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3RD ROCK x Surfers Against Sewage Q&A

3RD ROCK & Surfers Against Sewage talk sustainability and conscious shopping

Written by Ed, 3RD ROCK's marketing manager & eco-freak

In the midst of a climate crisis, are small changes really enough to make an impact?


As someone who wants to help the environment anyway possible, I thought it was a good idea to sit down with Alice from Surfers Against Sewage, a group that's as passionate about protecting the waves as they are riding them, to discuss conscious shopping, greenwashing, wishcycling, and many other things.


Alice shared how making mindful shopping choices and embracing small, everyday actions can feed into the bigger picture of positive environmental change. A reminder that you don't need to change everything about the way you live your life to help save the planet; sometimes, being a savvy shopper and an eco-conscious individual does the trick. Imagine if all 7 billion of us made these small changes...that's a pretty big impact right?


So, grab your favourite biscuits, brew a good cuppa, and join me and Alice as we get stuck into sustainability and how you can be more sustainable without upheaving your entire life.


Don't fancy watching the Full 30 minute video? Keep scrolling to have a read instead.

The importance of making conscious decisisions whilst shopping 🧠

Alice: Where we spend our money is one of the biggest bargaining tools we have. Business & organisations are listening to where we're spending our money.


If, as consumers, we vote with our feet and don't actively support business we don't agree with, and instead support those we do agree with, business will be forced to's kind of as simple as that!


Conscious shopping is an environmental issue, but it also comes down to human rights. We've all spoken about fashion retailers having bad, well...shocking really, working conditions.


That constant competition to keep prices down whilst keeping up with current trends is fueling that, and we have the power, as consumers, to say we don't agree with that - so we're not going to spend our money there.


Ed: Yeah exactly, It's a ripple affect isn't it.


Alice: Yeah for sure, it's often said the most sustainable choice is the one you've already got! If you can start from that place of "Do I need to make this purchase in the first place?", then if you do to try and shop second hand.


If it's something you need new, get something you really like that's going to last.


There's a big disparity between fast fashion and slow fashion, with lots of grey area in the middle. Not everyone can afford to be at that top end, but it's making those conscious decisions making and not mindless shopping. s

"We have the power, as consumers, to say we don't agree with that so we're not going to spend our money there."

How do small changes like choosing to walk rather than drive help the bigger picture? 👣

Alice: Like you said, It's a ripple affect really and it all comes from the bottom up. If you decide, for examples, that you're going to get the train instead - if there's a huge surge in demand for train services you'd hope that would then be invested in.


If people are turning away from using their diesel cars then then they're going to start investing in electric cars


If your actions align with your values, then you feel good as well. There's a huge problem with climate anxiety at the moment and I think that, partly for your own mental health, making those small changes can be really beneficial.


Ed: Yeah absolutely, I've never heard the term "climate anxiety" before but yeah, I certainly feel that if I'm not walking to a shop. You feel quite bad for it!

"We don't need 100 perfect environmentalists, we need 1000 imperfect ones"

Alice: A big thing that people find is that pressure to be perfect with their sustainable living. Thinking that you have to do absolutely everything right or there's no point.


You see it on social media all the time, if there's someone or something to promote green initiatives and you see people commenting "Oh i hope they cycled there".


People shouldn't be afraid to make small changes that are within their means and go "You know what, that's maybe enough for me now and I can build on that".


Sustainable isn't just in an environmental sense, it's also sustainable in your lifestyle as well, something that you can keep up.


You know, we don't need 100 perfect environmentalists, we need 1000 imperfect ones. If you think of yourself as an imperfect environmentalist then you're doing what you can.


Ed: Yeah, and if someone is making a small change that, like you say, they can sustain, it becomes easier to add another level on top of it.


It's starting slow isn't it...building slowly is a more sustainable way of being sustainable.

What are some of the common mistakes when trying to be more sustainable? 🌍

Ed: So one of the big mistakes I've seen people make is to try and do too much...what other mistakes do you commonly see?


Alice: One of the big things that is really common, and I'll preface this by saying this comes from well meaning people trying to do good things, but it's improper recycling...some people call it wish-cycling.


So thinking that it's okay to use plastic if you're recycling it. People also talk about recycling being a bit of a gateway into sustainability!


Not a lot of people realise that plastic can only be recycled a certain number of times as well. Some plastics more than others, but certainly a lot of household plastics and what we think of as single use plastics can only be recycled around 3 times.


The wish-cycling thing is not necessarily putting recycling in the right waste streams. When you look on that back of a packet and it says "recycled in some areas" and people throw it in anyway...that can be really disruptive to the process of recycling.


It's so tricky because it's easy to say that's the mistake people are making, but you go from one place to the next and it's different everywhere.


I think it's really hard to understand where we should be recycling things and what goes in which bin.

Wish-cycling: Throwing something in your recycling bin and hoping it'll go to the right place instead of researching and understand your local area's process.

Alice: Another thing that has been a bug bear, mostly since Covid, is I see a lot is the "compostable" or "biodegradable" products... I won't the say name of the brand, but there was around a 200% surge, i think, where companies wouldn't use reusable products as they were trying to be more Covid safe, so they were using single-use.


In an attempt to be more sustainable they were using "compostable" or "biodegradable" products, but the reality of these is they don't mean what you think.


Compostable products need to be composted in industrial composters, you can't just put them in your compost heap and expect them to degrade.


In reality most of these products ended up in landfill. Even though this could reduce the microplastic issue (depending on the material used), it's still there in landfill - or even worse, they end up in recycling streams which then contaminates the recyclable product.


I don't think this is on the consumer, the fault was at the companies not informing and educating the consumer.

