This Fashion Company Turns Toxic Trash into Trendy Textiles

On an otherwise reasonable evening in July, over 600 people packed an auditorium in Boulder, Colorado, for the culmination of the 2015 Unreasonable Institute. They came to watch 12 ventures take the stage and present their solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

The entrepreneur in this video is Rachel Faller of tonlé.

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What urgent need do you address?

What you might know is that the majority of the world’s textiles are made from acrylic, spandex, polyester, nylon, and latex. What you probably don’t know is that most of our clothes contain petroleum. For every garment you’re wearing, an equal amount of waste went into a landfill, was dumped into the ocean, or was burned in the process, totaling 50 million tons of garment waste per year. The garment industry is the second largest polluter in the world, dumping exorbitant amounts of toxins into the environment through wasted fabric. Furthermore, the garment industry is known for its exploitation of workers.

What solution do you propose?

We have to wear the change we want to see in the world. Tweet This Quote

Tonlé is an ethical, zero-waste fashion design and production company based in Cambodia. We have developed a process that utilizes garment scraps and turns them into new garments. With smaller strips, we weave them into new fabric to create bags, scarves, and jewelry. With the small amount left over after that, we create paper. Each year, we recycle 22,000 pounds of fabric, saving 154,000 pounds of carbon from going into the atmosphere and 46 million gallons of water. We also pay fair wages, give good benefits, and offer training opportunities for our workers. We have 25 retail partners around the world, four boutiques in Cambodia, and online channels selling to thousands of customers. The only way to change the garment industry is from the inside out, so we make our products comfortable, stylish, and affordable. In order to solve this problem, we have to wear the change we want to see in the world.

Want to take action?

Click Here to Shop at Tonle!

About the author

Unreasonable Institute

Unreasonable Institute

The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so.

  • Jamie Valentine

    I had no idea textiles are the second largest polluter in the world. I had heard of fast fashion and that there was a lot of waste being produced; but I had no idea of the scale. I try to buy much of my clothing items at thrift stores, but this article certainty makes me want to make more of an effort to do so and to be happy with what I already have.

  • Ashley White

    Jamie, I agree. I had no idea either. I really liked their last statement of “we have to wear the change.” I think what we wear is quite an indication of our own efforts in sustainability. I know that I am at fault of where my clothes come from. I do not know how much waste goes into making clothes either.

  • shazi

    we have to wear the change we wish to see in the world. I love this. This is a way of putting meaning into our choices and transactions in this consumocratic society.

  • andrefbruton

    Please change from Vimeo to YouTube. At least we can view YouTube videos on a slow connection. Vimeo just does not work…

  • Kaitlin J

    The statistic about the fashion industry as the second largest polluter in the world is shocking, but it’s awesome that companies like tonle (and Everlane, and Eileen Fisher, and a couple of others) are taking on this problem. Some hard-to-address issues that remain here are how to either make sustainable clothes truly affordable/produced on a larger scale so that more people can purchase them, or how to educate consumers so that they understand the true cost of clothing and are willing to spend a bit more on their clothing. To tonle’s credit, their clothing is relatively affordable (although again, in an H&M world not all consumers will see it that way), and the outfits are pretty cute!