LOS ANGELES — Recycle2Riches President Ashleigh Dawson is on a mission to change the culture of consumption.
Dawson is a former fashion industry intern. Working in the industry, she was shocked at the amount of waste generated. She felt she had to do something, so she launched Recycle2Riches, a nonprofit "upcycle" fashion brand.
"We just took in things that weren't being used from different brands and thrift stores and Goodwill and whatnot. And we took in donations and we upcycled them, adding something to them, took away something, whatnot, made it something new," Dawson said.
Upcycling is defined as recycling something "in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item," or to "create an object of greater value from a discarded object of lesser value."
In the fashion industry, where leftover fabric is a huge issue, the practice helps reduce the impact on landfills and the environment.
Nationwide, about 12.8 million tons of post-consumer clothing are discarded every year, accounting for 6% to 7% of most cities' waste streams.
Dawson learned from designer Maurizio Donadi, who left the corporate world to start two circular companies dedicated to reducing excess by re-engineering reclaimed garments and textiles.
"It is about elimination of what we currently have produced or reduction in the system of production because we definitely are producing more than what we need," Donadi said.
With 35 years in the fashion industry, Donadi said education is the key to reducing the glut of fabric.
"It's not about customers, it's about citizens being well-informed and being given tools and the knowledge to make responsible choices," he said.
Dawson has a compost pile on her roof, another example of a closed-loop system, which is a prong of Recycle2Riches. The nonprofit's biggest goal is to fight climate change by creating closed-loop communities.
"Taking the carbon that is in the atmosphere and bringing it back into the Earth where it belongs is what we need to have. That's the solution, and that's why I say these communities can be the solution," Dawson said.
So whether it's upcycled clothing or composting food, Recycle2Riches is promoting a culture and a shift in human behavior, taking less, and reusing what's been made to help preserve the future of the planet.