What Makes The World Go Round
Searching for an Eco Philosphy That Works
I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a sustainable business for quite some time now. It is a difficult economy, and a difficult idea to Sell, much less to achieve. It is true that the concepts of reusing and recycling are part of the mainstream now. As a culture, we have come a very long ways in the past decade or two, but again it is a case of making something that is Trendy Today into a way of life that people can adapt to.
You may have heard such phrases as circular economy, textiles or fashion more often recently. The basis of a Circular Economy (also called Circularity) is a market wherein incentives are provided for reusing products rather than discarding them, or in the case of worn or broken items, reclaiming the resources used to create them rather than utilizing any more raw materials than necessary. In an economy of this sort, diverse forms of waste, such as clothing, metal and obsolete electronics are reclaimed and reused for as long as possible.
A Circular Textile Model and Sustainable Fashion
There is still a great deal of controversy regarding the idea of a Circular Economy In order to be significant, it has to encompass much more than just recycling and reusing on an individual basis. It must actually extend the life of raw materials through reuse and reincorporation into useful items, preventing materials from immediately entering into the waste stream. Through efficient utilization of resources and the establishment of a Regenerative and Restorative industrial model, we can begin switching from the old linear process into something both economically and ecologically preferable.
While that is a large problem that must be tackled from a much broader perspective, we can certainly make an impact as individuals, as entrepreneurs, and small business owners. At Somewhere Over the Rainbow our overall philosophy of life does revolve largely around the environment and minimizing our negative impact on it wherever we can. However, there is much more that we can and should do. Aside from minimizing waste in the form of packaging and the use of plastics in our products and presentation, we do sell vintage as well as new goods. These items are lovingly cleaned and researched before they hit the shelves, and we are always thrilled when someone finds an artifact from the past that they resonate with.
We also sell both used [pre-loved] and vintage clothing. We like not only the idea of helping a new generation discover the joys of wearing articles of clothing from fashion-past, but of making our shopping habits regarding clothing speak to the long view. Rather than wearing cheap, shoddily made clothing, it is satisfying to look for well made garments that you love, and can pass along for someone else to love later.
There is, a great deal more to the circular fashion and textile industry. We have to also look to finding ways to reuse and repurpose these fabrics until it no longer becomes possible or plausible to recycle them [and then look for yet more ways to re-utilize these textiles] . This means changing habits and looking at what hangs in our closets, upholsters our furniture, or serves other utilitarian purposes as well.
In order to achieve some sort of balance where these Items are concerned, we have to look at both ends of their life-cycles, both production and disposal. Each needs to become as ecologically efficient as possible.
Re-envisioning the Textile Industry
A circular textiles system addresses the wasteful use of natural resources and the adverse impact of the process of production through innovation in textile design and production, creating new and better technologies, and fabricating more renewable materials. Along with increasing the reuse and recycling of old garments, this will hopefully result in a system that eliminates a great deal of waste and pollution.
The production of fabric in general, and for the fashion industry in particular, is energy and resource intensive. The majority of familiar fibers and raw materials utilized in the textile industry today, both natural and synthetic (cotton, wool, viscose, polyester, and more), come from agriculture, forests, or fossil fuels. It is important to change these practices, not only to conserve natural resources, but to help mitigate the effects of climate change and associated problems involving environmental degradation and desertification, among others.
Most of us don’t think of our fashion choices as being this Critical, but we are at a critical point in history. As a culture or civilization, we either change or suffer the consequences, and they are dire.
Reduce , Reuse , Recycle , Repair and Recover
Yes, I’m on my soapbox again, but we all have our obsessions, and the environment and state of this planet has been mine for as long as I can remember. While I don’t believe that I come even close to Living up the lofty goals I aspire to, it is an ongoing issue with me, and will continue to be. We struggle to find some balance between this small business that we love, and the welfare of the World we love as well. While it may not be what I envisioned when we started. It is what it wants to be for now, and in the process of becoming something else.
I keep looking to shift the business model, but also to reflect on the aspects of our modern lives that have gotten away from us. We (this culture) have forgotten so much that previous generations understood. When did so may of us quit mending and repairing our garments (and so many other things like small appliances and electronics)? When did we stop thinking of hand-me-downs as part of the status quo? And remember your grandmother’s quilts, bags, pot-holders and other household items made from cast-off clothing?
I am as guilty as so may others. I grew up with these very mind-sets, and spent my young adult life on a farm where we made everything last. Somewhere along the line I quit sewing and repairing, and practicing so many of the other frugal [and ecologically more sane] pursuits that we once took for granted.
I’m looking hard at my life these days though, and making changes. I have seldom bought New clothes over the last decade (I, and most of my family, are confirmed Thrifters), and I strive not to buy anything that isn’t Pre-Loved any longer.
The success recently of online resellers such as Thred-Up , Mercari and Poshmark (to name just a few), as well as thrift stores and other resellers is testament to the desire of a new breed of Americans to choose previously owned products (Often it is a case of economics, but I like to think we are raising a more ecologically conscious generation as well). This is a start, though there is a long ways to go if any real impact is to be made.
I hope my readers and customers will think about these issues. I will have more to say certainly, as I get a better vision of just how we can fit into this emergent economy.