by Martha Tesema
Nestled in the tall buildings and exhaust filled air of Seattle are a couple Starbucks, some banks and a few non-profits. Out of the many organizations that deal with critical issues relevant to Seattlites and beyond, Sustainable Style Foundation (SSF) tackles the giant issue of sustainability in unique way.
“We formed as an organization in 2002,” says Rebecca Luke, co-founder of SSF. “I was doing multi-media events that involved friends and style makers in cross disciplines including art, music, fashion, interior design, beauty, advertising.”
After nine years of running multi-media projects that touched on sustainability, she was ready to make it official. Over coffee in Queen Anne, Luke met with her friend, fellow Nordstrom employee Sean Schmidtt, and founded what is now SSF–not just a non-profit regarding fashion, but an intersection of life and sustainability.
Rather than produce a product that is sustainable, SSF uses different programs to work with the public to develop a blanketed understanding of what it means to be sustainable. Currently, SSF creates SASS magazine, a paperless online resource for consumers looking to find new SOMETHING. In addition the website is filled with sustainable lifestyle ideas and spreads.
From lecture series to consultation workshops, SSF’s services draw in a wide variety of people looking to encompass sustainability into their lifestyles. The organization provides an environment to explore “a neutral ground for business, NGO’s and non-profits” and jump-starts their pursuit to be sustainable in all their practices–not just style.
“Because I was in fashion and Sean was coming from Nordstrom, it seemed [fashion based],” Luke explained about the fashion-only misconception about SSF. “Fashion was a great marketing tool but, we have always been cross industry.”
Business practices, industrial design, entertainment, and urban planning are all just some of the aspects touched upon through SSF’s programs, all of which are challenged to live up to rising sustainability standards in multiple industries.
One workshop series, “Sustainability 101 and 201” are half day events that act as a background resources geared towards those seeking an “understanding about social responsibility and environmental stewardship.” Other frameworks such as the “Sustainable Retail Partnership” or the “Triple Target Sustainability” create business plans to help push development for companies looking to “create value throughout the value chain of their products.”
In order to fund these services, SSF asks for a membership fee based on the amount of people involved. Having a large company with more than 500 employees means you pay $500 for 25 individual memberships, an ad in SASS, opportunity to be included in campaigns. Individual memberships include only a sliver of those opportunities, for $25.
The growth of sustainable practices in Seattle is not anything new, but that wasn’t the case ten years ago. “We started, no one even understood the word ‘sustainability.’ Even me,” Luke said. “I didn’t even know that that belief system had a word for it.”
That was few years after the City of Seattle implemented the Office of Sustainability and Environment, in 2000. Their small staff and their environment and city focus keep them from exploring ways to engage sustainable lifestyle practices in communities.
“We researched and share info about sustainable lifestyle choices – although that is not our area of focus,” said Sara Wysocki, the communications advisor. The Office of Sustainability and Environment gathers research for policies, measures climate change, and facilitates programs within the City offices and in the community.
SSF fills the lifestyle gap that the city doesn’t address. But according to Luke, change can happen on an individual level. “I think it is less about “improvement” and more about “awareness.”
“Ask questions. Choose someplace local. We can influence by our purchases.”
This is the fifth installment in a series regarding the sustainable culture in Seattle.