I recently got connected with Lauren Junestand via Instagram. And it quickly became clear that our research-areas are interlinked. I am intrigued by Lauren’s focus on the post-consumer waste challenge and her determination to identify the obstacles that hinder reuse of discarded clothes.
Lauren is a Ph.d. candidate at London College of Fashion in the field of sustainable consumption with a specific focus on second-hand practices. She is particularly fascinated about the idea of converting ‘trash’ to ‘treasure’ and ‘old’ to ‘new’. Her platform CLOOP PROJECTS aims to promote ‘closing the loop’ in fashion through reuse.
In this interview, Lauren talks about her research and about her view on the current most severe environmental challenges.
What does sustainability mean to you?
I find myself wondering almost everyday what the purpose of the current system is. I really find it contradictory how the current system has the purpose of growth, but surprisingly, it is significantly destructive.
We are undergoing an exponential human and climate crisis, and we only continue to aggravate it. We are borrowing and destroying the planets resources without asking and exploiting people around the world for the one and only purpose of growing our numbers. But what many people don’t seem to understand is that while those numbers grow, our natural and human systems are under a significant pressure. Only because we don’t see it with our own eyes, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Are we really going to wait until this is all over?
These facts have been scientifically proven, there are not just words. Yet, we don’t seem to tackle the problem.
I find it so important to, as humans, aim to find that connection with people and nature and bring this with us as a ‘backpack’ on our everyday, and try to adapt our lifestyle to these two essential pillars. I know myself that the current system doesn’t make it easy, and that it is constantly reminding us of doing the opposite, but it is only if we change, that the system (led by us) will change.
Behind the word sustainability I see so much. I see a connection with Earth and people and a deep understanding of why things need to be done in a different way. Putting our planet and our people at the center of every decision. It is only then that sustainability will be translated into action, and that it will adopt a real meaning.
For me, the word sustainability doesn’t mean anything when it’s on a label or on a company report. It becomes alive when I see that people are taking action and really understanding why it is necessary to take that action. Collaborating within and across sectors to fight this crisis, and to move beyond the current purpose.
What is the goal with your research?
Linked to the aforementioned challenges, I embarked myself on a research journey to fight towards a more sustainable world. I am now a PhD candidate student at London College of Fashion, receiving the support of experts in the area of sustainable fashion.
Coming from a fashion background, I have always felt very responsible of the social and environmental impact of the industry. I didn’t want to belong to a sector that was destroying. I wanted to help this sector to live in conjunction with natural and human systems.
My research focuses on reuse. As everyone might know, the post-consumer waste challenge is one of the biggest environmental issues we are facing within the sector. These crazy amounts of discarded clothing end up incinerated or landfilled, resulting in emissions of polluting gases, a driving force towards climate change. I present reuse as a solution to post-consumer waste and anthropogenic pollution. But also, as a system that will avoid the environmental and social challenges involved in all the prior stages of the current supply-chain, from raw materials to garment manufacturing. It will avoid the production of new, and consequently: water use, water pollution, land degradation, health issues, sea and air transportation, unfair working conditions or the use of chemicals, among others.
More specifically, in a reuse system an essential pillar is the user. The user is the one using again the garment of clothing. Without the potential user, this system won’t work. But, at the same time, consumers find so many barriers towards rewearing clothes. I am interested in identifying and understanding these barriers, because only by understanding them, can the fashion sector understand where there is a need to strategise to promote this system. I will explore consumers on a cross-national level: UK, Sweden and Spain. This will also help me understand if there are differences and similarities cross-nationally.
What do you view as the biggest environmental problem?
For me one of the biggest environmental problems is waste. Although, I am aware that there are many other environmental problems.
I have chosen waste because of all the consequences it brings with it. As mentioned before, landfilling and incineration involve the emission of polluting gases, that do not only harm the environment but also the health of the people involved in the process .
Climate change leads to global warming, hence to extreme weather conditions, ice-melting, sea-level rise, animal migration, land degradation, precipitation, etc.
Furthermore, waste is a localised problem that can cause extreme consequences, all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole.