Fashion Takes Action – The 7 R’s to reduce our waste

Kelly Drennan is one cool campaigner from Toronto Canada. Kelly founded Fashion Takes Action to convince Canadian consumers and the fashion industry to reduce the clothing waste and impact on the environment. Sales of clothing per person have increased by 60% since 2000 and with it the waste, microfibres and landfill that goes with it. Kelly has the 7 R’s to reduce the impact of fashion and clothing on the planet.


Jeremy [00:00:00]It’s her age to be on let me just hang on, I could put it I could put a piece of tape over my. [4.0s]

Jeremy [00:00:04]No, no, no, don’t do that. Don’t do that much more. I tell you what is much more enjoyable to talk directly to you than than there to capture. So just to tell you a little bit about me and why achieving this is just done. I mean, I have explained things, but just also just to get more conversation. So I was working for Pandora and the Body Shop, both of which have lots of stores in Canada. So I used to come and you every December to check out Christmas in Canada and I go round all the shopping malls and song because it was always important to see what was happening in Canada. So I decided since I’d left that I’m not doing that anymore. And I have a very good English friend who is lives in Toronto, and I used to also see them. So I haven’t come value now, which is a bit of a pity, but I do love it as a country and what you’re doing and zone. So that’s important. Good. But. So perhaps you we can just chat. [51.6s]

Jeremy [00:00:58]As I say, I will edit it and I will actually. Usually I reached I rerecord the questions just because then it’s you know, I can just think about what you say and frame up each question. But otherwise, this is a conversation. So we should be just doing it like a chat. Okay. And I’m sure you’ve done you have done yourselves anyways. You know a lot about him. Yes. But. [20.7s]

Jeremy [00:01:18]1. Meeting new guests can happen in unusual ways. I was invited to speak at the conference in Paris and shared the stage with an inspiring lawyer called Jonathan Cocker from Baker Mckenzie one of the top global law firms. He told me all about the growing pressure on luxury brands to confront their global warming impact and that if they did not react at some point the regulators would. Then Burbury was expposed burning unsold clothes and goods worth £28.6 and I realised that this was a bigger issue than I had realised and Jonathans thoughts inspired the sustainability program at Pandora. Jonathan kindly introduced me to our guest today Kelly Drennan who lives in Toronto Canada. Kelly is the founder of a lobby group called Fashion Takes Action whose principal aim is to reduce our consumption of clothing. The end to end supply chain and consumer use and disposal of clothes has a measurable contribtion to global warming. What is incredible is that Kelly started this in 2007 which is one year before the Iphone was launched and 13 years ago and when there were less people really engaged in issues of global warming. So I started by asked Kelly what happened in 2007 that moblised her to start Fashion takes action.  [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:01:19]What I think I was struck by, first of all, is that you started fashion takes action a long time ago. Innocence 2007. Could you just tell me what started you off then? What happened in 2007 that mobilized you to do this.  [14.7s]

Kelly [00:01:35]Yeah, [0.0s] 

Jeremy [00:03:55]And what was it in particular about that very important film that sparked you into action? I mean, it is clearly and there’ve been several types of films, but there was a particular thing you having you can still remember. [11.8s]

Kelly [00:04:09]I think, you know, just just knowing how little time we had and how long ago we’ve been warned. [9.2s]

Kelly [00:04:20]And and the ignorance, you know, that that followed, you know, a lot of the research. And for me, it just again, came down to the two babies that I had and thinking, do you even 50 years from now, who knows if I’ll be around? But you know, they should be. And what will the planet look like? And according to that film, it didn’t look very good and it’s very grim. [27.2s]

Jeremy [00:04:48]And because you’re based in Canada, your view of the environment and the situation may well be different to mine in the UK and other listeners, perhaps. Just give us a. Few soundbites of what it feels like or what you observe or what you believe you know is happening in Canada, that may be different to elsewhere. If you have a view on that. With respect to the environment. And what’s happening to the environment of the last, let’s say, 10 years or slightly longer. [26.1s]

Jeremy [00:05:14]2. As most of you as listeners dont live in Canada and we each see our country being affected differently from the effects of climate change, i want to know what Kelly has observied is happening in Toronto where she lives. [0.0s]

Kelly [00:05:16]Yeah, I think, you know, [1.5s] [00:06:10]in the on the West Coast. You know, there’s we have boreal forest where, you know, they’re, you know, diminishing. We have, of course, to the north with the Arctic ice, you know, melting. So, you know, yeah, we definitely I live in the middle of the country, though, not so affected by sea level, for example. But, you know, that is definitely happening, particularly out on the West Coast. So it is it’s a scary time. And, you know, I like to think that there’s there’s hope. You know, it’s it’s [42.9s] 

