Monique Taffe Photo: https://w4c.org/profile/london-monique-taffe

(BROOKLYN, New York):– As the grandchild of Jamaican citizens who moved to Great Britain, Monique Taffe says she inherited a tradition of recycling and learned not to be part of the “throwaway culture”, as some environmentalists have labelled consumerist societies.

“I saw how my grandmother re-used things, and that was passed down to my mother who inspired me to do the same,” said Taffe, who wants to use waste materials and recycled fabrics in fashion design. The 22-year-old London-based designer is a recent graduate of a British fashion school and she participated the 3rd Women4Climate conference that took place February 21 in Paris. She joined other young women from around the world, including from several Latin American countries, who have launched sustainability projects and are being mentored by member cities of C40, a network of 94 “megacities” committed to addressing climate change – and which co-organized the conference titled “Take the Lead”.

Taffe has started a project to design maternity sportswear, encouraging expectant mothers to exercise during their pregnancy. All the clothing is being made from recycled textiles and objects at her Taffe Jones startup company, she told IPS. She is also one of 10 finalists from some 450 contestants for London’s Mayors Entrepreneur Program 2018, in which the city linked to the Women4Climate Mentoring Program. The aim is to develop innovative businesses that are meant to tackle climate change.

“Women leaders played a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015 and will be crucial to its success in the future,” says Women4Climate, which was launched in 2016. “Now more than ever, enhancing women’s participation and leadership will be critical to securing a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for us all.”

Taffe said in an interview that she would like to see young people in Britain, the Caribbean and around the world getting together via social media to share best practices for textile recycling. This could include information about leaving used clothing in central depots or designated places, where designers and others could retrieve material. Recycling in the fashion industry could have a positive environmental impact, as the sector is one of the most polluting, according to experts.

The United Nations Environment Program says that the fashion industry “produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping.” The agency adds that “textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans”.

At the U.N. Environment Assembly next month, the agency will “formally launch the U.N. Alliance on Sustainable Fashion to encourage the private sector, governments and non-governmental organizations to create an industry-wide push for action to reduce fashion’s negative social, economic and environmental impact,” the UN says.

With clothing factories across Latin America and the Caribbean, this is an area that environmentalists are addressing as well, with organizations saying that the main focus is on waste management, including textiles and plastics that pollute the region’s beaches.

The Jamaica Environmental Trust, an NGO based in Kingston, emphasizes recycling, conducts beach clean-ups with volunteers, and works to protect air and water quality, a spokesperson told IPS. Its leadership team consists mostly of young women, like Taffe, who work to sensitize the public to environmental and climate issues.

“Raising awareness will help other young people to see what’s being done and make it easier for us to form alliances for climate action,” Taffe said.

She and other observers have noted the measures taken in the Caribbean to ban single-use plastic bags and straws and to expand the use of solar power. The Jamaican government, for instance, announced last year that it wants the country to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, up from the previous policy of 30 per cent.

Although no Caribbean city is a member of C40, attending international conferences such as Women4Climate was one way of bringing ecological entrepreneurs together to share experiences, participants said.

In fact, forming international links was a central theme of the event, hosted by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo (the initiator of the Women4Climate idea) and held in the French capital’s imposing city hall – flanked by the blue and green bicycles of the city’s bike-sharing scheme.

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