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Episode 56: Undressing the Conscious Closet with Elizabeth Cline

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In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Elizabeth Cline, author, journalist, and expert on consumer culture, fast fashion, sustainability and labor rights. 

She has written Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and THE CONSCIOUS CLOSET: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good. We got to speak with Elizabeth about the textile-waste problem; innovations that are helping make fashion more sustainable; shifting attitudes of consumers, and more!

Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: Your book Overdressed came out in 2012 and was really the first piece of work that revealed the impacts of fast fashion. Have you seen a shift in consumption habits and interest around wanting to offset the environmental impacts of fashion since then?

Cline: Absolutely. I would say just in the last two-to-three years there’s been a sea change in consumer interest and a clamoring for sustainability in the fashion industry. In 2019 in particular, that was a really big turning point where you saw virtually every major brand making significant commitments to sustainability. Of course the question now is what will happen to this movement in light of the coronavirus. Brands are in financial crisis, but at the same time I think consumers are realizing more than ever that we have more than enough and want to rethink how we’re living. So it’s going to be interesting to see where the conversation heads coming out of this.

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Waste360: Clothing is one of the fastest growing categories of waste in landfills. Can you tell us about some of your research related to clothing waste? 

Cline: Yes, one statistic that came out of my research for THE CONSCIOUS CLOTHING is that one garbage truck of clothing is dumped every two minutes in the U.S. This affirms the need to keep changing the industry. For so long, charities have played the role of waste management for textiles and clearly that is not a total solution anymore. There’s just too much clothing waste. 

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Waste360: Is there a brand or project you’ve seen related to reusing textile materials that has really wowed you?

Cline: I’m really fascinated by the concept of upcycling at scale. Steven Bethell, who runs a huge used-clothing company as well as a retail chain in the UK and Sweden…they partnered with Converse this past year to make Chuck Taylor sneakers where the uppers were made with denim scraps. So that’s one example of a really cool project that I’m excited about. 

Another example is the Stella McCartney-Adidas collaboration with Evrnu. Evrnu is able to take cotton and break it down to create a fiber that’s high enough quality to be recycled multiple times, which is game changing. Textile recycling has always produced a lower quality product, and this is creating a higher quality product than the original, which is mind-blowing. 

Read transcript here.

#NothingWastedPodcast

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