Dan Pontarlier: Sustainability Strategist, Author, and Designer

You may have heard of Dan, otherwise known as Sustainable Man, from his TikTok, Instagram, fashion brand, book, or activism work. Dan works to implement sustainability into the fashion and hospitality industries and is an advocate for making the world a greener, more eco-friendly place. Keep an eye out for his new website launching this summer, where you will be able to buy some of his handmade, upcycled pieces!



How do you make the fashion and hospitality industries more sustainable?


I work on improving the footprint of companies by implementing sustainability into their practices, operations, and strategy. I collaborate with the European hospitality industry and do consulting work for the fashion industry. I try to avoid quick-fixes because it’s doing the bare minimum to be seen as a company or industry that cares, when really they don’t. I focus on continuous improvement plans where companies can make their strategies culturally and ethically more sustainable with the changing times. We have to show companies the real importance of being less damaging to their industry. To do that, I develop guides and checklists to see how much sustainable commitment companies have for each of their departments. I provide a list of best practices, examples of things other leaders in sustainability are doing, and online training where employees can watch videos about sustainability depending on their career level.


What are ways we can promote sustainability in our own lives?


I recommend talking about sustainability with friends and family. We should show off sustainability the same way we do with our vacations and new clothes. Why can we brag about that stuff but not about being sustainable? Sustainability has to become mainstream. It’s such a positive thing to care about the world and makes us feel good when we do good. When I worked in tourism I realized that I could apply sustainability to everything I do— whether it’s fashion, buying organic food, composting, using ethical cosmetics, or anything! People need to realize that they can implement sustainability into anything.


What inspired you to pursue this path?


I was working as a marketing manager for a hotel and then started studying sustainability when I got my second Masters degree. It was in my studies that I learned about the social and economic implications of sustainability. I realized that I could do something that improves people’s lives and the world, so I left my job and started doing sustainability for hotels in Barcelona. My Instagram presence began to grow when I started working with fashion brands, so I decided to launch my own clothing brand and also wrote a book about upcycling and sustainability.


Can you explain “upcycling” and why we should all be doing it?


There are three concepts that we should all do: upcycling, downcycling, and recycling. They are all similar and all relate to sustainability, but have little differences. Upcycling increases the value of something that exists by modifying it and making it new somehow. Everyone knows about recycling, but we have to do more than that since it’s not enough. When it comes to clothes collecting dust in your closet, upcycling is a better decision than donating. Sometimes, donations actually negatively impact third world countries because the donated items substitute local production in those countries. With upcycling, we can take that same shirt you would donate but turn it into a bag. I’m glad that sustainable fashion is becoming more mainstream, but we still have a lot of work to do to stop fast fashion.