#02

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

TO SUSTAINABILITY

R4 CLOTHING LTD | December 2020 | 9 min read

SUMMARY:

This story provides a brief introduction to the history of natural resource extraction and production and discusses the evolution of sustainability within the fashion industry. The story delves into concepts of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and the “Circular Economy,” which lead to understanding the ideas behind the creation of R4.

BRIEF HISTORY OF NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRAC

FASHION

 

Our mass-consumptive society has fueled the development of the fashion industry, and the emergence of fast-fashion. However, within our current linear economic model, this industry ranks amongst the top polluters. To name a few, over-production and consumption are flooding landfills, chemicals are destroying soils and water streams, massive releases of carbon dioxide are suffocating the atmosphere, species are being driven out of extinction, and an unprecedented amount of raw materials, land, water, and energy are being wasted.

 

 

SUSTAINABILITY 

 

The first definition of sustainability in the UN 1997 Brundtland Commission: 

 

“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

 

In the 1960s, scientists began searching for effective solutions to combat the disruptive impacts of society’s linear economic model (take-make-dispose). Although sustainability has been present and applied by various societies for centuries, it wasn’t until the 1992 UN summit in Rio De Janeiro that “sustainable development” gained international recognition. Today, this term has come to dominate majority of our global discussions. 

 

As a result of increased international awareness on the importance of sustainability, especially within the fashion industry, numerous concepts have emerged as potential solutions to mitigate environmental impacts.

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REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

 

The concept of “recycling” first emerged in 1962, when industries discovered an economic incentive when converting plastic waste into reusable material.

 

Recycling then integrated the 3R’s slogan (reduce, reuse, recycle), a slogan that originates from the 1970’s environmentally-conscious movement in the US. 

 

The 1970s marked a significant milestone in the progress of our knowledge towards achieving sustainable development. In 1970, the US Environmental Protection Agency was created, and the famous Earth Day was created.

Then, in 1976, the 3R’s became an official slogan when the US Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to increase recycling and conservation efforts as waste was becoming a significant issue.

 

CIRCULAR ECONOMY

 

Coined by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, the circular economy (CE) reflects an ideal in which socio-economic progress is reevaluated through the following three points:

 

  1. Design out waste and pollution 

  2. Keep products and materials in use 

  3. Regenerate natural systems 

 

The CE is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles. It importantly promotes natural capital preservation and restoration.

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PRINCIPLES FOR CIRCULAR NEW BUSINESS MODELS

  1. Waste is minimized through careful consideration of materials, modular design and easy disassembly and standardized solutions

  2. Understanding of the total ecosystem of the business model

  3. Flexibility is maximized through design, allowing for products to be repaired or easily upgraded

  4. Use of renewable energy sources

  5. Maximization of energy efficiency throughout the whole life cycle or the product or service

“One man’s waste is another man’s treasure”

SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION

 

Fashion is endlessly creative.

Sustainable fashion emerged in the 2000s as a movement designed to foster change towards greater environmental, social, and economic justice within fashion systems. With a dramatic increase in demand for sustainable fashion, the fashion industry has begun integrating environmental welfare into its systems. From Patagonia’s self-imposed Earth tax to Levi’s’ brand new cottonized hemp jean collection, brands across all scales are aiming for a positive change.

WHERE R4 COMES IN 

 

The idea behind the creation of our brand and its ideals reflects the application of the aforementioned concepts into the fashion industry.

 

In using the 3R’s and adding repeat, we aspire to reflect the principle of the circular economy. As such, this will be a never-ending story. 

 

This is how we aim to engrain the three R’s within the core of the company:

  1. Reduce environmental damage by sourcing sustainable materials: inspire customers to reduce consumption of fast-fashion items and more high-end clothing

  2. Reuse recycled materials or materials with reduced environmental impact during manufacture

  3. Recycle customer’s purchases with return-scheme: reuse the materials for re-manufacture to reduce waste

  4. Repeat the process

 

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