Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Let's connect back to nature!

Welcome back to our Eco friendly Malta Blog! 

Today we are grateful for so many things! We all have been an unusual experience and lived a situation that we could have never imagined. It was a dark time where the outside world was forbidden to us and almost all of us were practically locked in our homes. For many, this has been a warning sign for us to take action and mend our broken relationship with nature. An environment that has always surrounded us, but we used to take so much for granted.

We are now all eager to make up for up for this lost time and Eco Market Malta are very happy to announce a new series of events right in the heart of nature. Read till the end for more details.

Connecting with nature can help us feel happier and more energised, with an increased sense of meaning and purpose. A little fresh air, the sun on our skin and bare feet on the ground can bring so many small pleasures, making us feel refreshed and revived. Why does nature have such a positive effect? Did you know that simply being exposed to nature’s wonders stimulates the brain? Your prefrontal cortex which is responsible for your mind’s commands, can take a bit of a rest and revitalize. Connecting back to nature has lots of benefits, some of which you might find surprising!


1. Improves Short Term Memory

Who would have thought that a little time with the flowers and trees can actually improve your memoryThe University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed students who regularly went for a nature walk actually had a better time retaining information.

2. Reduces Stress

Nature has a calming effect on our brains. As an added bonus, outdoor exercise, like going for a walk, hiking, and so forth, gets the blood flowing and heart pumping, another way to lower stress levels.


3. Increases Levels of Vitamin D

Sure, too much sun can damage the skin and possibly lead to cancer. That being said, studies show that getting between 15 to 20 minutes a day of sunshine will allow your body to absorb vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.


4. Improves Sleep

Spending time in natural light helps our bodies better regulate sleep patterns. When the sun goes down, our brains will release the right levels of melatonin to help get a good night’s sleep.


5. Strengthens the Immune System

Research has shown that going outdoors and getting enough sunlight can help boost the immune system. to help fight disease and stay healthy all you need is to take a little stroll outside or enjoy a bit of fun outdoors


6. Increases Happiness

In a world full of screens, we often search for happiness in the wrong places. Nature will boost your mood and promotes your mental well-being.


7. Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation in the body can lead to all sorts of disorders, from depression and cancer to autoimmune diseases. A study demonstrated that participants who spent a bit of time each week walking in the woods experienced lower levels of inflammation in the body.  


8. Improves Vision

Going outside gives our eyes a break from staring at a computer, television, tablet or smartphone. Australian scientists even found that children who spend time outdoors reduce the risk of developing myopia later in life.


9. Inspires Creativity

Nature comes in so many colours, from orange-sky sunsets to seafoam green waters and rose-coloured gardens. Spending time outside gives a chance to get inspired by all the gorgeous sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Science backs that up, too, showing that spending time outside actually helps get our creative juices flowing.


10. Develops a Deeper Sense of Spirituality

When you connect back to nature, you give your mind the chance to clear the cobwebs and can even count as a type of meditation. Spending time in nature helps us live in the moment as we breathe in the air, listen to the sound of the birds chirping, or feel the grass on our feet. Nature can even teach valuable lessons and reveal metaphors to help us connect with our spirituality.

So here is the exciting news! Eco Market is teaming up with Green Living Malta and together we are introducing ‘Summer Nights in Nature’. Every Saturday, from 11 July until 26 Septemer we will be hosting these exquisite events to help you connect back with nature in one of the most outstanding natural venues in Malta, the beautiful and bountiful Vincent's Eco Estate in Mgarr.

The aim is to not only to connect people back to nature and promote all the benefits that we've just mentioned, but also to connect you with a mindful community of like-minded people. Both Eco Market and Green Living are advocates of sustainable living and the people and activities that will be presented, will focus on shaping a more sustainable, greener future.  

Expect to find ongoing activities for children of all ages, to help them keep busy, entertained and educated. Children learn their relationship with nature by playing with nature, the ground, the leaves, the pine cones and other safe organic matter, everything completely in line with covid-19 guidelines. The events will be complimented with sunset DJ tunes, a variety of enjoyable workshops for adults, vegan and plant-bs food, wines, beers and of course a charming selection of Eco Market stalls.

The Olive Grove at the Vortex, Vincent's Eco Estate, Mgarr

These events will kick off on Saturday 11th July with a jamming session hosted by no other than Peter Paul, frontman of Tribali! Peter Paul will be heading his popular drum workshop during this event where everybody is welcome to bring their own drum and join in to create a positive vibration through rhythm. We will also welcome Nadia Cassar, our resident gardener with her famous workshop 'How to grow your own food at home', as well as DJ Armani who will be doing a special set with his son.  

