Make responsible shopping choices in Helsinki

A young woman, facing towards the camera, is browsing through a rail of recycled clothes.
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Increasingly, more and more consumers with sustainable values are on the look-out for second hand products or ones made from recycled materials. Offering durable products as well as repair and maintenance services are quickly becoming part of the policy of many stores. Sustainable shopping opportunities can be found at Kämp Garden and Pure Waste for instance.

Over-the-top consumption has in many ways reached the end of its journey. Fast fashion and a throw-away culture are responsible for huge amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, and producers need to receive fair compensation for their labour, as well as decent working conditions. Shoppers should be mindful of where and what they consume.

Think tank Demos Helsinki's Senior Expert Satu Lähteenoja lists points that shoppers should take into account.

"Does the store sell used items and is it possible to also borrow or rent? And does the store take in items to be repaired or reused?"

According to Lähteenoja, clothing stores have already seen a big change. Shops sell more and more second hand items as well as garments and other items made from recycled materials. There are also several fashion libraries in Helsinki where customers can borrow clothes.

Lähteenoja says that Finnish shops are quite advanced in terms of recycling efforts, and many recycle even more than what the local municipality requires. There is however plenty of work to be done, and in the future it is more and more important to consider what to do with unsold items.

"There has been a lot of discussion about this topic, but clear criteria are yet to be formed. This is absolutely a theme that needs to be examined even more carefully in the future", says Lähteenoja.

Shopping at Garden
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Garden's fashion shops promote sustainable living together

Garden is a centre for Finnish fashion in the heart of Helsinki. Its participants include forward-thinking brands, restaurants and a gallery showcasing rising talent. The Garden is managed by Juni Communication, whose cofounder Miia Koski explains that the stores encourage each other also in questions of sustainability.

"A number of the brands have a wider active scope on this topic, which also inspires others. In addition, themes of sustainability are also considered in the events that we host. Almost all the represented brands offer maintenance and repair services, and the textile brand Arela also sells used clothing in its store in campaigns."

At an event at Garden held in May 2019, the brands held workshops on materials and clothing maintenance. The programme also included presentations on ecological consumption.

According to Koski, the customer plays an important role in the equation. Active dialogue is encouraged at the Garden in order to deepen knowledge and action, and to learn to be better together.

The Think Sustainably service has encouraged Garden to make changes inside their premises to diminish the environmental burden. When it turned out that the electricity contracts of individual shops could not be altered, Koski contacted Ilmarinen, the company that owns the building. At the end, the whole shared electricity contract was changed following the wish of Garden.   

"The electricity and district heating providers were both changed to providers that use renewable sources. The process to change the contracts was in the end very quick after our inquiry", Koski rejoices.

Costo x Pure Waste Concept Store 1
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One person's trash is Pure Waste's treasure

 All clothing items at Pure Waste are made from 100% recycled material.

"That is the core of our work and we make no compromises here", says Pure Waste's founder and head of marketing Hannes Bengs.

Pure Waste was born from the idea of making fabric from recycled materials. The Helsinki-based company buys waste cuttings left over from the textile industry in India, tears it apart mechanically and mixes it with recycled polyester composed of old plastic bottles. Instead of just producing fabric, from the get go Pure Waste made clothing from the fabric.

"We started with the most sold item in the world, the t-shirt", says Bengs.

Nowadays Pure Waste's selection is a mix of basic items from sweatpants to shirts, and you can encounter these also in the selection of other brands, such as in Makia's private label products.

The textile recycling pioneer is very specific about its own environmental burden and social responsibility.

"It is not a choice to act irresponsibly. Our corporate culture is dotted with sustainability issues from small everyday details to the wider picture in production. We always look at logistics as a whole, we pack our products using reusable materials and very densely. In Helsinki our packages our delivered by bike messengers."

In India, the clothes are made at Pure Waste's own factory where employees are paid even double what others in the region receive.

"We organise commutes to work for our employees and we have set up areas in the yard of the factory for planting. The region is very dry otherwise, which makes growing anything difficult. Our employees enjoy long term work contracts and this is a great advantage to us", Bengs explains.

Pure Waste is at the forefront in solving the enormous waste challenge of the clothing industry. According to Bengs, the solutions at hand now are only the beginning.

"Textile recycling is still in its infancy. In the future, we can do a lot more with surplus textiles and factory waste."  

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In this arena, the carbon footprint is reduced by moving beyond fast fashion and throw-away culture. In addition, producers need to be ensured fair compensation and fair working conditions. 

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In shopping, the carbon footprint is reduced by moving beyond fast fashion and throw-away culture. Helsinki offers sustainable shopping opportunities at Kämp Garden and Pure Waste for instance.