The outdoor industry is trapped in a linear economic system which drives consumerist habits and destroys our planet. We need to change the status quo and shift to a more circular mindset before it's too late.
THE LINEAR STATUS QUO
The economic model currently at large in the outdoor industry is the linear economy.
Here's how it works:
Raw materials are collected
Transformed into products
Products discarded as waste at end of life
The linear model places an enormous burden on the ecological balance of our planet. All three steps of the “take-make-dispose” mentality affect ecosystem services in different ways. The collection of raw materials leads to high energy and water consumption, emissions of toxic substances and disruption of natural capital such as forests and lakes. Product formation is also often accompanied by high energy and water consumption and toxic emissions. Eventually, when these products are discarded, space is taken up from natural areas and toxic substances are often also emitted (PBL Netherlands, ‘Using planetary boundaries to support national implementation of environment-related sustainable development goals’)
CONSUMERISM: AT WHAT COST?
The linear economy also fuels consumerism. We are trapped in a cycle where outdoor brands are continually producing more products year upon year which they then have to flog on to the consumer. It's no wonder we are constantly bombarded to buy new outdoor products everywhere we look, the linear economy model depends on us buying stuff!
But do we really know the true cost of our addiction to consumerism? As outdoor enthusiasts we have a unique relationship with the natural world so we can no longer ignore the environmental impacts of what we buy.
Every second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill
WE HAVE ENOUGH CLOTHES ON PLANET EARTH TO CATER FOR THE NEXT SIX GENERATIONS
The fashion industry produces more carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined
A CIRCULAR FUTURE
Circular economy is a different system in which we can re-balance our relationship with the natural world.
'A circular economy is a bigger idea than incrementally reducing the harm of our current model'
Ellen Macarthur Foundation - Vision of a circular economy for fashion
Unlike a linear economy model, the concept of a circular economy is that economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health.
A circular economy for outdoor gear and clothing will be founded on the basic principles of: (i) eliminating waste and pollution; (ii) keeping products and materials in use: and (iii) regenerating natural systems.
Practically then, a circular vision for the outdoor community would look something like this:
outdoor products are used more
outdoor products are made to be made again
outdoor products are Made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs
A lot of the noise on circular economy is being made by large brands who are using recycled materials in the production of new clothing or equipment. We think this misses the mark because it is framing circular economy within our existing linear model which still relies on a continual production of new products.
We need to think broader.
At bluebird, We think increasing the product lifecycle of our outdoor gear is the most impactful way to participate in circular economy
We think that the most impactful (and arguably the simplest) way to participate in circular economy is through vision one: using outdoor products more. The problem is, it will require us, as a community, to completely rethink our relationship with our gear. But we think we are up to the challenge.
We understand that people might get tired of their outdoor items or maybe want to upgrade their equipment. This doesn't mean that item has be thrown away or buried in a cupboard forever more. Likewise, it doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a new product as a replacement.
Our business model is centred on facilitating the re-use of outdoor prouducts by providing a safe, secure marketplace for the outdoor community to buy and sell their equipment and clothing and also accepting donations of unwanted items.
We don't stop there though.
As a social enterprise, the profits we generate from our business activity is reinvested in our environmental mission which centres around further promotion and education of circular economy in an outdoor context.
'increasing the product lifecycle of an item by nine months can reduce its waste, water and carbon footprints by up to 30%'
WRAP -Valuing our clothes