Follow the event on Facebook for more information about activities and relative prices. 

The Olive Grove at the Vortex, Vincent's Eco Estate, Mgarr

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Saturday, 27 June 2020

ECONYL - the futuristic fabric

ECONYL® regenerated nylon is a truly innovative and futuristic fabric; it is made from waste, it's infinitely recyclable and can unleash infinite possibilities for makers, creators and consumers. It's all part of the ECONYL® brand vision to make the world a better place by pioneering closed loop regeneration processes and delivering sustainable products.

After four years of tireless research and development, a relentless innovator, managed to see his dream come to reality. "When I see a landfill, I see a goldmine", says Giulio Bonazzi, CEO and president of Aquafil, a global leader in synthetic fibres and a pioneer in quality, innovation and sustainability. 

What is Econyl?

ECONYL® yarn is recycled nylon. Nylon is created artificially using plastic to form strands of thread which are then woven together to create fabrics. As it is made of plastic, it doesn't biodegrade therefore its use is a major concern for the environment. 

How is it made?

ECONYL® is made by first collecting nylon waste including carpets, ghost fishing nets and scraps from mills. Then there is a regeneration and purification process where the collected nylon waste is recycled back to its original purity. After that the regenerated nylon is processed into textile yarn which can be used for new fabric and materials for designers to utlize in their own creations. 

What can be made out of ECONYL®?

The possibilities are endless. Apparel such as swim wear, jackets, sports wear, hand bags and other fashion accessories such as sunglasses - but also carpets, flooring, car interiors, sofas and cushions.

World-famous brand using ECONYL®

For pre-fall 2020-21 Gucci has developed Gucci Off The Grid, the first collection from Gucci Circular Lines, an initiative created to support the House’s vision for circular production. Designed for those mindful of their environmental impact, Gucci Off The Grid uses recycled, organic, bio-based, and sustainably sourced materials, including ECONYL®.

The new TOMMY JEANS eyewear collection, recently launched by Tommy Hilfiger, is the first that features styles made of ECONYL® regenerated nylon. The brand is using recycled materials in an effort to a promote a responsible business. Their intention is to expand the use of ECONYL® as much as possible in order to decrease their carbon footprint.”

Burberry has launched a new capsule collection crafted with ECONYL® yarn. Burberry’s heritage is anchored in material innovation, from the invention of gabardine – a breathable, weatherproof and hardwearing fabric – by Thomas Burberry in 1879 – to its use of innovative materials today. The ECONYL® yarn collection is one example of the 50 disruptions Burberry is making throughout its supply chain to create a more sustainable future for fashion.

Super proud of our own CHURPINA, a Maltese swim-wear designer and creator who uses ECONYL® regenerated nylon in her pieces. Self-taught seamstress Charlene Joan Sant creates elegant and playful pieces full of beautiful summery prints and cute names like 'Dawra Durella' and 'Qabza Zigarella'. Her approach towards sustainability carries on beyond the product as she packages her swimwear in re-usable branded string bags and uses bio-degradable material for overseas packaging. Discover Churpina: https://www.churpina.com/

A 2,000-square-meter “green carpet” was the star center-piece for the third annual Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan, made of Econyl, its yarn made of regenerated nylon created from discarded fishing nets and other nylon waste. The Green Carpet Fashion Awards are an annual event, with 2019 hosting the third edition, celebrating the industry's engagement with sustainability, climate change and social responsibility. The GCFA awards are granted to members of the fashion community effectively embrancing real changes in the system's production chain - reducing waste, finding alternatives to plastic, protecting small sustainable businesses and innovatio and research. less planet-harmful technologies and innovations. 


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

A message to all local fashion influencers

We remain with the Sustainable Fashion theme and today we have a guest post by Tonya Lehtinen, who runs a pre-loved / vintage business with the brand of 'Vogue Xchange'. The cute shop in Gozo sells not only clothes, but also accessories such as sunglasses, bags, shoes, belts etc. Tonya just took on a sustainable initiative, and is today sending a challenge to local influencers to support sustainable fashion. 
Welcome back to our Eco Friendly Malta Blog!

The past couple of months of time-out, for many of us, have been challenging but very healthy for our well-being. There has been no shortage of time to exercise, rest, connect with our families and even be playful on Tik Tok - essentially havign a change to re-evaluate how we approach the world.

I have been really impressed and excited to see so many new home industries, creative initiatives and pro-action towards more sustainable lifestyles. With nowhere to go and nothing to buy I quikcly realised, as many of my friends did, how little we really need.

After the initial panic of 'how am I going to survive', my attention moved to how can I support others and I took my que from Food Bank Gozo to temporarily use Vogue Xchange as a clothes bank to utlize the clothes I had in stock. This is where it got interesting.

