August 23, 2021
We get so many questions around this topic, so here goes...
There is a hierarchy among all of these ‘Re’ words. Some are more important than others and need to be tried first. We all share limited resources, we are all facing incredible challenges like climate change and rampant biodiversity loss. If we want to save our civilisation then we can’t just stand still, we have to do more. We have to actively solve problems and bring back a balance, a harmony with the natural world, and a deep and abiding respect for all people.
This means that your activities are actively making the world better. You are not depleting natural resources, you are building them up. You aren’t exploiting people, you are fostering communities. Elvis & Kresse have moved to our new HQ, New Barns Farm, in order to launch a regenerative agricultural project; along with producing lovely crops (grapes and wine in our case) our main aim is to increase topsoil, sequester carbon into the soil, improve overall soil health and design for biodiversity and complexity. This will be a regenerative farm.
We need to slow down. We need to think long and hard about what we are buying and why we are buying it. Who made it? Were they paid well? How was it made? Was it energy intensive or chemically intensive? What are the overall impacts of this product?
We don’t need clothing to be delivered in an hour, we don’t need items that we only intend to wear once. We need to reduce our consumption and take pride in what we do own. We need to cherish raw materials, water, food… our lives literally depend on it.
This is the category of Reuse. Essentially this means that you are not making a material change, you are using the material as it is. Elvis & Kresse rescue or reclaim all of our materials. We collect them when they are considered waste by their custodians and we take on the challenge to re-invent them. But we don’t alter the materials. Take our fire-hose for example. We don’t shred it, melt it, and make a new material. We don’t dye it or treat it with chemicals. We cut it, we clean it, we split it, we cut it again and then we sew it or rivet it, making new goods from old materials. As our pieces are more valuable than the decommissioned hoses we started with our work is considered to be upcycling. You could also say that we repurpose our materials, because we give materials that had one life a completely different future.
We are also kind of second because our choices are designed to help you reduce consumption. We don’t use virgin materials, which means we are reducing the overall burden of creating something new from something new. We don’t make seasonal collections either, which means we don’t want you to replace the belt you bought last year with a new design. We want you to keep your belt on your jeans until your jeans die and then move your belt to your next pair. If you grow or shrink we will help you grow or shrink your belt accordingly. We make classic pieces, not this season’s trends, we want them to work for you year in, year out.
This is the practice of collecting materials back, breaking them up into their constituent molecules and starting again. The recycling of metal globally is somewhat efficient; we collect, melt and re-manufacture steel and aluminium particularly well but there are rare earth metals that we are recycling at rates much lower than 30%. The recycling of plastic is patchier still. A whopping 91% of plastic just does not get recycled. If it is recyclable but does not get recycled, then what is the point?
Whether that be in an incinerator (even if it is an incinerator that produces electricity as a by-product it is still a total defeat to be burning precious resources), a landfill site, or illegal dumping.
This is where we are. In the UK we fail to recycle 2 billion aluminium cans each year because we put these cans in the wrong bins. We also litter (i.e. we illegally dump) 16 million aluminium cans each year into the landscape where they, along with other littered drinks containers, lead to the deaths of 3-4 million small mammals (just one of the many facts that spurred us on to invent a solar forge). This is a truly noble material that is perfectly recyclable. Recycled aluminium is more than 90% less energy intensive to generate than new, mined aluminium. So even if recycling is the 4th best practise it is still absolutely crucial.
Learn to love your 'Re' words, learn the hierarchy. Regenerate, reduce, reuse, recycle…
Elvis & Kresse started with reusing, and then embedded reducing along the way. Now we are on this farm to regenerate... Slowly but surely we are working our way towards the best solutions.