Fast Company- It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag

[Source Images: invincible_bulldog/iStock, MattMump/Blendswap]

[Source Images: invincible_bulldog/iStock, MattMump/Blendswap]

We love Elizabeth Segran’s article on Fast Company titled, It’s time to stop spending billions on cheap conference swag

Elizabeth asks the question that’s been on everyone’s mind: We’re facing a full-on environmental crisis. Do you really need another flimsy tote or pen?

That stats outlined my Elizabeth are staggering, but as team Encycled are realising, the problem is much bigger than the typical conferences, sporting events, networking events and festivals. We’re seeing an opportunity for the Encycled solution in work wear, culinary businesses, the film industry and more!

Read Elizabeth’s article here!

Case Study- Applying Circular Thinking in a Complex Urban Environment

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Circular London is a programme and platform developed by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) focusing on communities and collaboration, and working to affect policy and share learning among various global communities and citizens.  

Solutions that benefit not only the private-sector, but entire communities and their citizens, are a crucial component to realizing the full potential of the circular economy. 

Encycled is pleased to be highlighted in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's case study on the Circular London platform championing shared value exchange within communities, creative thinking and collaborative learning. 

Read the case study here

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Happy Earth Day! Please Don't Recycle...

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Today, 40 years after the first recycling technology was introduced, only 14% plastics are recycled globally. In Europe, recycled plastic waste from packaging has increased 5% over 10 years; however, there are stil lover 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently sailing around in the ocean.  

Obviously recycling is not going to fully solve our plastic problem, or any other resource efficiency issue. Even worse, as Alexandre Lemille, a circular value expert and resource efficiency advocate, wrote in a recent article:

“The harsh reality of recycling: it slows down genuine innovations.”

 

Recycling, when possible, is technologically complicated, energy consuming and decreases the quality and functionality of the raw material. Many of the products we use on a daily basis, because of mixed textures, matter and colours, are not recyclable and practically designed for landfill or incineration (energy production). To combat this, a number of pioneers, including the Cradle2Cradle Innovation Institute, use more creative approaches and design thinking  to create new strategies around reusable products, use of biodegradable natural materials, modular products and design for repairability.

 

While all of this is to be commended, a key aspect of moving towards a more sustainable future requires systemic behavioural change. A great example of a global movement to design a new Post-Disposable future for the Planet has been initiated by Disrupt Design and aims to activate and involve individuals, governments, and industry to rapidly redesign our polluting systems of production and consumption, turning the tide on the massive environmental and social burdens that disposability has led us to.

 

You may be feeling overwhelmed after learning that recycling is not a complete solution for some of Mother Nature’s toughest challenges, but rest assured, you can be a part of the solution. A zero-to-waste future is already being designed , and the zero-waste generation know this is the only way to save our Planet!

 

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How much is your T-shirt worth?

Textiles manufacturing is one of the world’s oldest industries, but today it has become one of the most polluting, consuming huge quantities of water and energy while producing solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Growing cotton for a single T-shirt requires 2700 litres of water while its production and distribution can have a significant CO2 footprint. Recycling textiles like cotton can be energy intensive and isn’t simple, since the resulting downscaled fibres are low quality and can’t be used without combining with new materials. Meanwhile, new techniques to separate and recycle cotton blends are still being developed in the lab- a long way from becoming mainstream.

Credit/Claire Bates (taken @ LMB recycling)

Credit/Claire Bates (taken @ LMB recycling)

Today we see a vicious cycle where our consumption drives the production of massive amounts of cheap, almost-disposable apparel that quickly becomes useless to anyone, with 350,000 tonnes of clothing going to landfill in the UK every year.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of what we wear is to extend the lifespan of clothing for as long as possible, squeezing the maximum value out of each item, reducing the requirement of further material. For consumers this can be a challenge as we see huge amounts of cheap (but often low quality) items flooding our high streets as the fashion industry demands us to replace or update our wardrobes each season.