Jeremy [00:07:20]So if we look over that 13 years told me some of the sort of milestones that you feel the fashion takes action has achieved. What sticks out in your mind? These are. Because, you know, this is a great commitment of time. And as I said, you’re ahead of others. So just give us a sense of some of the things that you’re proud of. [18.3s]

Jeremy [00:07:39]3. It really impresses me that Kelly has been leading Fashion Takes Action for 13 years and since this podcast is all about talking to people who are actually taking action not just talking about the action we should be taking, I want to know what Kelly is most proud of achieving [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:08:29]4. That is a fanstatic achievement to have  reached 25k students with an initiative around changing behavior as we all know how hard it is to get any time allocated from the national school curiculum. So I wander what Kelly’s programe covers? [0.0s]

Kelly [00:08:30]And so [0.1s] [00:08:43]And we felt it was important to reach future consumers because, you know, as adults. Research shows that it’s very difficult for us to change behaviour. And we thought sort of longer term, if we could convince the next generation of consumers that this is the future of fashion. This is the future of consumption. And [22.6s] 

Jeremy [00:09:49]5. That is  great and I am sure engaging with students who are starting to buy clothes themselves is a good place to start and perhaps easier than convincing young adults to change thier behaviours. but of course the fashion industry need to also explore the issues together and work out how to overcome barriers to doing things differently [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:11:47]And since. So how well do your daughters not just related to when you decided to start and that was because of them? Because obviously they’ve changed a lot. So I’d like to hear what their view is of this. I was reminded that Kelly started Fashion takes action because of her concerns about the world her two young daughters were born into. Since that was 13 years ago I want to know how they are engaged with Kelly’s passion.So  I wander how  old they are today?[0.0s]

Jeremy [00:13:22]If we look at statistics, I found an interesting one on your site regarding how much clothes we buy now versus 20 years ago. Could you just tell us about them? Because that’s what is important. Kelly has a website that is worth reading and I found a statistic on there that was new to me and really very surprising.  I dont hear it talked about much in the media, but it starts to explain why Kelly and others are so concerned about the clothing industry as it relates to global warming. [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:13:57]8. That is a really striking fact, that the fashion industry has gone from two seasons to 52 weeks of new fashion styles being launched. With the pressure to drive increased sales and market share, and with the luxury industry creating more collections it explains why people are buying more clothes more often Kelly then raises another factor that is probably driving an increase in clothing sales. [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:14:57]10. These are very interesting points about ecommerce for fashio clothing and we know that the dramatic increase i returns is impacting the profitability of ecommerce companies, but I did not fully realise that some returned goods are destroyed. I can imagine we need more media coverage of these things So I think, you know, it’s really interesting because there’s there’s so much coverage coming out of here in Canada, especially in the media, where there’s just so much more awareness now happening. It seems every week something is being reported on it on a mainstream media outlet and not just to the sort of sustainable fashion community that I belong to. [20.7s] [00:15:50]So, yeah, I know I’ve gone off. [2.8s]

Jeremy [00:15:55]So let’s build on that. That’s good. So what I’m. I believe that with you that data is very important and it’s not the only thing. But to exactly what you say want, you can’t unknow something just as a matter of interests. And have you ever seen or have you got any data that shows the range of purchasing of clothes at different consumer groups? Do. Do we know that, you know, there’s an average woman or man who, let’s say buys 30, but suppose. There’s the low consumers. You buy 10. But then there’s the super buyers are buying two hundred. Do you have. Breakdown, it tells us that 60 percent gets a bit more granular. [35.1s]

Kelly [00:16:31]Yeah, I don’t actually. But, you know, I think it’s actually, I believe one of two organizations that did that research and they’re UK organization. So either it was rap in the U.K. or fashion revolution. So. [18.3s]

Jeremy [00:16:51]Okay. So I am not to find that out because I think to your point, actually just seen that 60 percent is for me was actually quite a shocking number. You know, 2000, you know, year 2000 isn’t so long ago now. Sixty percent increase in anything that one’s consuming is a big number because that’s an average number. So that tells us how some people must be 150 times more. That’s a big number. But now you’ve got coin several I think some acronyms or the words and you mentioned a couple Reus, etc.. Could you just tell us those words and. [34.6s]

Jeremy [00:17:26]11. Kelly is doing lots of smart things and another one is to create a memorable way to remember all the things we can do to reduce the imact of our clothing, she calls it the seven 7R ‘s. I want to know more what these mean and why Kelly developed these [0.0s]

