We are running out of time to save the planet that we live on. This very sobering fact can no longer be ignored – but we now need to think not only of how the dramatic climate crisis may impact our own lives, but how it might impact those that come after us; the lives of our children and grandchildren, the generations of the future.
With this in mind, Eco-Age – the organisation behind the revolutionary Green Carpet Fashion Awards – has created a new initiative, The Renaissance Awards, through which it celebrates and champions the sustainability work of international young leaders, who represent an opportunity for real change.
The idea behind labelling the awards as 'The Renaissance' was was inspired by the way young activists and thinkers can bring about irreversible change. This is something we have seen throughout history, and is something which is happening right now, whereby young people are initiating the change that we need to see for our planet's survival.
"A renaissance is made up of a lot of ideas – contagious ideas that spread and infect other ideas, that grow on each other, to make up an irreversible shift," a statement from Eco-Age explained.
"This year our awards reflect a reimagining, rebuilding, and reframing of such scale and opportunity that there is an obvious parallel. We refer to this very specific moment as the Second Renaissance. From our base in Florence, Italy – the heart of this year’s awards – the message flies all over the world loud and clear."
The awards recognised young activists who are fighting for a better world. They were acknowledged within the following four categories: Socially Just, Economically Inclusive, Environmentally Restorative, and Technologically Balanced.
The winners were as follows.
Socially Just - Alessio Genovese, Amanda Nguyen, Amonge Sinxoto
Economically Inclusive - Cherrie Atilano, Diandra Market and Leah Thomas, Lesein Mutunkei
Environmentally Restorative - Igor Furtado, Sajana Dixit, Roisin Tapponi
Technologically Balanced - Aditiya Agarwalla, Fionn Ferreira, Dian-Jen Lin and Hannes Hulstaert
These winners were celebrated in a film, which premiered in London last week, and starred the likes of Gisele Bündchen, Colin Firth, Annie Lennox and Nile Rodgers, who spoke from all over the world, but, through the use of augmented reality, appeared from within the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
Each young leader also received an NFT (a non-fungible token) as their award. If you are not yet familiar with NFTs, think of them as a digital asset that can typically be bought and sold with cryptocurrency.
We caught up with Livia Firth, creative director and co-founder of Eco-Age, to talk about why the awards could be so vital for a more sustainable future.
What would your advice be to people who feel that they can't make a difference?
"I would remind them about all the victories we had in history – whenever we marched, or signed petitions that got results, or voted with our wallet every time we bought or didn’t buy something. Collective power is precisely this; it's made of each one of us, and united we are unstoppable. Every single day we can make a huge difference, we just need to be bothered to make it, it’s as simple as that."
How do you think the fashion industry needs to be regulated?
"The fashion industry is one of the few industries to be completely unregulated; there isn’t even a labelling system like we have with food, for example. Regulations need to happen at every single level, whether it's about the social aspects - like paying living wages in every country we produce or making sure factory workers can function in safe workplaces - or the environmental aspects. There isn’t an agreed methodology to measure impact, everyone uses different ones and they are all flawed, such as the HIGG index. I think it's a scandal that it's even allowed to be used."
Why is it so important that we encourage the younger generation to make a difference?
"The matter-of-fact answer to this question would be: because we have only nine years left to save the planet we have today and the youth is the one that will live in whatever that looks like. There's a fantastic book by Christiana Figures and Tom Rivett-Carnac called The Future We Choose and it brilliantly describes the two scenarios we have in front of us. One is where we keep going as we have done and we do nothing, and the other one is where we all decide to change.
"Our kids should be really bothered, don’t you think? The film offers a glimpse of this generation of young leaders who have decided to take matters into their hands and are a million years ahead of all of us. They prove not only that change is possible, but show us how to do it and they are the most incredible inspiration we have ever had."
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from the younger generation?
"As Greta Thunberg said last week in Milan during the youth climate summit: the time for 'blah blah blah' has come to an end. Everyone, and every single business that still intends to exist in the next 10 years, had better listen, as these are also their new and next consumers."
The Renaissance Awards was digitised, do you think this is something that other awards should be doing too?
"The intention of digitising the awards was not to keep the carbon footprint low, it was more [to demonstrate] what we can do even without all being in the same room at the same time. Technology can be hugely polluting too, so we need to make sure we balance things out. This is why one of the categories of the film is Technologically Balanced."
You presented the winners with an NFT award - how can we better use technology to make the fashion industry more sustainable?
"NFTs are such an exciting phenomenon and one that I'm still trying to grasp entirely. Our CEO Simon Whitehouse is very passionate about it and he challenged us all to imagine the opportunities we have.
"From what I understand, there are at least two things we need to be mindful about: first of all, this is a new field that could be incredible for democratising the fashion industry, but we need to stay vigilant as the same prospect was sold to us when they invented Facebook and look what happened with that. Also, NFTs can be so environmentally polluting and this is why we worked with Cardano, the most environmentally friendly and ethical NFT company.
"Last but not least - could the NFT market mean that we can produce fewer products in real life (and therefore save resources) and own more in the technological space? Could they help us slow fashion consumption? It is such a new field, and it is, as always, full of opportunities. Let’s use them wisely for once in our life."
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