Circular supply chains (from Philips Lighting, @philips)

Circular supply chains (from Philips Lighting, @philips)

More and more organisations are realising the need to disrupt the conventional patterns which create huge quantities of waste. One such disruption is the ‘circular economy’. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, the leading voice on the circular economy, works with many well-known companies in different sectors to find ways of changing the current take-make-dispose model that currently dominates. Meanwhile outdoor brand Patagonia leads the way in finding ways to extend the life of clothing through offering repairs and lifetime guarantees while teaching people how to repair and reuse at events around the world.

But the items we buy from the high street aren’t the only source of clothing waste.

Companies, charities, events and conferences routinely purchase branded textile products or promotional materials and clothing as an effective way to indicate a staff member’s affiliation, communicate a marketing message or simply to keep their logo in the eye-line of thousands of potential customers. Clothing produced for this purpose may only be used once since there is a need for companies to update and upgrade their branding for new events, promotions or simply to ensure the brand continues to look “current” or relevant. These items have no value in secondary markets even where they are often shipped to developing countries, with huge quantities of items turning up in landfill sites across the globe.

Environmentally conscious organisations can choose to purchase their branded apparel from certified manufacturers who are making a more positive impact or can source apparel made from environmentally friendly materials such as organic cotton, bamboo or even hemp. However, this often comes at an increased cost and does nothing to solve the issue of items being under-used, their value not being fully realised and ultimately creating more waste.

The humble T-shirt is the most ubiquitous item of clothing in the world, surviving through the generations due to its simplicity and practicality. It’s these qualities which make them an ideal way to demonstrate the power of reuse. Encycled is working to develop promotional t-shirts and textiles that are re-usable by making the item’s branding removable and re-printable. One item can be given a second, third or thirtieth life, hugely reducing its environmental impact, while inspiring us all to create less waste.

Some of the biggest challenges we face might have simple solutions. Next time you attend a conference, festival or trade show, take a look around – what single-use items can you find and how can we best reduce their impact on the earth?

This post was also shared by PPL PWR

Encycled Wins the London City Challenge for Circular Fashion

In December, 2017, Encycled joined 10 other circular fashion innovators in the dragon's den at the London City Challenge for Circular Fashion.

Sponsored by Climate KIC, London College of Fashion, London Legacy Development Corporation, London Waste and Recycling Board, UK Fashion and Textiles Association and Mayor of London- a powerful ecosystem of both public and private entities, the London City Challenge brought together London's top circular fashion entrepreneurs to vie for a grand prize of 10,000€.

We are excited to announce that En.cycle(d) are the winners of the 2017 London City Challenge! We made it out of the dragon's den alive, and with 10,000of seed funding. 

There's still lots of work to be done, and we look forward to the journey ahead. Please get in touch if you would like to partner with En.cycle(d) to promote circularity and a sustainable future world. 

 

 

City Challenge London- Circular Fashion
Encycled Wins London City Challenge

UNLEASH Lab 2017: The Birth of Encycled

In August 2017, 1,000 talents from over 126 countries were invited to Denmark for 9 days to participate in the inaugural UNLEASH Innovation Lab for the SDGs.  

This year’s UNLEASH sought solutions for 7 of the 17 SDGs: Water, Food, Energy, Urban Sustainability, Education and ICT, Health and Sustainable Production and Consumption.

Encycled is a product of UNLEASH Lab. We were born from the Circular Economy sub-theme within Sustainable Production and Consumption (SPC).

So how did this all come to be, and wtf is UNLEASH?

 

Days 1-2: Copenhagen Kick-off

The UNLEASH program kicked-off with a party for all 1,000 talents in Copenhagen's vibrant meatpacking district. The following morning, we gathered at Lokomotivværkstedet, a train station turned raw industrial space, for a day of inspirational speakers, icebreakers, and introductory problem solving exercises.

The biggest take-away from day 1 was this: talent is universal, but opportunity is not. There is diversity in circumstance and diversity in experience. As global citizens who have been granted access to opportunity through our circumstance, it is our duty to create space for others to be able to connect and flourish. We must not ever doubt our ability to change the world!

