Zero Waste London Mail

By Amandine Alexandre

Wear and care is back in fashion



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Zero Waste London Mail

November 4 · Issue #3 · View online

Join the zero waste revolution.

Will December 12th be the first green UK General election? We will only find out from December 13rd onwards when the victorious party will switch from campaign mode to government mode. However, it’s difficult not to get excited by the number of green pledges made by rival political forces over the last few days. It feels like the debate is shifting. Climate change cannot be ignored anymore.
Christmas is another event that getting closer and closer - as usual at this time of the year, true. I also feel that this Christmas will be quite different for those among us who celebrate it almost grudgingly because of the waste it generates.
How do I know that change is in the air? Some eco conscious people around me have been experimenting with DYI crackers recently. (Do you know you can buy cracker snaps without buying crackers, by the way?) Also, I’ve seen a few interesting pre-Christmas events advertised on social media at the weekend.
This is how I discovered the wonderful Socko brand created by Emma Mathews. Emma believes in the art of darning. So do I. I am a newcomer to mending clothes but I sense that this very low tech activity could well turn into a serious hobby. Who wants to join my darning circle? It’s never too early or too late to take collective good resolutions.

The News
Christmas can prove a very difficult time to navigate for zero waste advocates. Some people have found a radical solution to avoid the waste and the expenses. They just don’t celebrate it anymore, or at least don’t exchange presents.
If you want to enjoy the festive spirit without depleting the world of its natural resources and/or losing your soul, you will probably be interested in a couple of events that have come up on my radar recently.
The Pebble magazine is organising a ‘conscious Christmas festival’ on Saturday 30th November near Borough market. Ethical and zero waste brands will have stalls and there will be a number of talks and workshops happening in order to ‘inspire you to make 2020 your greenest year yet’. Click here to buy tickets (free for children under 12).
One week later, on Saturday 7th December, the Zero Waste Christmas Market will take place in Brick Lane.
The organisers are promising to bring together the best of London’s sustainability scene for greener gifting this festive season. If the event fulfils its promises - zero plastic packaging and wrapping, zero-to-landfill policy, sustainable seminars etc. , it should be a fantastic celebration of all things zero waste.
More than 50 zero waste brands are announced for the second edition of this Zero Waste Christmas market in the capital - which is taking place also in Manchester and Brighton. Click here to buy tickets (free for children under 12).
The Interview
Emma Mathews is the founder of Socko, a brand of ethical socks. She’s on a mission to “re-teach the lost art of darning”.
1. Socko socks are made with yarn that would otherwise go to waste. How do you source this yarn?
The yarn is sourced from surplus and redundant stock of professional yarns from mills around the UK. We work with a wonderful person named David who is the middleman between the large scale producers with excess stock and us. We initially went direct to the mills but really needed someone with established relationships. David opened the door for us and of course, in turn, we’re supporting his business. 
2. When you decided to create your business, was the idea to make socks right from the start? 
Some people think we’ve limited ourselves by calling the business ‘Socko’ but we always set out to be single-minded with our ambition. In sustainability terms most items of clothing can be bought second-hand. That leaves socks and underwear. There are already many fantastic UK underwear brands like Lara Intimates and Miss Crofton, but there appeared to us to be a gap in the market for sustainable socks made in the UK.
3. Your socks are sold with a darning kit. Are you confident people are ready to darn their socks to save the planet? (I am, by the way!)
I am! But even if they’re not, it’s about spreading the message and raising awareness. There’s so much that we can learn from the way that things were done in the past. The concept of fast fashion is a very very new, and hopefully a short-lived, one. We’re on a mission to extend the active life of clothing by re-teaching the lost art of darning. 
4. What can we convince people to darn their clothes? 
By choosing to mend something that is broken (not just clothing) you are investing time and care and, knowingly or not, creating a stronger bond with that item. Loved clothes last so if we’re only buying the things we need, that we can trace the origin of, and mending or reinforcing them once they start to show wear, we’re reducing the impact on the plant. We call this process Wear and Care. It’s also worth mentioning that mending is a hugely therapeutic activity. 
5. Is darning having a come back? 
If our workshop attendance is anything to go by, I would say that darning is absolutely having a comeback. It’s a life skill. The thing that we love about it is that it serves a practical purpose but the trend for visible mending and celebrating the journey that that item has been on goes to show that it can be a hugely creative activity too.
6. Socko is an ethical business. Your website says that ‘every Socko decision is made with the aim of doing the right thing for people and the planet’. What does that mean in practice?
I’ve previously worked for global brands where you’re a tiny cog in a massive engine that’s already running at full speed. Your input is valuable but not change-making. With Socko there are the big things that we communicate with our product and there are the business processes that go on behind the scenes. A few examples being that we know everyone in the process by name and can ensure that everyone is paid a fair UK living wage, that our packaging is made from recycled coffee cups and that we travel by train to all of our meetings and events.
7. You’ve launched Socko a year ago. How is the business doing? Do you manage to draw an income from it?
Business is going well thank you. It’s been a steep learning curve this past year. I hadn’t anticipated quite how seasonal a product socks are. I’m glad the weather’s finally brought us back to sock season! I still have a side hustle to supplement the income from Socko but it’s been hugely rewarding to tip the balance and have my other job as the side hustle as opposed to Socko. Of course the hope is to go full-time at some point but the focus is on organic growth so that opportunity will come when the time is right. 
The Inspiration
It’s 10 years since Kilburn to Kensal fruit harvesting group was created by Kilburn resident and forager Michael Stuart in North West London.
The volunteers group has just concluded another successful season with 1276 kilos of apples, pears, plums, quince, medlars and loquats harvested in private gardens across Kensal green, Kensal rise, Queen’s Park and Kilburn mainly.
The fruit was distributed to ten local organisations (schools, food banks, hostels, community centres and charities).
Since the group started in 2009 volunteers have picked nearly 12 tons of fruit. It has also inspired the creation of a similar group in neighbouring Willesden and Dollis Hill that has been going strong for more than 5 years.
Kensal to Kilburn fruit group have announced that they will purchase a couple of fruit picks that will be available to borrow from Kensal rise and Willesden green libraries.
A fruit pick is already available in Kilburn library on Salusbury Road (NW6) so that local residents can harvest fruit on their own if they wish to.
The Events
Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets councils are running cycle pit stops throughout November and December to help cyclists be bright and stay in sight when it’s dark. As well as offering free bike maintenance, the sessions aim to raise awareness of the changing daylight and weather conditions and the measures riders can take to keep safe on the roads.
Click here to find for dates and location.
Bea Johnson, aka the mother of the zero waste lifestyle movement, is in London on Tuesday 19th November (5pm-7pm). She will give a free talk in King’s College. Register here.
The Petition ✍️
Introducing a charge on single use cups makes a tangible difference! Look no further than the UK Parliament in Westminster where a 25p surcharge was introduced last year.
According to an investigation done by Footprint, since the tax on all hot drinks in disposable cups sold in Parliament was introduced last year, the use of single cups plummeted by 74% - with no negative impact on overall sales as people switched to reusables of china mugs.
So what is the UK government waiting for?!
Three months ago, several environmental organisations have come together to ask the Chancelor of the Exchequer to introduce a 25p surcharge.
Let’s make the most of the General Election campaign to put maximum pressure on all parties to implement such a tax.
Please sign the petition here and share it.
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