I did not anticipate the overwhelming response to an open call for children's clothes donation for the Vogue Xchange Clothes Bank. Clothes came flooding in, far outweighin the need and quickly I was faced, point blank, with fast fashion's massive wasteland. I dived into a depression for a couple of weeks trying to figure out how I would, being the custodian of these donations, find an ethical, sustainable and creative solution for the excessive amounts of clothes I now had.

My goal became finding ways to repurpose these clothes and keep them out of landfill. I connected with a number of young people wanting to make things out of the fabrics and came across a fashion student who is now creating her collection by upcycling and by learning how to create new products out of the clothes. I became more and more determined to create a circular economy within the second hand market. I am currently working on some exciting plans for the future to make this happen.

The fast fashion industry is toxic and many steps in the production of garments need to change but more importantly, much more importantly, what needs to change is the way we consume fast fashion, what we buy and how we care for it and obviously how we discard it. Second hand clothing is the fastest growing fashion trend globally although it is still not vogue in Malta - this is where Malta's young trending influencers can and should play a role. It is important for influencers to stand with Malta's sustainability deveopment vision because it is definitely going to become a topic of importance.

So with this said, I am challenging all local fashion influencers to show their sustainability colours by helping second hand initiatives. They can promote the second-hand movement in their feed, they can help local sustainable fashion designers and up-cyclers to get more exposure, they can donate their pre-loved clothes and visit Vogue Xchange in Gozo, where I will be happy to explain the details of this non-profit initiative.

Furthermore, Vogue Xchange raises funds for FAA (Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar) and other local environmental causes. Finally, I wish to send a gratitude message to those sent their donated clothes to Vogue Xchange. Thank you for showing kindness to the planet. 

Tonya can be contacted on the Vogue Xchange Facebook Page

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Fast Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion - All the Why's

The term 'fast fashion' is an approach to quick and cheap creation and clothing and it is done by keeping production costs low and advertising budgets large. Many popular fashion brands such as H&M and ZARA operate in countries where they can employ cheap labour with unsafe working conditions and operate with low or non-existent environmental regulations. As you can see, fast fashion comes at high social and environmental costs.

Fast fasion is the 2nd worse polluter in the planet - second only to the oil industry! 

....Reflection Pause....

The industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, wastewater production and large amounts of landfill waste. While it employs thousands of overworked and underpaid employees, many of them victims of mental, physical and sexual abuse. 

Here is a quick fact list about the fast fashion industry:

* The fast fashion industry produces 1 billion garments annually

* It emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year

* It is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater

* The fast fashion industry uses more than 80 billion cubic metres of freshwater

* Production of textiles uses about 2500 different chemicals

* Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there

* 63% of clothes are made from petrochemicals

* The fast fashion industry produces 97% of our clothes overseas

* 85% of the 40 million women working in the fast fashion industry suffer mental, physical and sexual abuse on the workplce, with long hours and low pay. 

* The fast fashion industry also employs children.

* Working conditions are extremely dangerous. In 2013 the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh killed more than 1100 workers.

* The fashion industry produces around 100 million tons of waste with 85% of our clothes ending up in a landfill.

* Fast fashion is a huge contributor to plastic pollution.

* Around 1 million tons of microfibres end up in the ocean every year.

* Only 1% of textile waste is truly recycled. With current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in just 48 hours.

Does the above justify that cute 9.99 dress?

If you don't want to be part of this damaging industry, there is only one choice you need to make - choose Sustainable fashion. As with any sustainability issue, WE are part of the problem so it is up to US to be part of the solution.

Sustainable fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. While fast fashion runs on a series of unethical operations such as human rights violation, unfair wages, poor working conditions - and creates a myriad of environmental disasters, Sustainable fashion provides a positive shift towards fair trade, employee welfare, and environmentally safe measures.

Here is what you can do:

* Buy less new clothes
The biggest issue with fast fashion is the speed and scale at which its production operates. The current unsustainable trend of buy - consume - dispose can be limited if we limit the purchasing in the first place. 

* Choose to buy pre-loved clothes
Re-using is definitely a more sustainable option when it comes to fashion. Each time you buy a re-used second-hand item of clothing you are saving it from landfill and you are saving an entire process of generating a new item. Because every new item that sells automatically sends a message to the producer to create a new one. Let's dump the perception that second-hand clothes is not on. Buying used clothes can be seen as an act of revolution and it can be a form of self-expression for you. You can find many thrift and vintage shops nowadays. 

