The Fashion Industry is Suffocating our Planet

The UK has the highest consumption of clothing in Europe. On average, a piece of clothing is worn only a handful of times before it is thrown away, and online shopping is continuing to grow. The fashion industry has become a major contributor to pollution and the overuse of land and water.

‘Fast fashion’ refers to items of clothing produced rapidly and cheaply in factories by retailers desperate to be the first to produce the latest trends. We, as consumers of the fashion industry, are buying and discarding our clothes far too quickly, resulting in approximately 235 million items of clothing being put in landfills every year.

Fast fashion is suffocating the earth.

To hear the opinion of someone in the fashion industry, I interviewed Imogen Evans from Edinburgh, who recently showcased her own designs at New York Fashion Week. When I asked Imogen about her thoughts on fast fashion, she told me: “We live in an instant world where everyone wants things as soon as we see them… People are seeing fashion week pieces and then purchasing them online at Pretty Little Thing for £5 the next day.”

Fashion items have become so cheap that they are only used once, even just to take a picture to upload to Instagram. Online retailer Pretty Little Thing stocks hundreds of items under £5, made possible by using cheap blends of materials. It’s encouraging people to carelessly buy a clothing item and then throw it away almost instantly.

Plastics such as polyester and nylon, which are found in cheaply made clothes and take up to 200 years to break down, are going straight into landfills.

This is polluting the earth and affecting wildlife. Landfill sites are taking over natural habitats and plastics are being eaten by unsuspecting animals. The fashion industry is guilty of contributing to air and water pollution in a major way. This, in turn, is contributing to climate change.

The fashion industry is currently creating more pollution than all of the aeroplanes in the world.

We should be extremely worried. According to scientists, we have 12 years to stop climate change. Fighting fast fashion is one major way to do so.

Several British Influencers, such as GraceFitUk and Zanna Van Dijk are now using their social media platforms to encourage people to shop in charity and vintage shops. Their influence will hopefully slow down the rate at which clothes are being bought.

Another example of an influential person using social media to change people’s views on fast fashion is Alice Wilby. Wilby is a Sustainable Fashion Expert for the BBC, as well as the founder of Future Frock – an online editorial platform focused on sustainable fashion. Through her Twitter profile, which is almost entirely dedicated to sustainability, Wilby explains how we can reuse, repair and recycle clothing.

There are several innovative plans being created to help reduce the impact of disposable fashion.

American Eagle has launched a new clothing rental scheme. For $49.95 a month, customers can rent items for a certain amount of time before returning them to be reused by someone else. The aim is to reduce fast fashion while still being able to fulfil customer need, and will hopefully decrease the number of items that are thrown away.

Another idea is a ‘penny per garmet‘ levy, which would require retailers to pay a penny for every item they sell. The money would then go towards recycling the clothes instead of throwing them away.

Only 1% of material from clothing is currently recycled for new clothing and only 12% is recycled for other uses.

We are slowly waking up. We’re getting rid of plastic bags and single use coffee cups and we are reducing the amount of meat we are eating. Hopefully, we will begin to phase out disposable clothing and the climate-changing emissions it produces.

There are some companies who are already trying to do their bit for the environment, such as Adidas, who have said they will only use recycled polyester by 2024. H&M have begun mending clothes for free so that they are not thrown away.

When speaking to Imogen Evans, she rightly noted, “the main problem is trying to educate millennials who aren’t necessarily interested in fashion because these are the people who are mindlessly buying from Pretty Little Thing and Misguided every other week.”

As consumers, we need to change our attitude towards clothes.

We need to stop seeing items as disposable and start buying fewer better quality items which will last longer. This way, we will reduce how much we are all contributing to climate change. Buying less clothing at a slightly higher price and recycling old clothes is a small price to pay for better quality products and reducing our carbon footprints for the earth.

Could an App Help Diagnose & Treat Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is an often painful chronic gynaecological disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of a woman’s uterus grows outside of the uterus. The patient has to live with certain symptoms, like painful periods and ovulation, pain during or after sexual intercourse, heavy bleeding, chronic pelvic pain, fatigue, and infertility over time.

These symptoms can impact on general physical, mental, and social wellbeing. If left untreated, endometriosis can lead to further health complications, painful intercourse and infertility. According to the World Endometriosis Society and the World Endometriosis Research Foundation:

Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years,  which is approximately 176 million women in the world.”

Despite this, there has been little commitment to investing in basic research and there is currently no known cure for endometriosis.

Not only is there no known cure, diagnosis isn’t simple. This is because endometriosis symptoms are often dismissed as ‘just bad periods’. Symptoms can also be similar to those of other diseases.

At Sweden National Finals Creative Business Cup on May 8 2019, Sweden’s top 8 startups within the creative industries pitched their ideas to a ‘jury’ of investors. One of these ideas might just be able to validate under-recognised illnesses such as Endometriosis.

