If you love fashion and sustainability, you are in good company. In fact, 70% of adidas consumers identify sustainability as an important purchase driver. This is good news. With so many of us sharing these two passions, there is great potential to reduce the carbon footprint and waste created by one of the most polluting industries.
Several podcasts are available to help us learn more about how the fashion industry can improve its sustainability practices in terms of design, manufacturing, and extending the life of products. Here are the three podcasts to be sure you catch.
1. Crash Course Fashion
Some topics covered in the podcast: using data literacy to improve sustainability decisions, avoiding greenwashing, and establishing a company as purpose driven
The host: Brittany Sierra started the Sustainable Fashion Forum, a vibrant on- and offline community, to create stronger connections between fashion and sustainability. Brittany is down-to-earth and a careful listener. She keeps the discussions conversational while guiding them as only a very well-informed member of the community could.
An episode you won’t want to miss: Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Laura Balmond: “circularity isn’t a product, it’s a system”
Based on work the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has done with around 100 organizations, they have created a set of principles to guide the shift to circular systems for a variety of business models. In the area of fashion and sustainability, the three focus areas are: “clothes being used more, made to be made again, from safe recycled and renewable inputs.”
As Laura explains, however, a t-shirt created with circular principles is not necessarily circular. “If there’s no collection system to get that back and to compost it and put it back into the land, let’s say, then it doesn’t complete the loop. It doesn’t get the whole way around.”
Laura recognizes the complexity for companies to become fully circular, but she supports setting aspirational targets.
As she points out, “If they set a target of 100% circular and they make it even 50% or 80%, they’re still significantly further forwards than we would be otherwise.”
Overall, Laura sees circular systems as offering opportunities for innovation, collaboration, and diverse operating models. Check out the whole episode here. And why not add Crash Course Fashion to your listening library while you’re at it?
How adidas fits into this story: adidas is committed to having 9 out of 10 of adidas products sustainable by 2025. This means these products will be largely made from environmentally preferred materials. To reach this goal, we are actively pursuing our 3 Loops. To address the systems involved in circularity, we are scaling up our take-back programs. One example is Choose to Give Back, which is currently running in North America.
2. Conscious Chatter
Some topics covered in the podcast: avoiding overproduction in the fashion industry, supporting smaller brands in navigating supply chain volume minimums, and mitigating microplastic pollution in the fashion industry
The host: Kestrel Jenkins started the podcast, Conscious Chatter, in 2016. From a young age, she was interested in fashion and sustainability – specifically fair trade. As an adult, she discovered that the fashion industry was the second most polluting – after oil. That’s when she began her podcast, where she features various members of the fashion supply chain, including farmers, manufacturers, and designers. Her aim is to help us all become more conscious of the stories behind what we wear.
An episode you won’t want to miss: Sally Fox on breeding naturally colored organic cotton
The dyeing process is one of the most polluting parts of the textile supply chain. This concerned Sally Fox, who began spinning fibers by hand as a kid – dog hair was one of her first specialties. As a spinner, with close contact with textile fibers, Sally was invested in finding ways to make dyes safer. In college, she added entomology to spinning, as another area of professional expertise.
In her work as an entomologist, she came across some cotton that was naturally growing brown, instead of the usual white. She knew it would be revolutionary if dyes could be avoided. This aspiration launched her long career of breeding cotton.
She likes to point out that the organic cotton she breeds has many benefits. “In addition to color, the brown cottons are naturally fire-resistant, and I believe it’s because of the tannins that compose the color. Tannins are fire-resistant and they are, in turn, anti-microbial.”
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Some of Sally’s naturally colored cotton is shown here.
As a scientist, farmer, breeder, and spinner, Sally has made great advances in the field of organic, naturally growing colored cotton. “We bring to our professions our lives,” she says. This sentiment is encouraging as we all try to make sense of our special combinations of skills, interests, and passions. When we put them all together, we can make our best, most particular contributions.
How adidas fits into this story: adidas is offering fashionable sportswear that does not require dyes, such as the Made to be Remade series. The company has also committed to responsible agricultural methods. Since 2018, 100% of the cotton adidas uses is organic or Better Cotton.
3. Wardrobe Crisis
Some topics covered in the podcast: digital fashion, waste colonialism, bio-based plastic alternatives, and the role of governments in creating fashion sustainability regulations
The host: Clare Press is one of the most well-connected and established members of the fashion and sustainability world. She was the first sustainability editor for VOGUE and co-creates another ethical fashion podcast with a UN officer. Clare has been running her sustainability and fashion podcast, Wardrobe Crisis, since 2017. Each episode topic is contextualized with fascinating facts and useful background information.
An episode you won’t want to miss: What’s the Story with Recycled Polyester? Cyndi Rhoades from Worn Again Explains All
In the episode, Clare shares some surprising facts. For instance, only 14% of the polyester currently being used in the apparel industry is made from recycled materials. Yet the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment reports that making recycled polyester takes 59% less energy as virgin polyester does. And only about 1% of textiles are being recycled into textiles.
All of this sets the stage nicely for the information that Clare’s guest, Cyndi Rhoades, offers. The episode is packed with interesting details about recycling polyester both mechanically and chemically. It also includes Cyndi’s vision for a circular economy, what it will take to get there, and why it should be the system of choice.
First of all, Cyndi points out that most recycled polyester currently comes from plastic bottles. She suggests that, instead, we should rely more on recycling textiles to create clothes. She supports this idea with two reasons. For one, she thinks the bottling industry will be taking back more bottles to make their own circular systems. Also, textiles are mostly being thrown into landfills when they can be made into new clothing.
Cyndi explains polyester recycling in ways that all of us can relate to and understand. While there is value in both mechanical and chemical recycling of polyester, she makes a case for chemical recycling:
“Mechanical recycling is a simpler form of recycling where textiles can be shredded and re-spun, so there’s no manipulation of the molecules. Whereas chemical recycling – just really top level – is able to either break down the materials like polyester back down to polymers or even monomers, but also, we’re able to strip out all the dyes and contaminants. We’re able to purify the raw materials, in the case of PET, to produce virgin-equivalent building blocks.”
As an activist turned entrepreneur, Cyndi is looking at polyester recycling in relation to the circular economy. She describes it as being rich with promise. “That phrase circular economics – it’s got the word economics in it for a reason: because the economics are going to work. From a monetary perspective, everyone can benefit from this new model. The social angle – it’s going to produce new jobs. The environmental angle – a billion times better than throwing textiles into landfill.”
How adidas fits into this story: By the end of 2021, 90% of the polyester adidas used was recycled. By 2024, adidas will only use recycled polyester wherever possible. adidas is also collaborating with startups that are innovating ways to recycle and use regenerative materials. For instance, Infinited Fiber, which Cyndi mentions in the episode, breaks down old textiles and other waste to the polymer level. From there, cotton-like fibers are created. Other startups adidas is partnering with include Spinnova, Bolt Threads, and Pond.
What are your favorite ways of learning about fashion and sustainability? We look forward to seeing your suggestions in the comments below.
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