A Recap of Study Hall's Climate Positivity at Scale Summit (And Why You Should Attend the Next One)

On January 31st (the day I turned 20!), I had the privilege of attending Slow Factory’s Study Hall Summit, based around the theme of ‘Climate Positivity at Scale’. Held at the New York Times Center in Times Square, the event saw thousands of eager attendees coming together to learn from sustainable fashion leaders and working to build connections throughout the day-long event. Attendees were given reusable water bottles, soap, essential oils, and other sustainable goods (as well as having a range of vegan sandwiches available to nibble on) while awaiting the start of the event. From the very beginning, I heard from incredible start-ups working to advocate for farmer’s rights and reducing carbon emissions through agriculture like Hudson Carbon to waste ‘disposal’ companies like Waste Management striving to create green energy, that showcased the innovative ways people are creating change and they are truly eye-opening. I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend Slow Factory’s conference last year in London, held at the University of the Arts London: Central Saint Martins where I previously attended school, and was greatly impressed. I was curious with how the New York event would compare (while some speakers were the same, there were a lot of incredible new ones), and this one did not disappoint.

 

Everyone that spoke is highly well-versed in their particular field of study and made the information they provided easily accessible and understandable, which I appreciated. I particularly enjoyed hearing from speakers Sophia Li (a sustainable fashion journalist previously with Vogue; I heard her speak at last year’s event and her approach completely blew me away, I’ve been to a few events she’s hosted since and she’s the nicest person and knowledgable!), Lilian Liu (Futerra’s Sustainability Strategist), Sebastien Kopp (Co-founder of footwear brand Veja), and Jungwon Kim (Head Creative of the organization Rainforest Alliance). The event encouraged attendees to switch to a sustainable lifestyle, but acknowledged that mistakes can be made as we are all human. A term coined by Waste Management, nearly everyone in the crowd (including the Waste Management team themselves!) admitted to ‘Wishcycling,’ placing items you know aren’t recyclable (like containers with food or that old metal toaster) into the recycling bin, hoping they’ll be recycled. Instead, this ends up causing delays and trouble for the works at the facilities who sort through the items received. Not only Wishcycling, the head of Slow Factory, Celine Semaan, guiltily told the audience about her children making plastic crafts, a common occurrence in most children’s lives. She lets them as it allows for creative expression and keeps her kids entertained, but she feels wrong nonetheless.

 

The conference emphasized the importance of being aware of our consumption, but acknowledged that mistakes are unavoidable. For many Americans, plastic, whether you like it or not, is a part of our daily lives, in some form or another. According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the average American consumes a credit-card-sized amount (5 grams) of plastic every week. This can change depending on your diet of course, but it is important to be aware of the effects on our health and the environment that consumption has. While you may directly be eating plastic, it finds its way to you through the food you consume. For example, if you use plastic and it winds up in the ocean for a fish to eat, and that fish ingests it before you eat it, you end up eating the plastic as well. All the plastic ever created is still on the planet today as it does not decompose or break down. That being said, the conference acknowledged that switching to a plant-based diet is not a feasible option for many people. The speakers recommended being aware of your diet and cutting down on the amount of single-use items you use, while also understanding that mistakes happen. I highly recommend that people of all ages, who are able to do so, attend a Slow Factory event and experience the sense of unity and passion everyone has for the same cause and to learn more about the incredible initiatives that are just beginning.  

Study Hall’s calendar can be found on studyhall.earth or @theslowfactory on Instagram.