Endometrix

Endometrix is an app that aims to make endometriosis easier to understand. It can provide self-care advice on how to treat symptoms through adequate, accessible and individualised healthcare through the use of technology.

Behind Endometrix is a cool team from Stockholm with backgrounds in bio-entrepreneurship, media & communication and healthcare. Witnessing the inadequate gynaecological care and a lack of everything from validation to awareness, choices and treatment, they created an innovative tailor-made solution for a slow-moving, conservative industry.

Meet the Endometrix team.

Do not undermine the power of women turning to one another to share their knowledge and emotions with each other. Endometrix was born with this connective mindset. Our vision is that every woman receives adequate care by sharing their experiences and progress with one another.” – Moa Felicia Linder, Co-Founder

I was told, the only time you look at what someone else has is to see if they have enough. I looked, and found that there wasn’t enough; there has been unequal treatment, unequal pay and unequal care for women. Through Endometrix, I want to change at least one of those things.” – Sushrut Shastri, Co-Founder

I had an incredible six years helping people working as a registered nurse, but there came a point where I wanted to be able to help people on a larger scale. Ultimately, to provide people with easier access to adequate care. I hope to achieve just that through Endometrix.” – Mitchell Isakka, Co-Founder

At the core of their solution lies the personal experiences of endometriosis of different girls and women. “We sent out the survey to which a lot of people responded and that was the basis for training a machine learning algorithm,” says cofounder Sushrut Shastri. The app uses machine learning, an automated system that uses data to answer questions. By using data from over 700 individuals, Endometrix identifies patterns and teaches themodel to learn how each user manages these symptoms.


Its 80% accuracy reduces the time it takes to reach diagnosis. It has potential to expand to other gynecological conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Adenomyosis and all sorts of infections.

Machine learning in healthcare is not something new. It has been playing an integral role in for at least 5-10 years. In the case of Endometriosis, the Endometrix app gives users access to information from the experiences of others who are overcoming similar challenges. It also helps to curate a wellness plan (diet, fitness, medication and meditation) and bust myths around endometriosis. “The future of machine learning used in healthcare is to help doctors to work together with doctors”, says cofounder Sushrut Shastri.

Using the full potential of artificial intelligence, and machine learning in particular, often requires addressing certain issues. However, health is fundamentally different from other areas since it concerns the understanding of diseases and treatments.

Machine learning technology can help tremendously with under-recognised disorders like endometriosis and provide doctors with the evidence they need to help girls and women.

Midwives: Innovators on the Front Lines of Care

With simple but resounding words, Frances Day-Stirk, President of the International Confederation of Midwives, reminded 4,200 people gathered in Toronto that midwives are the engine of creativity and care that can deliver for mothers, babies, and families around the world.

Always aiming to best serve mothers, babies, and their communities, midwives’ human-centered approach to delivering care drives them to find ever-new ways to improve, adjust, and improvise when needed. Innovation is fundamental to midwifery. Enabling that ingenuity is fundamental to how Johnson & Johnson supports and champions midwives and others on the front lines of care as they improve the trajectory of health for humanity.

This week marked the launch of the GenH Challenge, a social venture competition designed to accelerate everyday solutions to health challenges. We were honored to launch the GenH Challenge at the world’s largest gathering of midwives, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Triennial Congress. But of course, championing innovation on the front lines means not only fueling innovation within midwifery – it also means bringing midwives to the table with health innovators and entrepreneurs as they design new approaches to health care.

Samara Ferrara, a participant in Johnson & Johnson and ICM’s Young Midwife Leader program, as well as an Aspen Ideas Festival “Spotlight Health Scholar,” has had the opportunity of being part of both sides of this conversation. Samara has been a practicing midwife for eight years, and plays a leading role in redefining what it means to be a modern-day midwife in Mexico. As ICM wrapped, and in anticipation of Spotlight Health, we spoke with Samara about this unique intersection.

Zack Langway (ZL) What does leadership mean to you, and what would you say is your leadership style? 

Samara Ferrara (SF): A leader is someone who leads by example – someone who inspires and touches other people to act, do, or think in new ways. I try to lead by example by bringing the community and midwives together, and by sharing information so people can better understand what midwives do, not just in Mexico, but around the world. I want people to understand that it’s not enough to survive birth, and that the experience of the family during the birth has a large impact on that human being for the rest of their life. I also share moments and stories from births I witness with inclusive language so that everyone, whether they currently understand midwifery or not, can see themselves or someone they know in the story.

ZL: How do you use your role as a midwifery leader to identify community needs, and come up with innovative ways to solve them?

