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Sustainability Simplified

Demystifying Sustainability

Sustainability is a word that has been misused and misunderstood for a number of years now. Here we want to demystify the words that surround sustainability and make it more relatable, so we can all be part of the solution.

Sustainability

The big question, what is sustainability? First and foremost, sustainability is made up of three interconnected pillars: economic, social and environmental. At Riley Studio, we believe that sustainability means that people and the planet work together at equilibrium. Sustainability is necessary across the world in order to thrive as a community and an ecosystem. At its essence, sustainability in fashion means great design, and it requires that the design, development, production and use of fashion products meets today’s needs, without preventing them from being met by future generations.

Anthropocene

Big word alert! And yes it is as scary as it sounds… The Anthropocene is the idea that the Earth is currently entering a new geological era, in which human beings have for the first time become the dominant influence of change on climate and the environment. This has never happened before, so it is incredibly hard to predict what might happen. The previous era we were in was called the Holocene, which began at the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago.

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is an economic system, which aims to minimise waste, making the most of the resources that we currently have. This regenerative approach is in contrast to the current linear economy, which is often referred to as a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production. By focusing on positive society wide benefits, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.

It is based on 3 principles:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate Natural Systems

You can read lots more over on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website.

Climate Change

One of the most used buzzwords around, but do you know what it actually means?

Climate change is the long term, large scale shift in the Earth’s weather patterns and average temperature. The Earth’s climate had been relatively stable since the last Ice Age, with an average temperature of about 14°C, however, global temperatures have risen significantly over the 20th and 21st centuries.

Whilst some causes of climate change are natural, scientists believe that it is largely due to the Industrial Revolution and the increased burning of fossil fuels, which creates greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Since the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by over 40% to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years.

Closed Loop

A closed loop system is where some or all of the outputs of production are then used as the input. The best example of a closed loop system is the Earth itself. It is incredibly hard to achieve across supply chains but there have been advancements, particularly by companies such as Lenzing who make TENCEL™. Their process is described as a closed loop because within its production, more than 99% of the solvent is recovered, purified and reused.

In a hypothetical (and ideal world) a closed loop fashion industry would be one in which all new clothes were made from existing clothes and textiles. By recapturing, re-using or recycling, this might mean that one day in the case of polyester for example, we will no longer need oil to produce it.

Eco-Innovation

We use the word Eco-Innovation a lot because it refers to innovative products and processes that contribute to sustainable development. It can mean reducing the impacts of production on the environment or achieving a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources. We use it to describe all of the incredible and innovative fabrics, companies and processes that we use or discover.

Greenwashing

Sadly this doesn’t mean eco-friendly washing. Greenwashing is the practice of deceptively marketing a product or a brand, promoting the perception that it is sustainable or eco-friendly. Brands often do this to present an environmentally responsible public image, but with more resources available, it is now easier for consumers to identify the brands that feeding us with false claims.

Microfibres

Did you know that approximately 60% of all clothing made contains polyester? Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are actually a type of plastic, and due to friction when washed, they shed tiny strands of plastic less than 5mm long, which are called microfibres. As you can imagine, they are difficult to see, which is why it has taken everyone so long to realise how much they are damaging our oceans. In a nutshell, scientists estimate that ⅓ of all primary microplastics in our oceans come from washing textiles, including our clothes… Unfortunately, this is still a largely unsolved problem, but with awareness comes change. And with a focus on this we hope to see a solution soon.

Organic

A well known term, but we didn’t want to leave it out! Organic products are those produced without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or other artificial chemicals. Whilst a positive step forward, organic products don’t account for added toxins, such as dyes, that might be used later in the production process.

We use Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) organic cotton, which is the world’s most recognised processing standard for verifying organic materials, they set the highest ecological, sustainable and social requirements for biologically produced natural fibers.

rPET

rPET is also known as Recycled Polyethylene Terephtalate, bit of a mouthful, isn’t it! Let’s start by understanding what PET is… PET is the most common type of plastic resin and is used to create polyester fabric or moulded to create plastic packaging, including plastic bottles. Add ‘r’ to the front of it and you’ve got yourself recycled PET, which we have used in some of our products. That is why you will sometimes hear us say that our products are made from plastic bottles.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The SGDs are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 and are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States. They provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and increase economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our forests and oceans. A huge but vitally important task!

Traceability

Traceability is a key component to sustainability, and something that we are working on a lot. It is the ability to break down each product back to its raw materials, tracing each component back as far as possible, ideally to its origin. Garment supply chains are extremely complex so it is a huge task, but an incredibly important one, enabling brands to be held accountable for their entire process. It helps to analyse and discover information about the life cycle of a product, how and where it was made.

On each product page you will see our progress but we are striving to find out more every day.

Transparency

The fashion industry has notoriously been a very secret one, but things are beginning to change. Transparency is the first step towards a different culture, where brands become open and honest by disclosing information about their products and supply chain. By revealing supply chains, we can analyse each step and identify any problems.

Zero Waste

Zero-Waste is a philosophy that encourages reusing resources, so that no waste is sent to landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Mirroring the processes seen in nature, the Zero Waste Alliance uses the below definition:

“The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials, without burning them, and without discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.” Our favourite Zero Waste chef and advocate is Max La Manna, check him out for tips on how to lead a zero waste life.