By: Joi M Sears
Technology has opened up whole new worlds for humanity. It has drastically changed the way we live our everyday lives. However, when it comes to the way we buy our food, this process has more or less remained the same. But for how long?
One design firm wants to change all of that. To keep up with the pace of technological advancements, the Carlo Ratti Associati firm has created the supermarket of the future. As a part of a six-month exhibition at Expo Milano Carlo Ratti has created a project called the Future Food District. It explores how technology, innovation and creativity relates to food and diet.
By: Joi M Sears
Americans spend over half a billion dollars a day on clothing. Imagine what the world would be like if just half of that amount was spent on only sustainable, ethical and eco-conscious brands. Conscious consumerism is based on the idea that every dollar is a vote. By leveraging our collective purchasing power, we can economically influence global companies to become more socially responsible. We can drastically change our planet simply by being more conscious of what we wear, how it is produced and what we do when we are done with it.
Conscious Commerce is an experiment in living (and shopping) with a conscience. It is the brainchild of American actress Olivia Wilde and partner Barbara “Babs” Burchfield. “This is our attempt to be useful humans,” they explain in a welcome letter written on their website. “Maybe if we all take small steps in the right direction, we can at least avoid being the assholes ensuring total world annihilation.”
The duo recently partnered with H&M to launch a Conscious Exclusive pop-up shop in Times Square. The actress-turned-humanitarian is also the face of the S/S Conscious Exclusive campaign, which celebrates the work of artisans all over the world. “The H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection doesn’t compromise on style. It’s a collection of pieces that I want to wear, and that are all made from sustainable materials. It’s how fashion should always be,” Wilde said.
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Every year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes due to war, famine or natural disasters. In search of safety, shelter, food and clean water, many seek refuge in humanitarian camps. Some stay for years, others for generations. For many children, these camps are the only home they’ve ever known.
The camps are dark, cramped and chaotic places. There is no electricity or running water. The tents do not provide adequate shelter from rain, wind or extreme temperatures. Without privacy, proper sanitation or a sense of security, many refugees are in dire need of safety, dignity and a better place to call home, however humble that home may be.
In an effort to provide better, safer and more durable homes for refugee children and their families, the Ikea Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched Better Shelter, a social enterprise committed to developing innovative housing solutions for people displaced by conflict and natural disasters. The UNHCR has recently placed an order for 10,000 flat-pack shelters from Ikeato improve the lives of thousands of refugee families around the world. The shelters are durable, affordable, sustainable, easy to transport and can be built on-site without any additional tools. On a mission to revolutionize the refugee camp, Better Shelter uses design, technology and social innovation to create a better home away from home for millions of displaced people.
On April 4 H&M, along with Conscious Commerce co-founders Olivia Wilde and Barbara Burchfield, hosted a preview at the company’s gorgeous Fifth Avenue showroom to introduce the new Conscious Exclusive collection. The event was intended to not only highlight H&M’s ongoing sustainability efforts, but also shed light on the retailer’s global garment-collecting initiative with the launch of its first World Recycle Week campaign.
H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection features clothing and accessories made entirely from sustainable materials. The ultra-luxe collection — which takes inspiration from the archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, located in the Palais du Louvre in Paris — is probably H&M’s greenest and most glamorous collection yet. It’s also the most innovative.
From cat-eye sunglasses made from plastic bags, to a pair of high-fashion flats made of eucalyptus bark, the products are chic, beautiful and revolutionary in terms of construction. “H&M is really investing in sustainability through their Conscious Exclusive line,” actress and Conscious Commerce co-founder Olivia Wilde said. “They’re proving that sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re sacrificing style.”
New to this year’s collection are three wedding dresses, one of which was lit with fiber optics to showcase the craftsmanship and design specially created by Paris-based Korean artist Tae Gong Kim. Approximately 750 pounds of recycled clothing from H&M’s global Garment Collecting initiative was repurposed and on display as art installations.
The purpose of the #WorldRecycleWeek campaign is to urge consumers to join the movement to close the loop in fashion, by encouraging them to recycle unwanted garments at their nearest H&M retail store. The first company to launch a global garment-collecting initiative, the fashion juggernaut is on a mission to reduce textile waste and give old products a new life.
“This campaign is encouraging people to change the way they think about disposing their clothes,” Wilde explained. “This is significant because when we think of fast fashion and big companies like H&M, we don’t think of them putting the emphasis on thoughtfulness when it comes to disposing garments. We think of them as being wasteful. H&M is tackling this issue head on by saying, we want to change the way we manufacture, change the way you shop, change the way you care for your items and change the way you dispose of them.”
The brand has set the ambitious goal to collect 1,000 tons of clothing from customers between April 18 and April 24 and even brought on pop star, M.I.A. to lead the cause. The British/Sri-Lankan rapper dropped a track and video called “Rewear It” to fuel the effort.
“World Recycle Week is about embracing important environmental issues such as the landfills, and highlighting a global movement,” M.I.A. said. The video features an eclectic cast of interesting influencers and inspirational people from all over the world who have a strong personal style and passion for sustainability.
H&M has launched five consecutive eco-fashion collections and has unveiled a series of innovative sustainability efforts over the years. And yet, despite doing everything in its power to build a greener brand, the company still gets hit hard with negative feedback from the sustainability community.
Some H&M skeptics question the timing of the campaign, accusing the brand of “stealing the thunder” from the Fashion Revolution, a grassroots movement which promotes transparency within the fashion industry. Although the campaigns, which each run during Earth Week from April 18 to April 24, are pushing for a more sustainable fashion future, their missions could not be more different.