Kelly [00:17:27]Yeah. And it’s sort of them. Well most of us know Reduce, Reuse and recycle, and I have tried to guess what the next four might be  . [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:21:56]If we were to look at a couple of those elements and go back to what not washing so frequently, I think it’s a very interesting one because in fact, we all benefit not only from the environment, but probably reducing our bills. You know, one of the things I mean, sustainability in a corporate environment is actually it should, on the whole, save money. And isn’t that just simple and good to do? Now, I suspect there is a cultural stigma or a cultural element here, because as a young person, as a kid growing up, I know I’m sure I used to at least wear my school shirts a couple of times. But the idea of that being hygienic. Now, I you know, I think we’ve been conditioned perhaps that you could you hygienic you should only wear a piece of clothing once. I’m actually now wearing my shirts twice and carefully hanging them up when I’ve on the first day so that I can reword the next day. You know what? Have you seen or what’s your view on that culture element? Should just give me one second, give my family. Just come in. I’m just going to close the door. So just I’m just gonna hold the. Yeah. Sorry about that. I mean just get. That’s OK. Agree. I have three sons and actually they do. And they are able to do so and so. Yeah. So talk to me about perhaps the the social element of the idea of not washing each time and wearing something. That’s. What do you discover in that? I remember as a kid it was normal that we all would wear a piece of clothing like a shirt twce before washing it, of course as long as the collar was not dirty and also that it did not smell, but for many years we have felt this is unhygenic and we wash everything after wearing it just once.So I would like to know what trends Kelly is seeing about the social stigma around re wearing clothes. [0.0s]

Kelly [00:23:19]Yeah. I mean there is definitely this sort of stigma around hygiene, even with secondhand clothing, there are people who will refuse to ever enter a thrift store. But yeah, I mean. [12.2s]

Jeremy [00:23:33]You may have done just with your own clothes. Yeah. It. [2.6s]

Kelly [00:23:36]Yeah. I mean do you know really. [2.1s] 

Jeremy [00:24:56]And have you got any examples that anybody’s doing is changing their behaviour? How could you say, actually, we’ve got a whole lot of school kids or you’ve got, you know, your account. You’ve got to counter that saying the number of people is saying I’m now wearing, you know, twice a day on the whole. Anything that shows this is happening. [18.2s]

Jeremy [00:25:15]14. All these movements to change consumer attitudes need to collect data that the students they have talked to then actually change their behaviours and dont fall back to what everyone is doing.Kelly has a tactic to get that follow up and to measure the impact of these. [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:26:50]And if therefore you had to pick one, all that you really wanted to see being the biggest are the if the whole country or Canada said, right, we’re gonna get behind on. No. Which one of those is the most important for you to create the results you’re wanting? And we’re all ending without. [18.2s]

Jeremy [00:27:09]15. As we have been talking I have been making sure that I can remember and recall the 7 R’s and am doing well, but now I am asking myself which of the R’s I should focus on personally to make the greatest impact? Kelly answers without hesitation  [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:27:29]And have you seen anybody gain who’s, you know, noticeably reduce their purchasing volume? Have you had other people saying, oh, women are tracking it or is this people listening and acting? And Kelly is seeing via their social media that the engagement in these ideas is increasing. I am not sure if we have yet seen such a movement around reducing the amount of clothes people purchase translate into fashion retailer year on year sales, but as Kelly says things are changing in the recent months and changing quickly [0.0s]

[00:28:47]17 .So back to Kelly’s daughters, I wandered what they were talking about as they obviously are close to the cause [0.1s]

Kelly [00:28:50]That’s a great question. Well, I mean, I definitely have learned from my daughters that it’s almost like living proof of this shift towards thrift, right? I could have only hoped for this five years ago before they were earning money and going out and spending it. And so, you know, we’ve seen these reports coming out that some, you know, thrift thrift industry is going to be worth 70 billion dollars by 2028 and that fast fashion will only be worth 40 billion. So that is very encouraging. You know, also hearing them talk about stores like Forever 21, which again, it’s one of those things where, you know, are they boycotting it because of who their mother is and what they’ve grown up knowing. But, you know, [64.6s] [00:29:57]I sometimes eavesdrop when they’re hanging out with their friends and listen to what they’re talking about. And it’s not just about drifting, but they do have some conversations about fast fashion. And sometimes [12.1s] 

Jeremy [00:30:33]18  formaldehyde! this is a new one for me. What has formaldehyde got to do with new clothes?[0.0s]

Kelly [00:30:34][insert XXX later into here]. [0.1s]

