Teach your children about the subway system. If you have local transportation, teach them how to use it so they can rely on low-carbon methods of transportation. My parents used to pack me a “fun” pack that I was only allowed to open in transit — mostly it included chocolate, a book, or something to color. It made me want to take the subway everywhere.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Shadrow. In the words of Christine Hunsicker who sold her first company to Yahoo for $850 million, “Alex will eat through a wall.” As a third-generation sustainability entrepreneur, it is in Alex’s DNA to solve the fashion waste crisis. While in college at Boston University, Alex created a hobby-website called UNItiques to be a fun way for women on campus to share closets. After graduating, Alex made it her mission to spread “relovving” fashion beyond the campus and launched the app Relovv in the prestigious Techstars Venture Accelerator. Relovv uses data for a completely new way to buy / sell clothing. Members SWIPE on item “matches” in their size, style, and budget — think Bumble meets pre-lovved clothing. Alex has been recognized by the likes of Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine, and also appeared on TV show Project Runway Startup. In 2018 she was certified by Former Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I am a 3rd generation sustainability entrepreneur, so you could say solving the fashion waste crisis is in my DNA! My dad and his dad both started metal recycling businesses. I grew up doing beach clean ups with my family, taking trips to national parks, and learning to love the planet. As for my mom, she was born in Marrakech, Morocco so bargaining is part of her DNA and how commerce works where she is from. My mom is the only person I know who could ask a Bloomingdales associate for a discount — and actually pull it off. On our family quest to always get the best deal, admittedly we shopped “fast fashion.” That was before we knew how bad it was. When I got to college, I started asking questions about how my clothes were made. The answers changed everything for me and my family. They even inspired me to start a sustainable fashion community, Relovv.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
I remember the exact aha moment. It was “move out” day my freshman year at Boston University. The day was known around campus as “Boston Christmas” because you could find literally everything you could ever want on the sidewalks — from couches to clothes you could pick up any of it for free. There was mountains of it.
I just remember thinking we humans have a stuff problem and we need solutions.
The visuals of Boston Christmas have stayed with me for years.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never stop talking about it.
Conversations are catalyst for change.
TALK to your friends about shopping more sustainably.
GET OUT and let your voice be heard at the next climate strike.
SHARE your feedback on social media with companies that use single use plastic.
I start conversations on my Instagram (@sustainabae) almost every day. On August 18th, 2018 I was recording myself picking up trash in a plastic infested CVS parking lot while giving tips on how to reduce your plastic footprint. A woman approached me from across the lot. I was stunned by what she said. “I work for Al Gore. You should apply for our next Climate Reality Leadership Training.” I did and I got in. If it wasn’t for me using my voice, that would have never happened.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
My company Relovv plays a huge role in sustainable fashion.
Relovved (pre-owned) clothes are 82% more sustainable than new clothes.
Each purchase on Relovv saves 500 gallons of water (4 months of drinking water) — the amount of water it takes to produce just one t-shirt… even more for jeans!
Unlike other clothing marketplaces like Poshmark and Depop, Relovv actually matches its members to items. They SWIPE on items matched to their size, style, and budget. We reduce waste by finding the right home and buyer for EVERY item!
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
Golden Rule: What you do everyday is what is most wasteful. We wear clothes everyday, use lights everyday, drive everyday, buy coffee everyday. This is change makes the most impact.
1) Turn the lights off and switch to candles at night. GREAT for your sleep cycle and an efficient way to reduce fossil fuels.
2) Shop relovved (vs. new) and talk about it. It makes a huge impact. Help shout out the stores and sites you use to buy sustainable clothes to spread the word.
3) BYO everything. Make your own sustainability kit including metal utensils, handkerchief (to use as a napkin), water bottle, tote bag, and tupperware for extras!
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
Parents MUST lead by example!
1) Shop Farmer’s Markets: take your kids to your local Farmer’s Market and let them pick out whatever they like. Creating bonding memories and showing them that it is not hard to shop local is a great combination to seal in this shopping behavior for the rest of their lives.
2) Teach them the subway system. If you have local transportation, teach them how to use it so they can rely on low-carbon methods of transportation. My parents used to pack me a “fun” pack that I was only allowed to open in transit — mostly it included chocolate, a book, or something to color. It made me want to take the subway everywhere.
3) Thrift Store Spree — take them to the thrift store and give them a $20-$100 budget to pick out anything they like. Shift the paradigm that used clothes are less-than by giving them the autonomy to pick out whatever they like — something most parents rightfully can’t afford in retail shops!
4) Do a beach cleanup. Reward your children for the weight of trash they pick up. Remember, the best and most sustainable rewards are not things. Perhaps they get to choose a movie for the night or earn stars towards an allowance of some kind.
5) TAKE THEM INTO NATURE! This should be #1. The best way to have your children appreciate the environment is to take them on hikes or to national parks where they can experience and develop a love for nature first hand.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Have you ever heard the expression: business is a marathon, not a sprint?
Longevity is essential to the success of any business. As consumer values continue to trend towards sustainability, businesses can ultimately make more money long term with an eco-friendly approach.
Relovv recently launched a section called Relovv March and Supplies: Everything You Need to Be Sustainable. We have seen tremendous sales in this section!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Every CEO is only as strong as their team. I could not have gotten this far without the help of Lauren Gray, Relovv’s operations coordinator. Lauren is someone who is willing to roll up her sleeves and get the job done. From setting up Relovv Pop Up Shops at 5AM to leading the creative direction of Kristin Cavallari’s Relovv Store, Lauren does it all. Find yourself a Lauren.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have already started a movement to #ReduceReuseRelovv in the 2nd most wasteful industry in the world, fashion. My app, Relovv, is a supportive sustainable fashion community. Buyers & Sellers of relovved (pre-owned) items are matched in the form of a dating-app SWIPE interface so they can easily connect and transact. Each purchase is 82% more sustainable than buying new clothes. I launched it in October 2018 and we’ve already grown to 100,000 eco-warrior members. The community is really supportive and all about being the most conscious fashionista you can be.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“In life, you only get what you ask for.” Never be afraid to ask your followers to support a cause you care about or to tag their friends in your posts. You won’t get anything you are too timid to ask for. I actually asked my followers if they wanted to intern for my app. Over 50 of them applied! What you are looking for or desiring is really just a simple question away. And you have nothing to lose. Suppose no one responded to my internship ask… I’d have no interns just like I had before I asked. See, nothing to lose. Meanwhile I had 50 applicants to gain!
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!