The Fashion Revolution, which was founded by Derbyshire hat designer Cary Somers and ethical clothing maker Orsola de Castro, was born off the heels of the Rana Plaza disaster that claimed the lives of over 1,100 garment workers. The campaign focuses on issues like living wages and worker’s rights by spotlighting some of the most exploited workers on the planet. It invites supporters to wear their clothes inside-out and ask brands, “Who made your clothes?”
World Recycle Week is geared more toward the environment. It offers consumers the opportunity to turn textile waste into new products. As much as 95 percent of clothes that are thrown away can be used again. H&M has partnered with I:CO to close the loop, and is actively working to alleviate one of the biggest threats to our planet and its resources.
De Castro considers the fact that the two campaigns will take place during the same week “disrespectful,” the Guardian reported . “We’re remembering the carnage, not staging a carnival where people go around dressed in fashion waste,” he said.
But my question is: Why must we conflate the two issues? Can’t we all just get along and build a more sustainable future that is kind to people and the planet? While it’s true that H&M might have a ways to go when it comes to fulfilling its promises to promote fair living wages, the company is committed to increasing wages for at least 60 percent of the garment workers in its supply chain by 2018.
In large companies, big changes take time. However, H&M seems to be taking the necessary steps toward creating a more sustainable brand. When asked if fast fashion can ever be truly sustainable, an H&M representative told TriplePundit, “We’re trying to figure out the same thing.”
Photo Credit: Photos by Brian Ach/Getty Images for H&M (used with permission) / Fashion Revolution
In a time not too far in the future, drones will be part of our everyday lives and one of the biggest platforms for innovation. With this in mind, we can begin to imagine how drones will interact with us at a very intimate scale by exploring the concept of wearable drones – that is, drones that land and launch from our bodies. Unlike our stationary smart devices that only support us digitally, drones expand the limitations of the human body and support us by performing physical tasks on our behalf.
People are aspirational. We want to be healthy, well-educated, knowledgeable, creative and ethical. We want to do good, but not just for ‘goodness sake’ ’we also want our good behavior to be rewarded. The solution? Currency of Change, a combination of new technologies which offer compelling rewards that help customers become the people they want to be.
Changing the Self
Whether it be through discounts, vouchers or rewards, one way that smart brands are taking action when it comes to their customer’s quest for personal enhancement is by leveraging the power of smartphones and wearable devices to reward good behavior. They offer personal, innovative, fun, timely, targeted and ultimately relevant rewards in order to help people achieve their goals.
Among those brands that are incentivizing change which improves individual wellbeing, New York based Oscar Insurance company rewards their customers for walking. Their new health policy provides customers with a free Misfit fitness tracker that works along with an app to measure personal fitness. Customers earn a USD 1 reward for each day that they attain their goal, with the chance to earn a total of up to USD 240 annually in the form of Amazon vouchers.
In June 2014, Brazilian TV station SBT launched a pop-up anti-smoking campaign which allowed people to exchange cigarettes for free gifts. Based on each cigarette being equivalent to 11 minutes of longer life, when people placed cigarettes in the machine, they were rewarded with free leisure-related gifts, such as magazines or movie tickets.
Changing for Society
When it comes to incentivizing consumers to be better members of society, there are a number of brands that are paving the way. In February 2015, the makers of the activity tracker Fitbit partnered with hunger-relief charity Feeding America to launch the FitforFood campaign. Any user of a Fitbit device can opt in to the program, which will see every calorie they burn go towards a goal of 1 billion calories burned by all participants. If the target is hit, the 1 billion calories will buy 1.5 million meals for US citizens in need.
MaximusLife is an online platform which syncs with charitable organizations. It allows users to set goals and track progress via digital timelines, as well as connect with others for support. The platform allows users to earn rewards when goals are achieved which can take the form of retail discounts or donations to a specified charity.
Yes, this trend is being driven by new technologies that enable rewards to be ever more personal and relevant to customers’ aspirations for change, but the Currency of Change doesn’t necessarily have to be completely tech-driven or expensive. An example of a low tech innovation is the Positive Ticketing Program an initiative of the Prince Albert Police Service in Canada. Designed to reward positive behavior by local youth, patrol members can issue tickets which can be redeemed for prizes such as movie tickets, meals and sports games.
Changing for the Planet
Finally, there are a number of brands who are incentivizing consumers who want to live more sustainably. Changers is a free tracking app that rewards users for choosing sustainable transport options. When users take a journey on foot, or by public transport, the app compares the carbon imprint of the journey to that of the same journey made by car. Any emission savings are converted into Recoin units, which can be used to purchase CO2 certificates to make car or plane rides carbon neutral.
Another example is Brazilian haircare brand Seda which launched an interactive installation allowing consumers to exchange empty shampoo bottles for cellphone credit. For two weeks in February 2015, Uruguayan shoe brand MAMUT accepted plastic bottles as currency when consumers purchased shoes from their summer ‘Native’ line. Each bottle was worth 100 Uruguayan dollars — about USD 4 — and customers could use bottles to finance up to 40% of their purchase. The project was intended to assist with a drive to clean up local beaches, and all bottles collected were sent for recycling.
Another low-tech example, McDonald’s in Stockholm launched a promotion which enabled residents to pay for food by recycling cans. The fast food chain unveiled special billboards dispensing trash bags at music festivals and parks, each printed with a price list. In exchange for ten cans, people could get a free hamburger, while Big Macs were worth 40 cans.
Time to mint your own Currency of Change? What forms of change are important to your customers but overlooked by other brands? What is the most compelling currency to offer, rewards, discounts or hard cash?