SF: I create opportunities for dialogue between midwives and other decision-makers in my region. For example, I recently organized a regional conference for midwives, government representatives, medical schools including nurses and doctors, as well as non-profit organizations, to bring all sorts of different perspectives together on the role of midwifery in improving the health of our women and children. The definition of what it means to be a midwife is still unclear in Mexico, and because of the conference, I am now engaged in a discussion with government representatives about midwifery law and what it will take to open a midwifery school.

Creating these links with the community and decision makers is incredibly important to establish that midwifery is an option for quality care. Whether through a conference, or smaller classes, I try to continuously offer educational opportunities for my fellow midwives to reinforce the importance of continuous education and participating in advocacy efforts. It’s not a new profession, but we are pioneering new areas that have not been defined in the community and country.

ZL: What are some of the little, everyday things that have made a big difference in the community you serve?

SF: I’m working hard to give new meaning to what midwifery is nowadays, because there are many misunderstandings around what it means to be a midwife, like the planning and support we provide women and their families during, before, and after pregnancy. I’ve also started partnerships with a pediatrician and a gynecologist which have been very successful. People sometimes think that midwives and doctors are adversaries, but working together, we can offer families the best of both worlds and the clients can really have a choice in how they receive care. So, something as little as a partnership that builds new relationships can have a big difference for families and health.

ZL: As Frances emphasized, how can midwives be the pioneers developing new approaches and methods to provide the best possible care for mom and baby?

SF: We need to put women first. We can start by asking them directly what they need so innovations based on their ideas will be rooted in their needs as the “end user.” As midwives, we also need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. We need to expand our education beyond midwifery and learn new skills that can help us better advocate for our profession and demand change from our leaders. As midwives, we need to take on many different roles in our communities – care provider, counselor, leader, advocate, innovator – and we need to be prepared to do so with the highest level of quality.

I also want to encourage my fellow midwives to take part in competitions like the GenH Challenge because our ideas are the fastest roads to innovation in our countries. I definitely plan to regroup with my team back home, as well as the women of my community, to hear their voices and determine the best innovation we can submit to the GenH Challenge.

ZL: What is do you enjoy most about attending conferences like the ICM Triennial Congress and Aspen Ideas Festival?

SF: I look forward to connecting with new people and creating alliances on shared goals. I also love to learn about the latest innovative ideas and information out there and think through how that might apply to my work. We need innovation so we can change and create new possibilities in my community and my country.

Zack Langway is senior manager of experiential philanthropy in social innovation for Global Community Impact at Johnson & Johnson. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Zack led the global development team at Fenton, the social change agency. He has served as a consultant and in-house digital strategist for organizations including the United Nations Foundation, Save the Children, and Bread for the World. 

This blog post was originally published on the Healthy Newborn Network.

GenH Challenge: Submit your Ideas

In recognition of the impact midwives are creating across the world, Johnson & Johnson has launched a new initiative – the GenH Challenge. Midwives are everyday pioneers of ingenuity, although many might not realise it, or feel particularly comfortable referring to themselves in such a way! This exciting opportunity hopes to encourage midwives to see themselves as innovators with the power to help to create the healthiest generation in human history – “GenH”.

The GenH Challenge is looking to discover brand new ideas from the front lines of care that can change the trajectory of health. If this sounds daunting, don’t worry! The competition welcomes ideas in their earliest stages, and it welcomes small ideas that have the potential to create great impact.

The initiative launched on 19 June 2017 at the 31st Triennial ICM Congress, with midwives coming together with Johnson & Johnson’s GenH Challenge team to talk about what human-centred design really means in an interactive workshop. Human-centred design, the J&J team explained, is one of those terms that many people find off-putting, as it sounds a little like jargon, but it simply means designing everything we do with the person we’re trying to serve at the heart of it all. It is putting a human being first and doing everything else from there. It is what most midwives are doing every single day from the moment they arrive at work.

Midwives have always, by the very nature of what they do, exemplified human centred design. When an expecting mother comes to a midwife with a question or a worry, the midwife focuses on the human in front of them. The GenH Challenge is therefore an opportunity for midwives to be supported in what they already do, day in and day out, and to connect those at the front lines of care with the resources they need to make the greatest impact possible.

So perhaps it’s time to ask yourself: what can I affect? What problems do I see, and what can I make better? If you’re starting to think of an idea, or even a seed of an idea, Girls’ Globe encourages you wholeheartedly to register, and to submit your application. Nobody else can see the world through your eyes, nobody else can speak up with your voice, and so your unique ideas really do matter!

Applications from anywhere in the world are eligible, and so long as your team includes someone who works at the front lines of care, any for-profit or non-profit organizations can apply. The only other rules are that your idea must have received under $250,000 in funding or been in development for 5 years or under.

You can apply any time until 4 October 2017. Full guidelines are available at www.genhchallenge.com.

Even if you don’t currently think of yourself as an innovator, you truly can be a pioneer of ingenuity by taking part in this exciting opportunity. This is your chance to transform midwifery for the future. Good luck!