Why are we consciously and subconsciously feeling the need to constantly buy new clothes, get rid of old ones, and only wear what we have a few times before we seek something new again? How has wearing and keeping our clothes for more than a few months become such a challenge?
This can be summed up with two main reasons:
- Garment quality is declining every year. As a result, our clothes immediately look faded, shapeless, or worn out.
- Trends are changing so quickly that we cannot keep up. We continue to purchase just to stay up to date.
The fast fashion industry encourages overconsumption, making consumers feel the need to stay up to date with the latest fashion trends by continuously buying new garments and throwing out old ones. With the influence of social media, more and more people are exposed to fashion, not to mention how accessible it is to shop online in this day and age.
“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing being barely worn and rarely recycled. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation
We need to follow and stick to a system that is sustainable in the long-run, and our current best solution for people and the planet is through a circular economic model rather than a linear take-make-waste model. In such a system, clothes are designed with no toxic substances or pollutants that will harm the environment when discarded, are made to last longer, and can be recycled at the end of their life to be turned into new products. A circular system creates no waste as all materials and products are designed to be returned to the natural environment or upcycled and regenerated.
The textile industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world, with 100 million tonnes of new garments coming onto the market each year, and a global market size estimated at USD 1000.3 billion in 2020 and expected to reach USD 1,041.8 billion in 2021. Fast fashion now leads this very industry, but sadly, the pros do not outweigh the cons. We are producing 400% more clothes than we did 20 years ago, buying far more than what is necessary, while most of these clothing are only being worn seven times on average before they’re thrown out.
This unsustainable cycle of mass-producing low quality garments, overconsumption, and immediate discarding is taking a huge toll on our planet. In 2019, a group of 11,000 scientists from 153 countries declared a global climate emergency highlighting and tracking 31 variables also known as “vital signs”. William Ripplem, the study’s lead author, states that “there is growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system, including warm-water coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets,” as 18 out of the 31 vital signs have reached an all-time high or low records recently.
All around the world we are witnessing our planet suffering due to climate change – extreme weather conditions, forest fires, rising temperatures, floods, the list goes on – and it’s hard to say whether real, productive action is being taken towards saving our planet and reversing these global concerns.
This is a collective effort that we must all take part in, especially large corporations and policymakers that ultimately get a say in the way we treat our planet’s limited resources and work towards restoring what we’ve taken. In the fashion sector, circular business approaches that increase clothing utilization rates, such as resale and subscription models, help reduce the amount of water needed for production and decrease water pollution from the dyeing and treatment of new textiles. Brands are also beginning to upcycle clothing and use recycled textiles for their new clothing. However, as a whole, “the fashion industry is not taking responsibility in the form of financial investments at the scale that is necessary,” says Conor Hartman, COO and vice president of Circ, a tech company that produces recycled textiles. Hart also points out that, “it really takes industry giants like that working together with us with the technology solution, and with the vision that we have...When fashion brands make those investments, the wider investment community sees that as a point of confidence and can follow.”
“The whole system and industry is connected; the actions of a few in the right direction can truly create a chain reaction of positive change that will work towards saving our planet and reversing climate change.”
What can we do to reduce our impact?
1. BUY LESS
- Don’t fall into overconsumption, buy only what you need
- Don’t go after every latest fashion trend
2. BUY FROM SUSTAINABLE BRANDS
- Brands that care about the materials and manufacturing processes
- Brands that work towards reducing environmental impacts
3. BUY BETTER QUALITY
- Choose durable materials that will last
- Better quality = longer lasting = save money and environment
4. THINK TWICE BEFORE THROWING OUT YOUR CLOTHES
- Try to repair your clothes
- Donate to friends, family, or charity
- Check if the brand has a recycling service
5. BUY SECOND-HAND, SWAP, OR RENT
- Instead of always buying brand new
6. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR WASHING
- Save water, energy, and heat when possible
“Instead of defaulting to the “take-make-waste” economic model, upcycling helps to support the development of a circular economy. With a circular economy, materials that are already in circulation get continually re-used and repurposed, helping to reduce manufacturing costs and preserve precious environmental resources.” – MINIWIZ
The story of KOUP started with the love for the outdoors and our planet. Our co-founder, Brian, while working in the textiles industry, witnessed first hand the damaging effect the industry is having on the planet. With the rise of fast fashion, products are becoming less durable and textile wastes are created at an astonishing pace, with landfills being the most common destination. As performance clothing grew in popularity for sports and outdoor activities, harmful chemicals are frequently used to enhance textile performance, at the expense of polluting the environment.
As a result, our signature cinnamon t-shirt was born. We use 100% recycled plastic bottles with the aim to reduce single-use plastic waste and added cinnamon extracts for its natural anti-odour performance. Cinnamon also replaces the use of toxic chemicals and heavy metals so we reduce water pollution and damage to the environment while reducing plastic waste that ends up in landfills, incinerators, and the natural environment.
- Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash
- Keagan Henman on Unsplash
- Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash