The topic of sustainability is on everyone’s mind and for good reason; every year, over 11 million tonnes of recyclable clothing, shoes and textiles make their way into landfills, around 50 million tonnes of electrical waste is thrown away, and roughly 7.2 million tonnes of perfectly edible food is dumped.
The good news? Change is happening. Consumers are beginning to adopt the mantra of ‘buying less and buying better’ with more people becoming aware of their spending habits and the brands they’re purchasing from. Ground-breaking technologies are being introduced in recycled, organic and bio-fabricated materials and the fashion industry is starting to hear the environment’s cry for help; designers across the industry are incorporating sustainable practices in their collections and high-street fashion houses are becoming more conscious with their products, for example Zara recently announced it’s pledge to have all of its collections made from 100% sustainable fabrics. ‘We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector,’ Inditex chief executive Pablo Isla said on the high-street brand’s initiative.
Another change? More people across the globe are embracing the ‘upcycle’ movement. ‘It’s becoming increasingly more important to be sustainable and more environmentally aware, especially in our own homes and activities,’ Lynn Haughton, founder and designer of The Upcycle Movement tells us.
‘Our disposable habits are starting to catch up on us, so we need to start thinking about the bigger picture and where our ‘waste’ is going and the impact it is having on the planet. We need to stop being so disposable, we think it’s fine to just throw things away when we no longer use them, but the reality is, it’s not. So much energy and resources from the planet, and people power have gone in to making these things, so we need to extend their life and be more environmentally responsible for the generations to come, the planet, the animals…everything!’
Upcycling is all about looking at our items with new eyes and repurposing or reworking them into something different and for Lynn, her passion for the activity came from her father.
‘I feel like I’ve always been upcycling. I have a very resourceful dad; he’s always been very creative, so I think that’s why my love for upcycling is so natural – it’s been part of my upbringing to fix and mend and repurpose. I get a buzz out of seeing the transformation of something and knowing that (1) I’ve saved something from landfill, (2) I’ve made something that’s completely unique and part of me, and (3) it’s just really satisfying to have something decorating my home that I’ve made with my hands.’
Lynn’s love for upcycling has now grown from a ‘passion project’ into a successful career as she recently launched her debut collection of bags and accessories which are made from upcycled wetsuits.
‘I used to live on a lake activity centre and every year, they’d have issues with old, unused wetsuits – they can’t be recycled or dumped because they don’t break down. So, when the opportunity came to me about transforming them into something useful, I jumped at it because the fabric is incredibly durable, making them perfect for reusing. I am delighted to have launched my Neo Collection [Neo meaning ‘New’] last year. The collection is bags and accessories for everyday adventures and is sold online and in a selected number of retailers throughout Ireland.’
Lynn’s tips for improving your home with upcycling:
‘I think people should upcycle or think a little bit more creatively about what they already have because there are so many materials and different things already in existence and I feel we forget their value and all the resources that have gone into creating them – no matter what it is, be it a cardboard box or a pair of jeans. By looking at something in a new light and repurposing it, we’re getting (a) unique creations that can’t be bought or sourced anywhere else and (b) reducing the number of unnecessary wastes going into landfill.’
‘The first thing you need to do is look at what you have and think about what you need. For example, if you have piles of clothes that you’re not wearing, think about how you can make them into something useful. I’ve transformed old pairs of jeans into handy storage boxes and made a gorgeous rug for my room from old t-shirts – I love these items and feel proud when I look at them. For me that’s what makes a house your home, having things that have a story and have your personality behind them.
‘Next, know where to go for help. If you don’t have anything at home, you can find items for upcycling in charity shops, car boots sales and outdoor markets. And if you feel you don’t have the skills to do it yourself, there are plenty of organisations around that would be more than happy to give you tips – and don’t forget about online resources like YouTube tutorials, crafty accounts on Instagram and Pinterest boards.
‘And finally, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, upcycling is all about the trial and error so have fun with it!’