Kelly [00:30:34]So just interesting to hear that these conversations are actually taking place. And I think, you know, the fight is for the future movement. And Gretta Sandberg and these climate marches that these young people are engaged in, my daughters have been to a few of them now, school walkouts and things like that. And it’s just so inspiring to see that this this next generation is determined to clean up the mess. You know, are a mess and the sort of generation ahead of us. So, yeah. [29.7s]

Jeremy [00:31:04]So now let’s talk to about big industry, because in the end. OK. My view is that we the challenge we have can happen from many individuals. But my feeling and you may not agree with me, but this is my feeling is in the end we need big companies to solve the problems because they have to bring innovation that change as consumption. So have you got any examples in Canada that you’ve seen of any big fashion company doing something innovative to to challenge the problem that we’re facing. [30.8s]

Jeremy [00:31:35]19 .We have all seen how Tesla and windfarms are changing the nature of the car and electricitiy generating industries, I would like to know what existing or new companies are creating new business models for the fashion industry too? [0.0s]

Kelly [00:33:21]One example is a 3-D knitting company called Scalable Garments and 3D Netting will allow brands to reduce the amount of waste from the cutting room floor. If you think about how you take a T-shirt, can you take a big piece of fabric and you put the t shirt, you’ve got all this waste leftover? Well, that adds up. If you’re producing, you know, millions and millions of units, T-shirts for 3-D netting is going to be, I think, really interesting to watch. Same with 3-D fit again, similar concepts. This helps reduce the as I mentioned before, how we buy a small and medium or medium and large or, you know, multiple sizes because we don’t know what what will fit. So with 3D fit technology, we can actually reduce the amount that is actually just being sent back and then ultimately destined for landfill. Now we end each podcast by asking our guests what practical tips and tricks they can share that you our listeners can apply straight away.  i feel that Kelly has already answered that question with her Seven R’s. Lets though ask Kelly for her tips and tricks? [0.0s]

Jeremy [00:36:09]21. I did also hear kelly say people need to sew and yet this is a lost art or skill because it is not taught in school and most people cant easily buy anymore a needle and thread so what is her advice?. [0.0s]

Kelly [00:36:09]But [0.0s] 

Jeremy [00:36:14]22 and any thing else you would like to share Kelly?. Think about renting for, you know, sort of one off garment. [3.7s]

Jeremy [00:37:12]So I am pleased to say in our next podcast on the fashion industry we are going all the way around the globe to hong Kong where I will be talking to Christina Dean about the changes she is championing in Asia. Well I have really enjoyed speaking to Kelly who i will just say goodby to[0.0s]

Jeremy [00:37:13]My reaction just earlier, formaldehyde. I didn’t pick up on that. Can you tell us what that was? Because that’s new information. [5.8s]

Kelly [00:37:21][XXX insert this section to above: ] Yeah, well, a lot of people associate well, not a lot, because lot of people don’t even realize the amount of chemicals that go into making our clothes. But there are so many chemicals that are used, particularly if you look at denim and leather. Highly toxic carcinogens, better, better to the dying and in this sort of treatment of our fabric. And that ends up just being flushed into nearby rivers and lakes and pollutes, of course, be the sort of water basins and developing country to where a lot of these factories are located or most of them are. But what we don’t really think about is the chemicals that are used that’s finishing on the finishing side of things. And so formaldehyde is used as a anti stain and wrinkle repellent. So it also prevents mildew. So given the fact that our closer majority of our clothes are made overseas and then put into shipping containers and shipped across oceans, this formaldehyde will prevent them from getting too wrinkled and from smelling like mildew. But some other hide is carcinogenic. And as you wash your clothes, you are washing this chemical out into into the water. So it’s definitely a hard one to to really avoid. And it’s not like you’ve seen any labels out there that say, you know, formaldehyde free, but definitely wash your clothes when you buy them. Because even though that formaldehyde is getting into the water, at least it’s not going to be wearing off onto your skin. [97.4s] [00:38:59]Which is why a lot of the largest organ. So that’s just a little good. [4.3s]

Jeremy [00:39:05]Is really. That’s fantastic. Is there anything I’ve missed that you would like to have mentioned? Me? I’ve covered everything. But just in case, because it’s been great and I just want to miss anything. [9.0s]

Kelly [00:39:16]Yeah, I know. I think I think we did cover quite a bit there. [3.7s]

Jeremy [00:39:21]Got give me that. Thank you very, very much. I’ll tell you, I haven’t that you might know just yet. [4.6s]

Jeremy [00:39:26]Launch the whole thing as I’m trying to build up a bank and a library that I can send to it beforehand, if you like. And that’s really, really good. And thank you for doing that. [8.3s]

Kelly [00:39:35]See you there.