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We here at swrve think a lot about how we affect the world, and how what we do can contribute to the wellbeing of everyone who shares this planet we live on.
Recently, we came across a pair of alarming statistics found in a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that found that clothing is often worn only seven to ten times, and that less than 1% of textile waste is ever recycled. Over the span of a year, 100 million tons of textiles are produced with only a tiny sliver ever being recycled. What that translates to is a garbage truck worth of apparel waste being dumped in landfills every second of every day and makes the fashion industry responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
This apparel waste is not only worn clothing, but also the fabric that remains after it is cut from the roll to make garments. All companies try to reduce waste here because it means spending less on fabric, but we maximize our yields even further by adding small pieces like the parts that make up our caps, bolistas, pouches, etc. into our garment cuts. That means we get even greater usage out of every yard of fabric that comes through our shop.
One effortless thing we can all do to help reduce garment waste is by expanding the lifespan of our wardrobe. That means being deliberate about choosing durability and versatility over the temporary glitz of fast fashion. We are certainly not immune to the pull of a shiny new garment, but every time we all stop and think, “Do I really need this?” and “Do I already have something similar to this?” and realize, usually, that we don’t need it, and yes, we do have something like it already, and put it back, we are slowing this waste down. And when we do decide that we need it, we should all ask ourselves: Will this garment last and will I make full use of it?
Another way to extend the life of our garments is to mend and repair them. If you don’t already, learn your way around some thread and a needle; it can be a remarkably satisfying project to mend garments. And if your swrve garments are in need of a little love, send them to us; we offer repair services. We design longevity into our garments; we use fabrics that are resistant to wear and tear, and we use specific stitching to assure that the garments will hold, even when you’re stretching your limits. But even so, sometimes a stitch comes undone, or you wear through your seat, and when that happens, we want to help you continue to get as much life out of that garment as possible.
And when you are done with your garments, unless they are no longer in usable condition, make sure they find a second life. Wash them carefully, make any necessary repairs, and then either sell them or find somewhere to gift them where they can have the most impact.Up until recently in the apparel industry, the best two ways to reduce waste was to reduce consumption and reuse your garments as much as possible, but recycling garments has not been widely available. Patagonia has done a good job of starting to change this, allowing customers to send back Patagonia garments for recycling or repurposing, but recycling garments is tricky because they are usually a mix of materials, and separating them is impractical and economically unviable. One hopeful new development is that this roadblock has been solved by a company called Circ. They have cracked the code on being able to recycle cotton/poly fabrics that make up the bulk of the textiles that end up in landfills around the globe. That means that fabrics don't need to be so meticulously sorted before recycling, lowering overhead costs seemingly enough to make this model economically sustainable. This is a very exciting development that could do away with a large part of the wastefulness of our industry. We are hopeful that they will continue to innovate and find the technology to be able to process nylons, elastics, and all other materials widely used in apparel.
While we are hopeful that recycling will be a third way of reducing the impact of the apparel industry on our environment, we can't rely on it alone. The old adage of reduce, reuse, and recycle still rings true. So the next time you find yourself about to make a clothing purchase, remember to ask yourself: Do I really need this garment? Will it last? Will I make full use of it? and Where will it end up after I’m done with it?