This semester, I had the pleasure of being in Professor Andrea Kennedy’s Applied Sustainable Practices course. For a class project, my partner Arianna Porcelli and I were given the opportunity to create and propose a new sustainability initiative and action plan for Free People, an apparel and lifestyle retail brand.
The past 14 weeks working with Free People has been quite the ride! This year was obviously not what I expected, and especially not what I thought my last semester at LIM would look like. But the opportunity to be in this class and work so closely with Free People has been nothing short of a blessing!
Midway through the semester we presented four concepts to Julie Verdugo, Free People’s Director of Sustainability and member of LIM’s Fashion Industry Advisory Board, and we collectively decided to move forward with an initiative called People + Plants.
Our mission for People+Plants was to recognize the people behind sustainability and how we can get involved and inspire everyone to collectively work towards a greener future. Oftentimes big companies will propose green initiatives that only involve a certain percentage of employees. Our goal was to see everyone at Free People excited about the changes Free People could make.
We proposed that each retail employee be given a plant (in a recycled pot) to nurture, decorate, and be displayed in store on the merchandise floor. Our hope was that these frontline employees feel more appreciated and involved, and the customer will see Free People cares about their employees.
This project involved lots of sweat and tears (no blood luckily!). It took many hours and required us to put our critical and creative thinking to the test. But it was more than worth it and we feel so relieved to have finally presented and received positive feedback from Julie!
After this project and class, I will continue to make personal efforts to shop more sustainably and responsibly, and I have hope that brands I love, like Free People, will continue the shift to more sustainable ways!
Emma Seery is a senior majoring in Fashion Media with a minor in Sustainability.