Fashion + The Circular Economy

Can Circular Fashion Save the World?

Undeniably, fast-fashion is a modern day sensation; manufacturers can cheaply mass produce various products that consumers can then purchase without splashing too much cash. In a nutshell, the industry makes money, the consumers save money.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, it is. According to a recent survey, the textile production required for fast-fashion produces 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year, making fashion one of the biggest polluting industries on the planet. Not only do they eject waste into the air, however, most fast-fashion clothes are made from non-biodegradable materials, meaning that when they inevitably get thrown away they don’t degrade like excess vegetables; they fester in a landfill for centuries. In fact, less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new garments, meaning that 13 million tons of landfill waste a year is generated by the fashion industry!

at an alarmingly rapid rate, fast-fashion is squeezing the world dry of its natural resources and damaging the atmosphere, but the emergence of circular fashion could eventually lead to the eradication of this world-destroying linear model of ‘take, make, waste.’

Why is the circular economy better?

Within the new circular economy, clothes are designed and manufactured with the sole purpose of being regenerative and recyclable in order to reduce both waste and a heavy reliance on the earth’s finite resources.

As such, all clothes produced within the circular model — unlike those in fast-fashion — are made using low-impact materials that cause no environmental harm and are all biodegradable. And when they reach the end of their tether, these clothes are either disposed of in an environmentally friendly way or are returned to the manufacturers in order to be redesigned or repurposed. Therefore, simply by adhering to this lucid model regarding the manufacture of clothes, the circular economy is massively diminishing the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. 

Fortunately, this ‘revolutionary’ new economy is already taking the fashion world by storm. Just last year, 90 fashion brands (including Nike, Adidas and Lacoste) signed the Global Fashion Agenda’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment. This means that these brands have pledged to increase the amount of used garments and footwear collected with the purpose to be resold, as well as increasing the amount of new garments made using recycled textile fibres, according to the Global Fashion Agenda’s official website.

So what can we do to help?

But this is merely the beginning; the circular economy has the capacity to implement positive environmental changes across the globe. For instance, if more people — fashion brands and consumers alike — followed the route that circular fashion is paving, the industry as a whole would become eco-friendly; a massive step in the right direction considering they are one of the most pollutant on the planet.

However, as consumers of fashion we also have a responsibility to keep our planet green and protected, and there are plenty of contributions we can make to help the circular economy thrive. For example, you could only buy clothes (or the majority of your clothes, depending on your budget!) from sustainable brands such as Stella McCartney, Olivia Rose the Label or Save the Duck instead of cheap fast-fashion stores. Though your wallet may appreciate the price of fast-fashion more, the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true. Sustainable clothing is on the pricier side because it is indelibly better quality and will last much longer than the substandard, environmentally-damaging alternative.

Yet one of the biggest issues the fashion industry has created is waste. As consumers, we have the power to lessen clothing waste by donating old clothes to charity shops or second hand shops, or putting them in your local textile recycling bin where the material can be reused. Either way, you are reducing your carbon footprint by choosing the green option as opposed to leaving them to a landfill.

There is also the option of buying second hand clothes, which both shops and websites alike are beginning to introduce more and more. Buying second hand means you are actively encouraging a recycling community, as well as reducing CO2 emissions that would have been needed for manufacturing new clothes.

In a world where taking initiatives to save the planet are being advertised more than ever before, every little action that boosts the circular economy will be beneficial for the eco-friendly future of the fashion industry, and we can take pride in knowing that we offered a helping hand.

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