Greenwashing - what is it? 🤥

Alice: Greenwashing, in a nutshell, is a business or organisation giving that false impression of being environmentally friendly... more often than not as a marketing strategy to drive sales or keep up with public pressure without any ability to substantiate the claim.


Ed: Would you have any tips for someone to spot greenwashing?


Alice: It really becomes clear when you start to dig a bit deeper. It's normally vague language like "Sustainable" or "Eco-friendly"...this in itself isn't greenwashing because when someone says they're sustainable and can back it up then fair enough.

"If you go to their website and there's nothing to back it up & their being vague - that's a red flag"

For example, if a company is saying about "Eco-friendly" packaging, you better believe they're shouting about why it's eco-friendly because they've spent money on that!


Ed: Yeah, and if you can't reach out to them or see learn from their other platforms, that's the red flags showing too.


Alice: If you feel like you're getting barrier put in front of you...then yeah, probably not as clear cut as you'd like it to be.

Why should people care about the planet when they may not even see the results of their effort?

Alice: I think, firstly, it's a misonception that people people don't see the results of their actions within their lifetime.


Particularly with things like plastic pollution, we see that now. These things are happening now - we are in a climate emergency...what more of a kick do people want?


I can see from an individual perspective that you don't see the direct imapct from your specific choices, so there is a bit of a disconnect there.


I think, within our means, we have a shared responsibility to make our own choices. When your values align with your actions and your lifestyle then you feel good about that.

"Particularly with things like plastic pollution, we see that now, these things are happening now - we are in a climate emergency".

And again, voting with your feet as a consumer and spending is a really powerful tool to make that chage higher up the ladder, because whilst i'm a huge advocate for grassroots and community action, there will always will be a hige impact from big businesses on our climate.


There aren't big businesses without consumers, and money talks really - what you do does have an impact further up the line.


I also think we're quite disconnected from our supply chains and where our products come from - which makes it easier to spend £3 on a t-shirt and not think about where it came from.


When we reconnect with that and acknowledge all the people and processes that have come along the line to get that product, you feel more connected with that investment in that product.


It's also a difficult argument to make...the whole "you should pay more so it becomes cheaper", but when we put our money in businesses making sustainable choices, they get more focus and investment which hopefully leads to their products being cheaper in the long term.

How does shopping sustainable fashion help our oceans?

Ed: So obviously at 3RD ROCK we love rock climbing, forests and mountains. Our sustainability focuses on looking after these environments.


How would you say shopping any sort of fashion helps protect the Oceans? Shopping sustainable fashion can reduce landfills, but what about the ocean?


Alice: So, one of the biggest contributors to microplastics in the Ocean is the fashion industry. Not only is it responsible from a lot of carbon emissions through production lines but microplastics is a huge factor.


Materials like Polyester and Nylon, when you wash them - particularly for the first few washes, often release microplastics which go through your washing machine and often end up in the oceans.


We're all now well versed on microplastics and the prevalence of microplastics - as well as the affects on notjust human health but marine life.


The ideal thing would be to use natural fibres like wool, cotton, hemp - those kind of things.


If you do have clothes that have got polyester, nylon or acryllic in them, try not to wash them as frequently, but really the shift is and should be onto more natural fibres where possible.

Learn more about the materials we use in our garments here.

Of course these do come with their own issues but that's a whole different matter! If you're purely talking about microplastics then natural fibres is the way to go.


It also comes down to your waste output - like with landfill: Don't buy if you don't need to. It's really staggering, the fast fashion industry, it seems to be a new thing right?


In this decade we've seen huge sales where clothes are selling for far less than you can imagine them being produced at, and where are they going when you wear them once then they go in the bin?


It blows my mind. I'm glad we're becoming wise to it now.

Ed: Yeah absolutely, if you're buying something you've got a sentimental attachment to or, as you say, you just love it - you'll want to look after it and want it to last, rather than something you see as disposable.


Alice: Yeah, and it comes back to knowing the supply chain. If you've bought something and you think "I know this was made here, i know that these are the materials used, and it was designed by this business that do X, Y and Z."


That's what branding is right - we look for a brand that represents how we feel about something and that's why we choose it.


If part of that is sustainability and conscious shopping that reflects your values, then that's why we choose the brand.

"1. Don't buy if you don't need to

2. Buy second hand if you can to reduce landfill

3. If you do need to buy new, think about the fabrics you're buying and buy something you love from a business you really love!"

What are some of the hurdles met when trying to protect our planet? And how can we overcome them?

Alice: I think convenience plays into it a lot. We're all just living our busy lives and particularly for things like single use plastic, you have to be organised to be able to avoid them.


We've fallen into the way of just expecting plastic bottles of water to be available, which makes it tricky.


That's why I speak about choices that are sustainable for you. If you're someone who has fallen into the trap of using convience foods all the time, you can start by just bringing a water bottle and not buying a bottle of water everyday.


Realistically that's a small change, but think about it over the course of a month, a year - over 10 years... that's so much plastic you're not using, all for the sake of convenience.


The misconception that is has to be difficult as well, with this idea of a big overhaul that changes your life entirely. Again, small changes and try not to focus on doing everything at once.


Cost can be an impact, like how we said about shopping where an increase cost is involved, but that's not always the case. You can implement a lot of these in a cost effective way.


If we're talking about reducing your waste one of the huge things is reducing your food waste and that doens't need to be expensive - in fact it will probably save you money!

We aimed to make our Alex Fleece as sustainable as possible - above is the cost breakdown to show the true cost of sustainable fashion.

Well there you have it. I certainly learned a few things about sustainable living and the importance of making conscious decisions from sitting down with Alice - hopefully you did too.


Make sure you check out Surfers Against Sewage for all the amazing work they do around the UK to protect our oceans and coastlines.


If you enjoyed this Q&A let us know by sharing it on Social and tagging @3rdrockclothing.

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