Sustainability two ways: What we wear and how we give

Sustainable Fashion & Charity: Can they work together?

Running tights made out of recycled polyester with chitosante, earth-friendly sustainable materials. Photo Credit: Danielle Myers

What comes to mind when you hear the word sustainability? For me, it was always a vague notion about “green” buildings, an environmental buzzword that never meant much concretely.

But as I began research in the preliminary stages of starting up an activewear brand with a charitable giving component, I stumbled upon lots of information about “sustainable fashion.” It seemed to make sense: As long as I was planning to put more stuff into the world, it might as well have as little of an impact on the earth as possible. The meaning of “sustainability” clicked.

‘Cause I Run’ has launched a kickstarter campaign here: kck.st/1WoIYch

running-forestAs I dove in headfirst to figure out how to incorporate sustainability into my brand, I focused mostly on what sustainability meant in terms of producing my product. Lots of fabrics are made with materials that can be considered sustainable, because either their waste water can be used in the next round of production (as is the case with soy fabric) or because the fabric is made with materials already in existence that just need to be converted into a wearable material (as is the case with RPET, polyester made from plastic bottles).

As my focus shifted from sustainable fabrics to another principle concept of my brand – giving back to a cause with each purchase – I’ve begun to realize that sustainability is important in charitable giving, too.

Giving back to create true change, I recently attended an event where the keynote speaker gave a presentation about her organization. She runs an international NGO that provides healthcare and other services to communities in a struggling country in Africa. As she spoke, I was inspired by how the organization’s first move upon arriving was to simply listen to the members of the community. Later, in a conversation, she told me that what set the organization apart was how members of the community being helped were able to get what they needed – according to them – to live better lives.

girl-running

Cause I Run has launched a kickstarter campaign here: kck.st/1WoIYch

The necessities include things like easy access to medication, health training, transportation to clinics, and more. Some of these the aid organization wouldn’t have known about without that community input. This is “agency-based empowerment,” an alternative to “resource-based empowerment.” So many international charities (and now, social enterprises as well) arrive in poor countries determined to deliver what they think is best for the community – clean water wells or shoes, for example. But sometimes, what the community needs isn’t more things.

In reality, many communities just want the ability to overcome barriers in their lives in order to become successful on their own. Sometimes that means providing training or education, sometimes it’s vaccinations, and yes, sometimes it is resources. But the most important thing is that the community gets what it truly needs to flourish. To me, that’s what sustainability means for change-makers.  Are the people you’re helping able to help themselves because of what you provided them? Has true change happened? Do members of the community feel a sense of empowerment and purpose?

When the answer is ‘Yes’ to these questions, change can happen within communities, within countries, within regions – and, yes, for the betterment of our entire world.

I believe that social enterprises and charities should consider “agency-based empowerment” in order to do the most good for the most people. That’s why my activewear brand will include a built-in donation with each purchase to organizations that are creating sustainable change.

cause I run

Here’s to sustainable fashion and creating a more sustainable world.

Cause I Run has launched a kickstarter campaign here: kck.st/1WoIYch

 

This post is a contribution from our new author Amanda, read more from our other featured authors below:

A Brief Introduction to Ethical Lingerie
What About Us?: Do Women Over 50 Care About Slow Fashion?
Knit together by a dream
City girl at heart
How did I get here and where am I going?
Consuming with Consideration

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About the Author

Amanda Yanchury is the founder of Cause I Run, a sustainable activewear brand that gives back. Made in the USA, Cause I Run will launch a Kickstarter campaign early in 2016. Join the email list to receive a special discount – and be the first to know about our launch.  What moves you?

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