* Swap clothes
We need to switch our current throw away culture into a sustainable model where items are re-used, recycled and repurposed. Swapping clothes is a great way to get rid of what you don't want and exchange it for another piece of clothing that you actually dig. Clothes swapping events are become a cool trend. 

* Up-cycle
An old torn and damaged pair of jeans can be transformed into a stylish one-of-a-kind waist bag! Find a seamstress or a capable friend and get creative and invtentive! Don't throw away something just because it is damaged. Think of ways it can be re-used! 

* Buy clothes for quality, function, versatility and personal style
Don't let mass advertisement determine what you buy. Determine your own personal style and buy clothes based on what you actually like to wear and feel confident in. If you have to buy a new item, make sure it is of good quality and can be used with different styles and for different purposes. Let's fall in love with the clothes we buy and make sure they stay with us for years and years.

* Support circular economy
Many large fast fashion brands have started recycling campaigns. Most of these brands will ask you to return your old textiles and in exchange they offer discounts on new in-store items. While this may sound like a great idea, they are not really addressing the main problems. That is not how circular economy works. Don't be fooled! The objective of these campaigns is to ensure that production and consumption levels remains the same. What they do with items you return probably is dump them in a landfill or sell them to a developing country. A true circular fashion model would be for the producer to make new clothes out of these recycled items. Today, this technology does not really exist. 

* Business vs charity
Nobody wants ultra-cheap poorly made clothing. We are led to believe that these unwanted clothes will go to people in need. In most cases this is a myth. These unwanted clothes are managed by a business not a charity. Donating your old clothes is a good thing but be extremely careful whom you give them to, and also do not use this as an excuse to continue the buying/dumping cycle. 

* Choose sustainable fabrics
The most sustainable cotton is the post-consumer cotton waste that is recycled. Recycled cotton has the potential to reduce water and energy consumption. Another great fabric is hemp, it grows all around the world and requires very little water, no pesticides and naturally fertilises the soil it grows in. It is a great textile as it keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Linen is similar to hemp plus it fully biodegradable when untreated. Keep an eye on these futuristic fabrics: Tencel, Pinatex, Econyl and Qmonos. 

* Be aware of green-washing labels
Not all that is green is eco-friendly. Several fast fashion brands are seeing the threat of sustainable fashion and are cheating by trying to mimick their brands in appearing eco-friendly. Green-washing is a way to make something look 'green' while in reality it is not. Learn to understand the labels and what is genuine and what is not. 

* Support sustainable clothing brands
We need to be careful not to use sustainability as an excuse to buy more clothes, however, if you need to buy new clothes make sure you do so from a brand that follows sustainability models, both social and environmental. 

In an effort to raise awareness about Sustainable fashion in Malta, the Eco Market will be hosting a themed virtual event on Zoom on 27 and 28 June. 

During this event, we will be speaking to local fashion designers, up-cyclers, clothes swap organisers, and we will also discuss Sustainable beauty including hair, make up and beauty services and products. The audience can make questions and interact with the speakers during the event. 

Reservation is required.
To book your space please go HERE

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Seabirds, Climate Change and Humans - we are all connected!

Guest post by Esther Cuschieri Huy, Birdlife Malta

Today we feature a write-up with some really cute and interesting facts about three particular seabirds species common in Malta; and we'll understand how even the survival of these species is threatened by human recklessness and global climate change. 

The Mediterranean Sea is an important area for seabirds, both migratory and endemic. So much so, that the unsuspecting, tiny archipelago of Malta, has its own special trio of seabirds that breed in surprising numbers along the cliffs.

Photo credit: Mediterranean Storm Petrel (Paulo Lago)

The Mediterranean Storm Petrel, the smallest of the breeding seabirds in the Mediterranean, crams its largest breeding colony of approximately 5000-8000 pairs onto the small islet of Filfla off the south coast of Malta. 
The Yelkouan Shearwater, the focus of the Birdlife Malta Project - LIFE ArÄ‹ipelagu Garnija, has an estimated 1700-2500 pairs along the Maltese cliffs. 
Approximately 5000 pairs of Scopoli's Shearwater, formally known as the Cory's Shearwater, take up the high cliff edges, created another globally significant population of seabird on this tiny island.

Photo credit: Yelkouan Shearwater (Victor Paris)

Apart from having signifcant breeding colonies in Malta, these three seabirds share several other characteristics and habits. All three species are monogamous, pairing for life and often in the same nests. Yelkouans are the earliest breeders, arriving as early as October. As their egg-laying reaches its peak in late February / early March, the Scopoli's start to arrive, with the peak of their season being mid May. This difference in timing allows these birds to colonise areas in generally peaceful proximity. Finally, the Storm Petrels make their appearance in March, with their earlier breeders starting in May and their latest from July to mid October. All three species feed on a diet of fish, squid and crustaceans. GPS tracking of individual birds throughout the breeding seasons by BirdLife Malta and others, demonstrates the vast distances these birds travel for food, and gives a good indication of how the entire Mediterranean is utlised by these birds for breeding success.

