It has been awhile since I’ve written about sustainability and the fashion industry rather than a personal post, so I thought I’d do so today.
You might be hearing a lot recently about circular fashion (or maybe you haven’t been!). I wanted to take some time to talk about what circular fashion is, what it means and why it is such a big deal for those of us working in the sustainability industry. I hope you find it interesting, especially if you are new to the topic of ethical and sustainable fashion.
The term “circular fashion” was first coined in 2014, but has become increasingly popular in the ethical fashion lexicon, having been championed in late 2017 by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Stella McCartney.
The fashion industry is recognizing that the linear, take-make-dispose model of fashion is no longer viable. Vast amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to create clothing that is only used for a short period of time, and then is sent to landfill or incinerated.
In fact, one garbage truck’s worth of clothing is landfilled or burned each second. If nothing changes, by 2050, the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.
A circular fashion economy rethinks everything from how our clothing is produced, to how it is transported, to how its end-of-life is handled to create a better, more sustainable system.
In a circular fashion economy, clothing is designed to be timeless and long-lasting, and is comprised of materials or components that are easy to recycle or repair. Clothing is produced with non-toxic materials (goodbye, microfiber pollution!), transported using renewable energy and can be effectively reclaimed or recycled. This means the items can easily be broken down and made into new clothes, or safely and quickly biodegraded.
Essentially, materials stay (as much as possible) in a resource loop of reuse.
The concept of a circular economy is so important for those of us working in sustainability, regardless of the specific industry (speaking as someone who works in the recycling industry, recycling materials over and over again without loss of quality is at the core of what we do).
Reaching a system where as few resources are wasted as possible has benefits for us all. This includes fostering innovation in the fashion industry to make this type of production possible, keeping the world within the average global warming limit, preserving industry profitability and raising the quality of life for the people who make our clothes.
While we can all make positive choices in our own closets, I think it’s so important that we also stay informed about the industry at-large and the policies and innovations that need to take place to make fashion more sustainable.
We are not just consumers. We are citizens.