B Corps Supporting the Circular Economy

Second hand shopping is currently a $28 billion industry and is expected to be bigger than fast fashion by 2029 (NPR). Today, more people realize that thrifting and buying second hand items can be a great way to score high quality items at discounted prices, all while reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a circular economy. Here are some B Corporations that sell or use materials from second hand items.

Better World Books is a book seller that offers free shipping on all used books and donates a book to someone in need for each book sold. According to Green Matters, “in the United States alone, the publishing industry uses about 32 million trees annually to make books” and that “producing books emits over 40 million metric tons of C02 each year” (Green Matters). Better World Books has reused or recycled almost 400 million books, which offsets the demand to produce new books by circulating the millions of books that have already been produced. Their impact goes above and beyond sustainability. Better World Books has raised over $33 million dollars for literacy and libraries and encourages their employees to volunteer by giving them paid time off to do so (Better World Books).

While Better World Books predominantly sells used items, other sellers, like Patagonia produce new items but use buyback programs and other resources to extend the life of their products. They also offer support with repairs and buy back and resell used Patagonia brand items. Their Recrafted Collection features clothes made from old clothes. Their Seconds Collection sells factory seconds that would typically be discarded. Sometimes clothing will have minor imperfections but still be fully functional. These are called factory seconds and can easily end up in a landfill. But Patagonia sells their seconds as part of their Seconds Collection. Buying used can extend a garment’s life by about two years, which cuts its combined carbon, waste, and water footprint by 82%. By keeping their products in use for at least nine extra months, Patagonia can reduce their combined carbon, water and waste footprint by 20-30% (Worn Wear).

There are other brands who incorporate second hand materials in their products in creative ways. One example is Cotopaxi. Their goal is to use repurposed, recycled, or otherwise responsible materials for all their products by 2025. The products in their (Re)Purpose™ Collection use remnant fabric, which is fabric left over from other companies’ larger production runs. They’re also certified carbon neutral.

EcoBirdy, on the other hand, collects and recycles discarded children’s toys. They sell children’s furniture that’s made entirely of recycled plastic from Europe. While other recycling procedures involve adding new plastics, EcoBirdy uses patented technology to create ecothylene plastic, which can be produced exclusively from recycled materials (EcoBirdy). Ecothylene is also 100% recyclable. They also sell the Coral Blanket, which is made from recycled cotton. Each blanket saves up to 5,000 litres of water (EcoBirdy).

Feeling inspired to participate in the circular economy? Here are some ways you can help.

See if you have a Better World Books drop off site near you using this tool.

Learn how to do some repairs on old clothes, among other things using iFixit’s resources (iFixit).

Consider selling back old Patagonia items you no longer need (Patagonia).

Be sure to check out both our conversation with Rebecca Goodstein from Patagonia and our conversation with Dustin Holland from Better World Books on the podcast.

By Bianca Gonzalez, February 10, 2022