reduce waste. H&M offers a program that allows consumers to bring clothing they no longer want (regardless of the brand or where it was purchased from) to its stores for recycling.

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