It’s hard to justify making more stuff in world that’s already filled to the brim with discarded goods and materials. We really don’t need any new crap, yet we seem to have formed an addiction to newness. We’ve been trained to consume this way while being told, at the same time, it is our responsibility as consumers to fix this crisis through more conscious choices.

Unfortunately ethical consumption practices alone will not work when our economic model is ultimately driven by resource exhaustion. While carbon emissions are, in fact, causing natural disasters on epic proportions never before seen in human history, the onus lies not just with consumers, but with industry titans as well. A swift march towards a circular economy is the only path forward if we intend to have our cake and keep this planet a habitable place for all species.

As individuals, our dollars do indeed still count. Understanding the impact of raw materials and opting to purchase products that are recycled and upcycled is a great place to start when it comes to shifting our habits. The development of raw materials contributes to immense amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and involves toxic chemical processes that poison water and human bodies alike. There are obviously a myriad of issues at play here, the most predominant being the well documented proliferation of fast fashion. When it comes to apparel, “nearly three-fifths of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being produced” according to Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times. Fashion simply is not designed to last and many consumers do not truly understand or appreciate the energy that goes into the creation of any garment. Many businesses are happy to capitalize on this lack of awareness.

Thankfully, there are a handful of businesses and independent designers attempting to address this dilemma and set an example, from high fashion brands like Bode to active wear companies like Patagonia’s Worn Wear. At AOK we are striving to do our part by releasing an upcycled fashion line of our own and avoiding the use of virgin material wherever possible in our production chain. Our process begins by scouring vintage stores in search of materials that still have a lot of life in them. From there, we identify how we can tailor each piece to feel more contemporary. We hope to make these garments relevant once again without seeming obviously upcycled in their design. Alterations can take the form of anything from mending to hemming to naturally dyeing, all with the express purpose of finding each garment a new home that isn’t a landfill.

Waste can so easily be transformed into a resource according to The Guardian’s Environment Editor, John Vidal. The selling of second hand items can also act as an “antidote to the throwaway corporate culture and the chain stores”, serving as a catalyst for local economies. We strongly believe this to be a smarter way to keep “preloved” materials in circulation, while scratching that itch for items that are new to their future owners. We love thinking of clothes as a vehicle for personal and cultural expression, but updating your wardrobe should not have to come at the expense of the earth itself. While we get to choose how to run our business and everyone can choose where they may shop, we hope that our efforts fuel public dialogue and action as well, because ultimately our global community depends on it. If you can’t afford to shop for sustainable option, get involved in a conversation, write your representative or let us know what you think we can do together.