REUSE & REPURPOSE: The Foundations of a Circular Economy
Text by Eugenia Chow
It takes 2700 liters of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt. That’s the equivalent to the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days. What’s more, conventional cotton is often engineered to withstand herbicides, meaning the runoff from toxic chemicals end up in our rivers and lakes—producing dead zones and entering our food supply chain.
Rather than continuing to consume and as a result perpetuate this harmful industry, we can extend the lifespan of our clothing by giving them a second life while preventing them from going to landfills. If the average life of clothing was extended by just three months, it would reduce their carbon and water footprints, as well as waste generation, by five to 10 percent. This can be done through swapping clothes, donating them to charity, or only shopping from second-hand/thrift stores.
Currently, 87% of the clothing we consume ends up in landfills. While nearly 100% of textiles and clothing are recyclable, only 15% of consumer-used clothing is recycled. And this is often after being worn only a few times. One way of rethinking fashion is by eliminating the term ‘waste’ from our vocabulary. Some fashion stores now offer rewards systems for returning your used clothing to be repurposed into other items, but companies are also introducing the use of recycled post-consumer plastic as the starting material. This includes using items such as plastic bottles recycled into polyester fabric to create functional and durable towels, sneakers, t-shirts, and even active-wear. By learning how to repair and repurpose our clothing, we can also offer them a second life. In a circular economy, there’s no reason why anything should end up in the landfills.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Eugenia is passionate about environmental justice and social responsibility. As a strong believer that individual actions carry tremendous weight, she runs a blog and Instagram page (@eugreenia), writing about how to live more consciously in Hong Kong. She also loves eating, exploring, or baking up some vegan goods!