Shopping For Change: How Putting Our Money Where Our Values Are Can Create Real Change

If we want to be a positive force in the world and create a real change, we need to look no further than our own wallet. Our money can make or break a business and we can use our power as consumers to demand change in the world by supporting business that supports our values.

Words by Katrine Lee Larsen, Copenhagen Cartel

Plastic Paradise

Imagine Bali. A tropical paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It is a beautifully sunny day, and I have decided to enjoy it by grabbing my surfboard and hitting the waves. I slip off my sandals and feel the warm sand beneath my feet as I walk towards the ocean. The sunshine catches the surface of the water and bursts into a million fragments of sparkling diamonds as far as the eye can see.

It is pure bliss.  

But, as I paddle away from the beach, submerging my arms in the water, my fingers brush against something beneath the surface. I look down and there it is… plastic waste. Can you guess how many pieces of plastic that are currently floating around in our oceans? It’s not a million, not a billion, but over 5 trillion pieces of plastic! It is unimaginable but true. And it is not just floating around undisturbed; Plastic waste causes a severe threat to marine life, especially dumped fishing gear and abandoned ghost nets.

In my research, I found that there are around 640,000 tons of fishing nets floating around in the ocean. According to a 2018 study in Scientific Reports, ghost nets make up at least 46 % of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Every year ghost nets are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. 

Photo by Paul Kennedy

The deadly effects of ghost nets can even be felt far from their point of origin because they drift with ocean currents for years or even decades. As the nets travel vast distances, they continue to catch and kill marine animals in a process called “ghost fishing”. Because most modern fishing nets are made of nylon or other plastic compounds, they are incredibly durable. Ultimately, they can drift around the oceans for ages, continuing the circle of devastation for decades.

I might have discovered the problem in Bali, but travel anywhere around the world, and you will see that the issue of plastic pollution has affected every corner of our planet. 

Can a bikini solve the problem?

After living on Bali, I understood the true impact of plastic pollution, and how it spelt bad news for our planet, especially for our oceans. Therefore, before leaving Bali, I promised myself that I had to contribute to finding a solution somehow.

That is how Copenhagen Cartel was created. 

Copenhagen Cartel is created from a desire to provide a better choice for swimwear, by providing a range of high-quality, long-lasting products that supports the compelling story of changing something from waste to wear. Our philosophy is based on being environment-friendly by being smart with the planets precious resources, while closing the loop and turning a problem into a solution. 

Our swimwear is made of recycled ocean-plastic – mainly the dangerous ghost nets that floats around the oceans carried by the currents killing thousands of marine animals in their path.  The use of ghost nets to create our swimwear helps in three ways; It reduces the amount of plastic that floats around in our oceans, it saves ocean wildlife, and it fees harmful waste back into production cycles to create beautiful swimwear that can be worn over and over again. 

Not only does our process reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans, but it also demands far less energy and crude oil in the production process than when producing virgin nylon. To put it in numbers; For every 10,000 tons of raw material, we save 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoid 57,100 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions. Of course, it is important to remember that recycled plastic is not – on its own – a perfect solution. We know that a bikini is not going save the world – but it is a good place to start. 

What is the problem?

Our current society is based upon a linear model, which means that most products are mass-produced with low quality. As a result, the use and abuse of the natural environment and resources have a destructive impact on the planet. 

It is no longer a secret that we are using the planet’s resources at a rate that is killing both it and us, and one of the best ways to take care of the resources of our planet is to reuse the products and materials we already have available to us. 

Let us dive into the world of bikinis and bathing suits. Swimwear is usually made of nylon and lycra. It takes coal, oil and gasses and huge amounts of water to create the synthetic fibres. To top it off poisonous chemicals make the fibres into fabrics – also a process that creates big Co2 emissions. In short – creating swimwear from scratch is a process that is harmful to our surroundings. 

In addition, the swimwear business is booming right now. According to Allied Market Research the global swimwear market was valued at $18,454 million in 2017 and is projected to reach $28,148 million by 2024. The way I see it, we are looking at vast production plans that can do a lot of damage if we choose the path of quick mass production. And swimwear is just a fraction of the products that are manufactured around the world. 

As a consumer, our choices have an impact on the production to come. Supporting the business that makes conscientious decisions to not only produce sustainably but chooses better options for everything from their packaging to collaborations can shift the production model our society is based on and turn it towards sustainable solutions. Because money is power. 

We only have one planet with finite resources

The time to demand change really is now. 

Our consumption and production patterns are problematic because we only have one planet with finite resources. If we continue to consume and produce at the current rate, there will come a day when the Earth can no longer provide us with the resources necessary to fulfil our needs and wants. Therefore, we must adopt sustainable patterns of consumption and production and implement immediate solutions to alleviate some of our pressure on the planet.

For example, human activity has pushed extinction rates of animals and plants far above the long-term average. It has also increased the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the fastest pace in 66 million years and resulted in so much plastic ending up in the waterways that microplastic particles are now omnipresent – yes, even in us humans.

My mission is to create a holistic and sustainable brand. “Holistic” in how we are mindful about what, how and how much we produce so that Earth’s resources are used judiciously and preserved for future generations. “Sustainable” by contributing to help reduce the plastic in our oceans and create a full circle production. 

What many of us forget or perhaps just don’t realize is that sustainability is not just about using organic fibres and slapping the term “sustainable” on the hangtag. In my opinion, creating a sustainable production is just as important. The fibre might be organic, but if the production methods involved exert extreme stress on the planet and its resources, then the final product is not particularly sustainable. Even our postal bags, hangtags and hygiene patches in our swimwear is produced from reused and environmentally friendly materials. It is possible to create truly sustainable brands and for you as a consumer it is your prerogative to demand it. 

In the grand scheme of things, it is easy to lose hope or to think that you cannot make a difference. But you must never forget the impact of a purchase and the power you have as a consumer. 

So next time you are shopping, do your research. Pay close attention to how brands use the term “sustainability”. Do they really mean it and prove it? Does the brand take initiatives with the fabrics used? Are they committed to ethical and sustainable production practices? Who do they work with?

Asking these questions and letting them guide us in our shopping are small steps that can lead to big things and pave the way for a more sustainable future. 

Copenhagen Cartel currently has a pop-up shop in Kompagnistræde 17, Copenhagen from 1st of July until 28th of August, where its possible to see, try and buy the whole collection. 

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