Sustainability: Walking the walk and talking the talk

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Words by Matthew Benjamin, Founder and CEO of Kapes

Climate change and pollution have become the greatest threat to humankind and our environment. Overconsumption and overproduction are now the biggest factors depleting our natural resources.

According to the Global Footprint Network, an international research organization promoting the science of sustainability, in 1961, humanity used only 73 percent of the biological resources that Earth could renew that year. In 2020, humanity currently uses 160 percent of what Earth’s biocapacity can renew – that’s as much as if we lived on 1.6 planets. But, alas, we only have one and it requires us to have an urgent shift in people’s behaviours by raising environmental awareness and acting responsibly as a whole to save our planet.

Sustainability has been reverberating for years yet fast fashion and ephemeral styles have created a wasteful trend resulting in damaging environmental consequences. To tackle overconsumption, we must educate and empower the next generation to become more conscious consumers. We can start by giving products a second life, or by introducing the idea of sustainable clothing and school uniforms, for instance. Recent studies, in the UK, have shown that increasing the active life of all clothing by nine months would reduce the annual carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing by 20 to 30 percent each, and cut resource costs by an outstanding AED 23 billion.  

School uniforms are often an overlooked part of the retail and sustainability industry, despite the fact that between the ages of five and 18, the clothing worn the most is a school uniform. Furthermore, due to the fact that children grow out of them so quickly or wear through them, the environmental impact is huge. These garments, typically made from virgin synthetic fibres, like polyester, end up in landfills where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. 

Today, conscious consumers are transforming their behaviours and encouraging second-hand buying. It may be the most responsible way to consume clothes; it requires less energy, its resources are used to their full potential and the clothing doesn’t go directly to landfills after one time use.

With better regulation and consumer awareness, the current landscape in fashion and the textile world, in general, will certainly improve. Taking school uniforms as the main example, uniting parents and educators and educating children will drive much needed change. At Kapes, that is exactly its mission: empowering children to become change-makers by encouraging them to be more connected to the things they buy, the people that make them, and the places they are made. Developing school uniforms using sustainable materials, it can also be a key tool for educating the current and future generations about sustainability.

According to a recent survey conducted in the UAE, 64 percent of 250 parents surveyed, with children aged between six and 16 who attend private schools, had purchased second-hand school uniform items for their children. However, in the same study, 22 percent of parents had not purchased second-hand uniform items for their children simply because they did not know where to find them. Finally, out of the 250 parents surveyed, over 86 percent felt that sustainability is important to them and shared a common goal with Kapes – take forward the agenda, reduce emission and support the community. Therefore, it is clear that awareness of sustainable school uniforms is evolving and demand for pre-worn clothing is increasing. All it takes is the right education regarding availability and quality for parents to be more inclined to support such eco-friendly initiatives. 

An embodiment of this principle is Kapes’ recycled uniforms service whereby parents are motivated to return uniforms once they’ve been outgrown. The goal here is to create a secondary market that can generate additional revenue for schools while reducing costs for parents and helping to save the planet by extending the life of each product. By returning a piece of clothing or a child’s school uniform, not only are we diverting waste but we are backing up the importance with which we regard sustainability with actual sustainable action, and setting an example within our community. 

About Kapes:

Kapes, the homegrown sustainable school uniforms brand, launched in the UAE in September 2020, offering schools, parents and children ethically made school uniforms, free from harmful chemicals. Ethically produced in certified working conditions, Kapes uniforms are made in their entirety from quality sustainable materials, including GOTs certified organic cotton, recycled wool, recycled polyester, regenerated nylon, recycled ocean plastics and using only eco-friendly dyes. In addition, each school uniform is collected when outgrown to give them a new purpose as a pre-loved item, reducing emissions and supporting the community.