• Cheryne Lauraly Fourdrigniez

Businesses launched during lockdown are benefiting the environment

Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Lockdown is doing more good to the environment than you might think. And with more time on their hands, three people have turned their hobbies into online businesses – all hoping to raise awareness on the importance of using upcycled materials.

By Cheryne Lauraly Fourdrigniez

One Man’s Trash – upcycled leather earrings

Anna Cottle, 37-year-old business owner of One Man’s Trash, says that she picked up upcycling back in 2014 as a way of blowing off steam after a busy day at the office, working in events. When the events fell through the floor back in March 2020, she decided to ramp up her love for upcycling and launched her own Etsy store.

Based in London, she now sells unique earrings out of leather bits that would’ve probably been thrown away. The brand owner has an array of earrings on her Etsy store which includes £10 pink and blue mermaid tail shaped earrings, £14 animal print earrings and £19 metallic pink breast cancer awareness earrings – hoping to raise money for the Royal Marsden Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Cottle says that the clothing waste statistics that come out of the UK and the US are “absolutely horrendous”. In the UK alone, over 350,000 tones of clothing are thrown away in a year, according to WRAP - the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme. Meanwhile, animal product waste is so high because the leather and meat industries are not in line with each other, says Cottle, who is a vegetarian. That’s because the demand for meat is a lot higher than it is for leather. According to a Savills research article, there’s been a 9% increase in the consumption of meat. That’s for beef alone.

“The animals that are killed for meat, their skins are thrown away, whereas animals that are killed for leather, the skin is kept, and the meat is thrown away,” Cottle says. The business owner doesn’t drive any new demand for materials. Instead, people donate any unwanted leather that might either be damaged or stained. The only way to reduce the UK’s ‘throwaway culture’ is to make recycling as user friendly as possible, she says. If not, people are going to continue being lazy and throw things away - because it’s more convenient. 

Sustainable Stitches – upcycled pet accessories

Aimee Daniel, a 27-year-old opera singer, is also passionate about upcycling - for pets. During lockdown, she started her business Sustainable Stitches, which fashions pet accessories from upcycled fabrics.

One striped bow tie on Etsy sells for £7.50 and can be customised with your dog’s initials. She also sells a green tweed dog bandana for £6.00 and a polka dot bandana which can be personalised for just an extra £2.00.

“People either donate their unwanted clothes, or I would get my own bits from charity shops or Depop,” says Daniel.

She also says, “After having worked in the retail industry and seeing how easy it is for clothing companies to just throw stuff away, it just really got into my skin.”

The Clean Clothes Campaign states that in 2018, three out of five fast fashion items ended up in the bin. “That’s just absolutely crazy to me,” Daniel says frankly.

“For me, using any of those little scraps and putting as much out of landfill as possible, is the basis of what I want to do, I love the bits that people don’t want,” she adds.

After finding out that it takes 13 years to drink the amount of water it takes to make one t-shirt and one pair of jeans, she says that she was really taken by surprise.

“There are people without water in the world, what gives us the right to make these items that we’re just going to throw away?” she says. She also admits that she never went into this to make money, “it gets recycled back into the business anyway”.

Although Daniel says that she would love for Sustainable Stitches to expand, “what’s also important is that message of sustainability”. She’s also hoping to raise money each month for different charities.

Bravo Design – upcycled fashion

A master's degree project became a lifeline for Cristina Bravo, 35, who studied fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University and now runs her own Etsy shop.

Hoping to help reduce some of the fashion industries worst problems, she came up with Bravo Design – an Etsy store dedicated to all sorts of upcycled fashion pieces.

“I was having a crisis because I really like fashion but at the same time, I don’t want to contribute to the issues that the industry is bringing to the planet and the people working in the industry,” says Bravo.

The business owner sells a range of items including clothing, hair accessories, bags, face masks and pillows - all from upcycled fabrics donated through friends and that would’ve otherwise been destined for landfill.

On her Etsy store, you can find an £8 ‘African Waxed Fabric Tote Bag,’ which you can personalise with a primary colour and pattern of choice. She also sells a multicoloured fanny pack made from vintage clothes for £15.99

Although Bravo Design is just a side-line for the owner, she is hoping to grow her business further and start educating people on the importance of sustainability.