06 Apr Making the Circular Economy More Fashionable: Good360 Forges Key Partnerships with Apparel Companies
Think about this: Producing a single cotton shirt requires 2,700 liters of water — about the amount that a person drinks in 2.5 years.
In fact, the $2.5 trillion fashion industry is the second highest user of water worldwide, and is responsible for 20 percent of global waste water and 10 percent of the planet’s carbon emissions, according to UNICEF.
The environmental and human costs of producing apparel for the global economy is only getting worse as “fast fashion” becomes even faster. In response to more disposable buying habits, some brands now spend only a few weeks to take a fashion line from concept to production (compared to the much longer fashion cycles of the past). The average consumer today is buying 60 percent more items of clothing compared to 2000, but each garment is kept only half as long, according to the same UNICEF report.
On average, 40 percent of the clothes in our closets are never worn. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the volume of clothing Americans toss each year has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons, or approximately 80 pounds per person.
At Good360, we look at the problem of fast fashion as a prime opportunity to divert goods that would otherwise go to landfills and send them to nonprofits and communities in need. We’ve aligned with forward-thinking brands to extend the life of apparel that can’t be sold as well as to recycle used clothes into useful material.
One of the main ways that we can help is by taking donations of clothing from major retailers and matching them up with worthwhile charities. Every year, we facilitate the donation of millions of dollars worth of apparel to our nonprofit network, including critically needed shoes, winter wear, professional attire, and baby clothes.
Last year, we partnered with Major League Baseball to donate apparel from the losing World Series team (sorry, Dodger fans), ensuring that the “championship” t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and caps went to communities abroad that would welcome them. We’ve also formed a similar partnership with the NFL to find good homes for “losing” merchandise from the Super Bowl and conference games.
Beyond end-of-life donations, we’ve also developed partnerships with apparel brands to adopt a circular economy approach to clothing manufacturing.
In our most innovative collaboration, we are partnering with Wrangler and the cotton industry’s Blue Jeans Go Green program to take post-consumer jeans and upcycle them into sustainable home insulation. Wrangler has committed to providing funding and materials to produce enough insulation to outfit 100 homes.
The insulation, which comes out looking speckled blue and white, will be specifically earmarked for Texas families rebuilding their homes after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. In this way, Wrangler is not only contributing to a reduction in apparel-related waste, it’s also collaborating with Good360 in our disaster recovery efforts.
“We got excited about working with Good360 because you’re thinking more strategically about disaster relief and rebuilding,” said Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at Wrangler. “We think this is a powerful idea: getting people engaged and talking about what needs to happen differently to accelerate disaster recovery. That’s something we wanted to support.”
In addition to its partnership with Good360, Wrangler has led other sustainability efforts, including a pilot program to develop more sustainable cotton and healthier soil. The company says it’s committed to using 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2025.
We’ve forged another interesting partnership with an apparel startup called SilkRoll, which has a vision of becoming the “world’s biggest shared closet.” The company operates an online fashion exchange to allow consumers to trade in their high-end used clothing for points, which can then be used to buy apparel from other users on the platform.
Users mail their used clothing to SilkRoll, and any items that can’t be recirculated but are still perfectly wearable are donated to Good360 and other charities.
“We care that you want to live consciously and sustainably, starting with your closet,” the founders write on their website. “We are committed to lengthening the life cycle of quality fashion through our unique recirculation methodology, and redirecting textile waste from landfills. SilkRoll gives fashion you no longer wear a second life and awards you points to fill it back up, full of things you actually love.”
Ultimately, the path toward creating a more sustainable apparel industry will require brands to be thoughtful about their manufacturing, including making clothes more durable, and consumers to rethink their consumption habits and vote with their wallets.
“Consumers need to demand these kinds of products from their makers,” Atwood said. “The more that we can do to have successful products in the marketplace that are sustainable and speak to our values, the quicker this transformation will happen.”