‘The Green in…‘ Is a series of interviews with people who are nurturing green ideas within their daily lives, without giving up their day jobs.
The Green in…Itee Soni & FINCH – Q&A
What’s your personal elevator pitch/introduction?
Heather Kaye (left) and I founded FINCH Designs in June 2010 and have 22 years of combined international experience in apparel and textile design in New York and New Delhi. FINCH is designed and produced responsibly in Shanghai, using 100% certified organic and sustainable fabrics sourced from carefully vetted mills. Textile creation is one of our key strengths, and all one-of-a-kind FINCH prints are designed in-house or in collaboration with artists.
Tell me about an interesting green initiative you’ve heard about or worked on.
FINCH is part of the green community in Shanghai through events like the Eco Design Fair. An interesting green initiative that we have been working on with other members of the green community here, is collaborating to set up an Eco-shop on Taobao (Chinese Ebay). We are at the final stages of website graphic design and are looking to launch it around the Eco Lifestyles Fair, to be held from the 15th through the 17th of September, in Shanghai. Currently we are 10 brands all providing customers a wide variety of eco and sustainable products ranging from clothing for women and kids, yak yarn sweaters, bath and beauty products, candles, and other lifestyle products. This shop is aimed at introducing these brands to the Chinese customer, as most of us have a more expat clientele, and establishing itself as their one-stop eco shop.
Another interesting green initiative is MaGiC – Make Green In China by Greenovate, which is currently working with factories in Hangzhou to help clean up their supply chain.
Personally, I quite liked the green subway cards that were issued in Shanghai. These cost just a little bit more than the regular ones, but allow for the extra cost to be donated towards planting trees. It’s great when something like this, that you use everyday can help make a difference.
How are you green in your daily life?
Pulling up from my answer above, I sincerely believe that even the smallest of things that you do in your everyday life have an impact. In stead of taking a taxi, I ride my bike or take the subway. I use cloth bags for groceries, I use ‘Paper not from trees’ toilet and tissue paper and use 99% recyclable hygiene products. I am also mindful of the use of electricity and air conditioning temperatures at home and at work. Actually, at work we have ceiling fans to avoid air conditioning. Water usage is another thing I am careful about. Simple measures like reusing water used for cleaning groceries to water the plants make a difference.
I also believe that it isn’t only about green, but also about being sustainable and being mindful of wastage, every single day. The world isn’t going to stop manufacturing products that are not green overnight. The idea has to be to make full use of whatever is available, so you are not wasteful of resources already at your disposal. So keeping a tab on just how much I consume in terms of clothing, footwear, or other products is just as important to me. ‘Use and throw’ as a concept needs to be gradually replaced with the ‘preserve and reuse’, and has to become a part of everyone’s lifestyle. This mindset also carries through in our clothes at FINCH. We try to make clothes which aren’t seasonal, but timeless. So you could wear them for a really long time without worrying about, if the color palette is right or not, or if the style is outdated, thereby reducing the number of items that you would continue to buy for your wardrobe. I know women who go through their closets and often comment, ‘oh, I forgot I had that!’. That, according to me, is unacceptable and it is just as serious as wasting food, considering how many people in this world don’t have 2 sets of clean clothes or even basic shelter.
How often do you think about green issues?
Not to exaggerate, but every single day. I have been known to upset people when I comment on the number of flights they take in a year…I mean, I’m all for travelling, love it! Couldn’t do without it…but really, moderation is key. People think that donations to Greenpeace solves all their carbon footprint issues, but in reality it doesn’t & most of the times they know it doesn’t. I am happiest when I hop on my bike every morning to get to work, something I could never do in New Delhi and actually cannot do it in many other cities in the world. Shanghai is pretty great like that and I love it for these things.
If I have an option to buy organic flour imported from some part of Europe or buying local flour, not organic, but safe and produced in China, I would not buy the organic flour, simply because, to me that’s not being sustainable…flying flour half way across the world…that just defeats the purpose that is being organic. Sure you got rid of the pesticides, but who pays the price for that enormous carbon footprint?
Who inspires the green in you?
Heather’s husband, George Kaye. He’s not famous and sometimes a bit extreme in the measures he takes towards minimizing his carbon footprint, but he does inspire me. He worked as an investment banker in NYC, but now has completely embraced his life in Shanghai and lives frugally, very mindful of wastage to be more accurate, just like a local. He started a non-profit Art Spring that looks at issues of sustainability through works of fine art, combining his two passions.
Green Articles, blogs or books you recommend…
I don’t specifically go looking out for blogs and articles, but just read whatever is on my daily news radar on NY times or BBC. I really do feel that being green and being mindful of how your life impacts the environment should be engrained in everyone and be a part of their routine, especially people with means and a good education. I do realise that a lot of people need to be educated about this, just because people from certain sections of the society do not have access to this kind of information.
I am looking forward to reading The Skeptical Environmentalist and the sequel to it, Cool it, both by Bjorn Lomborg, simply because these books argue what is also one of my fears, if going green and extreme measures that are in line are actually the solution.