We were brought up with strong environmental principles, living off the land, respecting nature and its integral role in everything. From it we are inseparable. We rely on the eco-system remaining in balance and owe it to our children to re-write around 100 years of the industrial revolution, in doing our best to reverse the damage.
In founding Thread Tales, we set ourselves a challenge working in the remote areas that we source our materials from. In some ways, our path is easy. Our signature Lotus fabric is arguably one of the most eco-friendly, sustainable fabrics on the planet. It is produced with zero electricity, zero waste, and no chemicals and from a source that benefits from harvesting, helping to renew the crop each season. However, there are as yet no official regulations to protect the beautiful Inle Lakes in which these Lotus plants grow.
Currently, the weavers and flowers live in harmony; there is plenty of the crop for them to pick quality stems for their livelihoods. We asked the question of our weaving community, what happens if the situation changes, and there is less per head to go around? The community are dependent on the Lakes for more than just the Lotus. For example, they make floating gardens on the water from which they grow their vegetables and also rely on the fishing as a valuable resource. Therefore they have a greater sense of the value of the ecological balance of the lakes for their livelihoods. The Inle Lake is also a UNESCO biosphere reserve. With funding from Norway, the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) under the framework of the Inle Lake Conservation and Rehabilitation project, have successfully developed an inclusive management programme for the Lake. Through the engagement of local participation, this allows the indigenous people the capacity to 'own and lead more environmentally friendly socio-economic practices'.
The Inle Heritage not for profit organisation, located in the Inle Heritage Hotel on the side of the Lakes, helps to continue the education and empowerment of the local people to preserve their environment, generating understanding of organic farming practices, safe waste disposal through their clean water project, sustainable fishing and the protection of fish and wildlife. Part of our Giving Back programme is aimed at supporting the Inle Heritage in its sustainability and educational initiatives. We have designed a beautiful Ikat Inle Heritage Scarf, the proceeds from which will go towards supporting this valuable project.
One of the areas the UNDP was concerned with is the increasing number of diesel boats using the Lakes. There is a conflict in that ‘progress’ in one sense is detrimental in another; the traditional wooden boats powered by a person with a paddle are becoming less common. The polluting diesel is a potential disaster in the making. Deforestation in the area also affects the Lakes; more silt runs off the hills into the Lakes, affecting its delicate balance. Through creating fishing free zones and working with the forest communities, there is now a chance now for this incredible eco-system to regain its balance.
It’s a similar story in Nepal where we also produce our designs. The number of diesel belching vehicles has increased with the booming population in Kathmandu such that the smog is almost unbearable at times and the number of respiratory diseases is becoming epidemic. Similarly deforestation is an issue and the balance is becoming more out of kilter.
It’s a delicate balance for us too. We have no political influence but we do have people power. The educational programme run through the Heritage Hotel in Myanmar is key to fostering attitudes of responsibility and care at grass roots level. The Nepalese people are adding their voice on a daily basis to change the political agenda. We insist that our processes are as environmentally friendly as possible, from the use of eco dyes to making sure that the water from the dying process is disposed of responsibly. The raw material for our products is ethically sourced and sustainable, we use eco-dyes, recycle, choose organic and our packaging is FSC accredited.
We work on a daily basis with our suppliers and weavers, constantly asking the question, how can we improve our practices? It is a work in progress and there will always be better and cleaner ways of doing things. We believe that education is the key to affecting the most positive change. By involving our colleagues in the environmental conversation and choosing only to work with those who are on board, we send a positive message of working together to protect and respect the beautiful gift of our planet.