Alysia Reiner: What Sustainability Means to Me
Alysia Reiner is an actress, best known for her role as Natalie “Fig” Figueroa in Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’, business-woman, producer, and environmentalist. Living an extremely sustainable life with her eco-friendly home, Alysia is the founder of LIVARI; a luxury fashion line with the sole purpose of empowering women. It is zero waste, women-led, women-designed, and made ethically in New York.
We spoke with Alysia to learn more about how the 2016 election sparked her fashion line, her tips for shopping ethically, and what sustainability means to her.
You've been vocal about being an activist for the environment and sustainability, what sparked this passion?
I said something yesterday that might be my new motto: “CHOOSE WONDER OVER WORRY” It’s a perfect explanation of why we started LIVARI. In the face of adversity, in the face of massive environmental risk via climate change, instead of worrying, we wondered “what can we do? What we can change in the way people make clothing art?” I deeply believe in the power of art. Art has amazing potential to be a change-maker, and with Livari, we wanted to disrupt as many things as we could.
Everyone‘s been talking about fast fashion, and we wanted to create the opposite — slow fashion. We also wanted to create fashion that’s zero-waste, fair trade, and made in New York. LIVARI is a zero waste womenswear label made ethically in New York! Using the art of fashion as a medium of activism and hope, LIVARI is a collaboration where the voices of women are celebrated and uplifted.
You've created LIVARI - the zero waste womenswear label, how is this line unique?
I think what is unique to our collaboration is that we started this company as a form of activism. Faced with the 2016 election - with both women and the environment suddenly endangered species - we used fashion as a way to create positive action. We wanted to shine a light on sustainable fashion that is created by women, empowers women, and celebrates women and all their clothing needs.
Working in the fashion industry, what has been the most eye-opening thing you've learned when it comes to where our clothes come from?
SUPPLY CHAIN! How hard it is to keep the supply chain “clean.” Also, a few statistics that made me sick to my stomach are:
Nearly 20% of global wastewater is produced by the fashion industry.
It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt. It takes a lot of water to produce the cotton needed to make clothes. To put these numbers in perspective, the amount of water needed to make a t-shirt is enough for one person to stay hydrated for 900 days, while the amount of water needed to make a pair of jeans is equivalent to hosing down your lawn for 9 hours straight. Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides, despite using only 3% of the world’s arable land.
The average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste per year. That’s 11 million tons of waste produced every year by just the United States alone. While it may seem harmless to throw out tattered clothes, these fabrics are likely to then end up in landfills, where they pile up to produce toxic greenhouse gasses that are emitted into the atmosphere. As a leading cause of global warming, these gases are very dangerous for our environment and hazardous for our health.
Clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose. Most fabrics are made with dyes and chemicals that can contaminate the soil and water in the ground. 95% of textiles can be recycled.
Shoes can take up to 1,000 years to break down.
From the Environmental Protection Agency (in 2013 when they were actually doing science) 12.8 million tons of clothes were discarded in the year 2013.
Also in 2013, in Hong Kong, there are 253 tons of textiles sent to landfill a DAY.
It's not always easy to commit to buying sustainable-only clothing, wearing non-toxic beauty products, or eating organic foods. What efforts do you try to make in your everyday life to live a sustainable lifestyle?
I’m always aware of not only every purchase, but equally: everything I discard. I recycle/reuse/reduce everything I possibly can. For example, we compost, and we try to use all the food we buy or give it away. I try to always carry my own travel mug, travel straw (Livari makes a cute one!), and a cloth bag so I never have to take a bag. Be aware of what you use, how much water and energy and carbon you are using! Can you share a ride or use public transportation? That’s equally important! Also as I mentioned earlier - purchase LESS. Our society and advertisers will always try to tell us we need MORE MORE MORE, newer, faster, better. It’s simply not true. Use things until they need to be discarded. Use them consciously and with joy. If you do tire of something, make a conscious decision and effort to share it with someone who needs it, because most times, someone will.
Being an actress, you've used your fame as a platform to speak up about issues that matter to you. How powerful has social media been in this journey?
That’s my favorite thing about social media! Using it to bring attention to good causes!
There are certain brands we all know and love that are our go-to place to shop. Unfortunately for most people, some of these are considered fast fashion. What advice do you have for someone who wants to shop ethically, but can't give up their favorite stores?
ALYSIA’S TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING:
LOOK FOR SLIGHTLY USED VERSIONS OF YOUR FAVORITES VIA THE REAL REAL or EBAY - IT’S RE-USING, AND YOU’RE BOUND TO GET A BARGAIN.
TRY RENTING VIA THE AMAZING NEW “WARDROBE” (I’M AN ADVISOR OF THEIRS!) OR “RENT THE RUNWAY.”
IF YOU MUST BUY, LOOK FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE AND IF POSSIBLE, ORGANIC FABRICS: SILK, LINEN, MODAL, HEMP, COTTON ETC.
IF YOU MUST BUY FAST FASHION, LOOK FOR COMPANIES THAT HAVE GIVE BACK/RECYcLING POLICIES LIKE “H&M.”
THINK BEFORE YOU PURCHASE. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING YOU WANT, TAKE A WALK OR WAIT A FEW DAYS. DO YOU LOVE IT? DOES IT SING TO YOUR HEART? DOES IT SPARK JOY? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO MARIE KONDO?
What does sustainability mean to you?
The consciousness I described earlier. Awareness. Thinking about the life cycle and longevity of EVERYTHING, be it a piece of clothing or a piece of food. How can you relish it, use it fully, enjoy it, appreciate it, and make sure it is “cradle to cradle?”