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Wearing Knits and the Circular Economy

You might ask, what do knits and the circular economy have to do with one another?

Up until a few months ago, I would have asked myself the same thing. Or maybe I wouldn't have, because connecting these dots would've led me around in circles.

Knits, or more specifically, wool knits, are an item that, as an animal by-product, I had stopped wearing and buying four years ago. The circular economy was something that I couldn't have defined myself four months ago.

The dots connected when I learnt exactly what a circular economy was. My perspective shifted, my approach changed, and first item back in my life was the first one kicked out:

knits.

To start it off, the circular economy is a model where an item, after having been processed, manufactured, distributed, purchased, and used, is not going straight to the landfill. This economy sees an item being repaired, repurposed and re-used instead of being discarded.

Having been an avid thrift shopper since high school, and becoming an enthusiastically creative zero-waster, the mindset of purchasing with longevity and versatility in mind came naturally. I have been excited to learn about ways to employ the five Rs of zero-waste in my life, and this economy makes this approach feel more than something the environmentalists are doing 'just for fun'.

Becoming conscious of the circular economy made me look at items much more critically. It has changed my purchasing patterns, and probably saved me a fair amount of money. Something that I didn't anticipate though, was how this brought two of my values up against one another.

Ethics vs Environment

Four years ago, my belief in the ethical treatment of living beings changed the way I consumed. It tugged me away from any product or piece containing animal products or by-products, such as wool, leather or silk. For the most part, it was fine. I downsized my closet and was able to do without, in most cases.

Where I ran into difficulties was during the winter. Living in Canada made living without leather or wool more challenging. While I was able to navigate without, and purchased items that were cruelty-free - I can't say that these items were the most sustainable option, or even a sustainable option. But at that point, the ethical treatment of animals was number one in my mind.

Fast forward about three years, and my sustainability and zero-waste journey has gained traction. As I've learnt about sustainable living, my previous cruelty-free purchases have started to look less like items and more like future tenants of a landfill or ocean. They are items that align with my ethics, but that don't coincide with my love for our planet.

This is when I learnt about this economy, and when wool circled back into my life.

The circular economy has made me realize how to give and take from each value in ways that are forgiving of one another yet still aligned. Buying a wool sweater from a second-hand shop exemplifies the act of giving and taking.

Consuming animal products is taking from my ethical values, but buying a sweater from a second-hand store is giving to my love for the planet. My purchase doesn't create a demand for another animal product, but does give it a second, and circular, life.

The circular economy makes a lot of sense to me. And, it makes a lot of sense to people everywhere, especially in Finland. The Finns see their items with a circular lifeline in mind, and the government has been leading the country to adopt this economy on a national scale.

I'd love to see this happen here, and will keep wearing wool until I do.

J.

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