Day 2 commenced with a warm welcome at Copenhagen City Hall where we delighted in the city's famed pancakes, a treat reserved only for special guests. Following city hall, we visited a community space called Verdenshjørnet to learn from TagTomat, Beyond Coffee and Bugging Denmark, a group of brilliant local start-ups bringing the circular economy to Copenhagen through community-based business models. 

Days 3-7: Innovation Lab

On Day 3, we left Copenhagen and dispersed around Denmark at various Folk High Schools.

For a week, Snoghøj Folk High School became the home for 80 passionate world-changers, eager to change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. As we arrived at Snoghøj and approached the grandiose structure and surrounding natural beauty, we were immediately captured and inspired by it’s magic. We owe great thanks to this magic, for it is the reason that Encycled has come to be.

The UNLEASH innovation process was developed by UNLEASH and Deloitte and, as all good innovation processes do, takes you through a series of gates involving insights, problem framing and solutions canvasing.

Our insight, co-created with our fellow UNLEASHers, was titled ‘The Vicious Cycle’. The Vicious Cycle aims to understand the root causes of over production and over consumption. What we uncovered in our problem framing was incredibly enlightening: the root causes of both over production and over consumption are the same for both producers and consumers.

We devised that the main factors influencing over production are greed (our definition of value derives only from money) and lack of sustainability integration into core business purpose; while similar, the main factors influencing over consumption are greed and lack of sustainability integration into mainstream culture (enough for it to be seen as ‘cool’). Because neither consumers nor producers are held responsible for the excess by government regulation or self-regulation, we are left with a huge problem- WASTE.

This was our aha moment! Although their barriers to sustainability are identical, there are no unifying models where consumers and producers are equally involved in closing the loop. At this point we knew if we could devise a system where both producers and consumers were empowered to be part of the solution simultaneously throughout the product’s lifetime, we would start to see a shift.

Enter: EncycleD

Currently, the circular economy is not fully realised because end of life products are not being utilised as resources and are not being linked to processes that reintroduce them into the cycle for reuse.

When we talk about creating solutions, we always have to consider the potential impact. Within apparel, promotional materials are a big problem. They are single-use, created in copious amounts, touch thousands of people, have no value in secondary markets, and ultimately end-up in landfill.

Pitched as a semi-finalist within the Sustainable Production & Consumption theme, Encycled is a circular service model where businesses can lease branded promotional materials (t-shirts, lanyards, banners, etc) instead of buying them. Encycled realises the circular economy while connecting both producers and consumers as active participants in the life-cycle and after-use destiny of the products.

So, how does it work?!

A customer enters into a contract with Encycled. For example, to lease 1,000 eco-friendly, Fair Trade, custom designed t-shirts for a particular event. Encycled prints and prepares the t-shirts for the event and ships them to the customer. With the help of event participants, after the event, t-shirts are collected in our special event collection bins and shipped back to Encycled, free of charge. A deposit is returned to the customer for every t-shirt collected. Encycled then cleans and prepares the t-shirts for reuse through re-printing. At this stage, the environmental calculator located on each t-shirt can be updated with environmental savings based on the product’s lifetime level of reuse. Encycled then lease the t-shirts to a new client, and the cycle repeats again. We estimate that one t-shirt could undergo 30-40 cycles.

Days 8-9: Culmination and Awards Show

After the final pitches and a ‘dragon’s den’ showdown in Aarhus, Denmark, a total of 7 winning solutions (one from each theme) were selected. After a long week of sleepless nights and hard work, in true UNLEASH style, all 1,000 talents unleashed at Turbinehallen in what one might consider the most epic multi-cultural dance party of all time. On the final day, UNLEASH participants gathered for a formal farewell. Winning solutions pitched to the Danish Royal Family and we heard parting regards and keynotes from inspirational speakers (including Ashton Kutcher).

Aside from being tons of fun, UNLEASH was an incredibly intense program. As Flemming Besenbacher, Chairman of UNLEASH, said during his welcome keynote, ‘you can be bright, you can be clever, but you have to work hard.’ UNLEASH is a call for leadership from all of us to look outside the box and find radical solutions to the world’s toughest problems.

Encycled is our solution.