Photo credit: Scopoli’s Shearwater (Birdlife Malta)

Years of research by BirdLife Malta shows that all three species are threatened by invasive predators, light pollution and disturbance during their breeding season. Introduced predators, particularly rats, are a well-known cause of population decline in various seabirds species. 

Photo credit: Feeding map of a Yelkouan Shearwater (Gatt et al, 2019)

Other threats, such as marine pollution, incidental capture in fishing lines and climate change could have an additional impact on the future success of these three species. An increase in severe weather events due to the climate change could drastically alter or destroy breeding sites, forcing birds to move into less suitable or crowded areas. More storms could see an increase in ship bunkering, increasing light pollution around colonies and affecting the adults return to their chicks. 

Photo credit: Light pollution viewed from an occupied cave (Birdlife Malta)

Another surprising threat to these seabirds is the result of human neglicence. Organic waste from picknicking and camping sustains invasive rat predators during and outside the breeding season. It is hoped that continued outreach with the general public and working with local authorities that waste management will improve in these areas. 

Hence the importance to continue to raise awareness about the fact that every of our action has a consequence, sometimes far beyond what we can comprehend. Thanks to the several individuals and the local councils who take the initiative and organise clean-ups in, we are seeing the rise of responsible citizens.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Mobility and the air we breathe

Guest post by Esther Cuschieri Huy from Project Aegle Foundation

Air quality has become quite the surprising hot topic since the COVID-19 outbreak. No one would have guessed or hoped for the impressive effect global lock downs would have had on the air we breathe. With 20% of the world in lock down and emission decline of up to 60% recorded in European cities, no more excuses can be made regards the immense impact fuel driven vehicles have on air quality.

We all know that cars pollute, take up public space and do little for social cohesion and community. Yet despite this knowledge, we still hop into our cars with a nonchalant ease as if we are not part of the problem.

Air purity has become a forgotten commodity. Whilst once we could celebrate the blessing of clean sea air flooding our lungs, we slowly submerged into a fog of exhaust without batting an eyelid. Indeed, one of the major side-effects of our traffic congested island is poor air quality. Figures in 2019 show that Malta experiences more air-pollution related deaths than the EU average, translating into 5 deaths a week, plus 5 new cases of asthma a day, not to mention other respiratory afflictions. Pre-COVID, over half a million trips were made daily by private vehicles, causing 34% of local greenhouse emissions, including air pollutants such as fine particulate matter.

All this congestion crams itself onto infrastructure that is around 28 years old. This implies that traffic jams are taking place within our village cores and on roads not built to handle such volume of cars. On top of that, it is when a car constantly accelerates and stops that it uses most fuel, and therefore pumps out most pollutants. Whilst one may assume that pedestrians and cyclists are most affected by this exhaust, studies have revealed that air inside the car is 15 times more polluted than the air outside of it. Sitting in the car means we inhale our own exhaust and that of the cars next to us. This is especially problematic for roads termed “urban canyons” i.e. narrow streets with buildings on either side, where air pollution tends to stay trapped. Such urban canyons describe most of Malta’s present urban infrastructure. It is a vicious cycle taking place around where we live, work and shop, and right next to where our children play and go to school.

Perhaps what is most bleak about this picture is the passive resignation that nothing can be done about the traffic situation because nothing can be done unless one drives a car. We have allowed cars to invade our villages, walkways, squares, country lanes and sea sides, but also our minds. It begs the question – just how far are we willing to go to keep up this myth that the private car is the only solution?

The switch to a multi-modal future is the responsibility of us all. The power for change lies within us and the start of that journey begins with a single step (pun intended). Instead of stepping into your car, rethink your journey. Is there another way to get to where you need to go or obtain the service/product you require? Consider walking, using a scooter or a bicycle, or simply leave the car at home for one trip a week. Explore whether you can work from home instead of the office, use video conferencing, and propose the adoption of a green travel plan or strategies at your workplace.

Familiarise yourself with the mobility services available in your locality. Step up to your local councils and bring their attention to your communities’ mobility needs. Address obstructed walkways, faded pedestrian crossings, or highlight hazardous roads that can use speed management tools and pavements. Let us make our streets liveable again.

Visit PAF at www.paf.mt to learn more on how to make the switch!

Project Aegle Foundation is a Non-Profit Organisation