Greenwashing has become a prominent part of marketing in today’s consumerism culture. As we become more aware of our impact on the environment, companies see this as an opportunity to showcase their sustainable products and their commitment to combating climate change. And although this puts pressure on companies to be more mindful of their impact, their actions– more often than not– are only surface level.
Take Ziploc for example. They created a recyclable paper bag (even though you can’t recycle anything with food on it), but it sits on the shelf, next to many types of plastic products. This way they can say they are being “green” while still creating just as much plastic waste.
The fashion industry in particular is very adept at greenwashing. H&M, Zara, and other fast-fashion brands promote their “green” image by creating lines that are “eco-friendly”. H&M produced a line of clothing that used fruit as part of the material along with recycled fabrics. Two problems arose from this. One: the amount of fruits needed to make one garment was immense, and needed lots of resources to grow (including water), Two: they included plastic and petroleum-based agents in the material which made the clothing non-biodegradable.
Fast-fashion companies have convinced consumers that most clothing should be under $20, by exploiting labor and using cheap materials that don’t last long (ultimately end up in the landfill by the end of the year). By making clothes that are so cheap, they are also able to push more seasons and trends on consumers (where the term “fast-fashion” comes from), and once the trend of the week/month is over, brands bring new trends into circulation and the old clothes get discarded.
The whole fast-fashion industry is based on wastefulness and even more sustainable brands still use resources. This is such a daunting problem, but actually has a pretty simple solution: circular fashion.
Circular fashion (based off of the concept of circular economy) promotes ethically, sustainably, and reusable methods of creating garments. It decreases the amount of new resources needed to make new clothes and constructs a cycle where old clothes can the material source for new clothes.
How can we (consumers) support this process?
- There are some pretty common practices that actually lessen your impact on the Earth by a lot. They include: passing clothes on to family or friends, buying from thrift stores or consignment shops, fixing/upcycling or donating clothing instead of throwing them away, and so many more!
- If you are going to buy new clothes, make sure that are made with 100% recyclable materials and that it is something that will last you a long time.
How can the fashion industry support this process?
- Change would need to be applied to the root of the problem: production.
- In order to create clothes that could be a part of circular fashion, it would need to be made up of recyclable, biodegradable materials, like organic cotton.
- Unfortunately, producing a cotton-made garment takes an extreme amount of water (about 2,700 liters of water to make one T-shirt).
How the Recycled Materials Market (RMM) will support this process
There are many websites and markets that sell textiles made of natural or even better, recycled materials, but in order to fully complete the circular fashion cycle, RMM creates a way for designers to connect directly to recycled fabric mills. Any fabric waste (scraps from clothing) that the designers have can go directly to these mills and can come back to them in the form of new (recycled) textiles. Customers of the designers will also have easy access to the mills and by donating their clothes there, they can contribute to circular fashion, instead of landfills.
So what is RMM?
RMM is a marketplace (that will be virtual and have in-person events) that connects clothing designers with different recycling mills to see which one is the best fit for their needs. Unlike other textile websites and stores that sell recycled materials, RMM highlights the connection between designers and mills in order to reduce the usage of raw materials, and promote the cycle of circular fashion.
Finding fabrics (and especially recycled ones) that work for their different needs can be very difficult for smaller businesses so RMM is a place where all of their different sourcing options are placed right in front of them for easy access. RMM also offers resources for consultation and mediation between the designer and mill.
RMM gets a commission for each sale (paid for by the consumer), but the cost of that commission is hopefully balanced out by a discount that designers get from donating their scrapes to the mills (this discount would be a part of the agreement in order for each mill to sell through RMM). There will also bee a flat rate for companies who want to sell through RMM.
- Broadly: Solving for designers/retailers who need to connect to fabric recyclers.
- Specifically: The small businesses that are producing sustainably and need help finding fabric recyclers.
- In person (one-to-one)
- Via social media
- (Sales and promotions for commissions)
- Finding a way to connect recycled textile companies and clothing designers, in order to help designers easily connect and find recycled materials for their business.
- Creating a ‘marketplace’ website to find the fabric needs of the clients (clothing designers) and connects them to a specific recycled fabric mill
- Organizing in-person ‘marketplace’ events
- Finding mills to partner with
- Mills that create recycled fabrics
- Potential partners so far:
- Miller Waste Mill
- Berge Mill Supply
- Event site
- Delivery system (could be up to the mill though)
- Cost of channels and advertising
- Cost of website
- Cost of event sites
- Commissions from seller to buyer
- Flat rate for selling from the website
I have always struggled between wanting to get trendy, cheaper clothes, but also wanting to lessen my impact on clothing waste and mass consumption. In the comments I would love to hear your experiences! Here are some optional prompts:
- What steps do you take to shop more sustainably?
- What are the difficult aspects of sustainable shopping? (What keeps you from always shopping sustainably– or as close as you get get)
- Do you talk to friends and/or family about our impact on the Earth?
Thank you so much for reading and engaging!