What if everything you bought—from your phone to your clothes to your dining room table—was made to be infinitely repaired and remade? Circularity is the essence of nature: resources like water and energy are passed from one organism to the next. It is a process which generates no “waste,” because everything is (re)used. So what if our systems for making things mimicked nature’s systems? We’re joined by designer Korina Emmerich and writer Emily Stochl to discuss the climate impact of the fashion industry, the changes we must make to support a more sustainable future—and how we can while still having fun expressing ourselves through fashion. Together, we’ll explore how to make the ways that we shop and live, a little more circular.
Korina Emmerich | EMME Studio | Founder, Designer
Emily Stochl | Remake | Advocacy Manger
Leslie Collins | Meta | Responsible Supply Chain
Jonathan Rowe | Meta | Data Center Sustainability
SOPHIA LI: You’re listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta.
The climate crisis is the most pressing issue facing every one and every industry. And on this show, we make talking about the climate a conversation that everyone is invited to.
Together, we can create a healthier relationship with nature, which, you know, includes us.
I’m Sophia Li. I’m a journalist, a film director, and a climate optimist. My life’s work is to make talking about the climate more accessible, more digestible, and more human. I’ll be your guide as we reframe the way we talk about the climate, and understand the best courses of action to take together. Let’s do this.
SOPHIA LI: In order to fully address the climate crisis, we need to radically rethink the ways that we live, work, make and consume. A new way of living is the model of the circular economy, which proposes that “circularity” will reduce the impact on our natural resources, conserve materials, and inspire innovation.
But what does “circularity” even mean? And how is it different from recycling or up-cycling?
Think about the life cycle of a tree. It starts out as a tiny seed.
To grow, it draws water and nutrients from the earth, and energy from the sun.
When a tree dies, it eventually falls to the forest floor, and as it starts to decompose, it gives energy and nutrients to fungi, moss, and all other kinds of organisms.
In a way, when the tree dies, it also comes back as a new life—in a new form—as a mushroom, a beetle, you name it.
This cycle is the essence of nature, the bedrock upon which all stable ecosystems are built on: resources constantly being regenerated. Unfortunately, our economy isn’t built that way—at least, not now. Just think about it: disposable cups, single-use plastics, fashion collections 16x a year leading to seasonal trends – which encourages us to get rid of our perfectly good things and replace them with new ones.
Welcome to consumerism. Phones and appliances that stop working after just a couple of years.
Much of that waste simply can’t go back into the market, because of the way it was designed, manufactured, or even marketed.
But all that waste has to go somewhere… and no matter how responsible we are in disposing of it, there are always consequences for our earth and its ecosystems. And for us, too, as humans.
All of this waste can feel like the norm, but that’s not true. Waste wasn’t always the norm. Our current way of consuming requires us to reframe our way of thinking around the way we design, produce, and buy goods. Considering the entire life cycle of a product.
This is what’s known as the circular economy: the push to move from a linear path, where resources are extracted and consumed to create products that are then discarded, to a circular path where the life cycle of those resources can be infinite.
So we asked you: What’s one thing you wish you could keep forever and didn’t have to always replace?
Person 1: One thing I wish I didn’t have to replace is clothes.
Person 2: Toothpaste.
Person 3: Toothbrush.
Person 4: Garbage bags.
Person 5: Sketch pad, drawing pad.
Person 6: Mine would be LaCroix cans. It’s like our whole trash can is LaCroix.
Person 7: My shoes.
Person 8: My car.
Person 9: Maybe, deodorant?
Person 10: I wish my phone were easier to upgrade so I didn’t have to replace it every year.
SOPHIA LI: And what about a car? I once had to send an entire car to a landfill, just because one of the parts wasn’t replaceable.
In contrast, my all time favorite piece in my apartment is my dining room table. The wood was reclaimed from the rooftop of a church in my neighborhood, and now it’s where I have dinner every night. Maybe in a next life… it can be a hardwood floor in my future home.
But to truly address the climate crisis, our individual actions aren’t enough—we need to pressure every institution, company, and government to adopt the principles of circularity, and work to form a more sustainable and regenerative economy.
Each week on Climate Talks, we’re taking on sustainability from a different angle: from carbon emissions to water restoration. In this episode, we’re talking about circularity.
How does it relate to sustainability, and how can we make this the norm?
Joining us today are Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl, two people who are passionate about sustainability, and are working to make the way we shop and consume a little more circular.
SOPHIA LI: But first. Our partners at Meta are committed to embedding circular principles into how they design, build, and operate all along their supply chain. Let’s hear how they’re approaching this work.
JONATHAN ROWE: My name is Jonathan Rowe, and I lead our data center design, engineering, and construction sustainability program.
LESLIE COLLINS: Hi, I am Leslie Collins, and I lead the responsible supply chain program.
JONATHAN ROWE: So I think of the circular economy as one where we are moving away from a model of making stuff, using it, disposing it, to something where we are more mindful of keeping materials, resources out of landfills and continuing to be useful for people. How can we use less stuff in the first place? How can we use better stuff? And then what are ways that we can be thoughtful about design to keep that stuff out of landfill by designing for durability, disassembly, reuse so that things aren’t just ending up in holes in our land?
LESLIE COLLINS: The most sustainable hardware is the one that we don’t need to buy new. There is many ways that we can think about using what we have even longer. And especially, I think, here in the US, with our resources being so plentiful that it can become easy to just buy new off the shelf things or replace a phone every few years. But making that mind shift even in very small ways is going to make a substantial difference.
JONATHAN ROWE: The best piece of advice I have for anybody interested in how they can have more circularity in their lives is questioning that instinct that you need something new. I moved to San Francisco about 15 years ago and granted, I know in lots of places this may not be possible, but in San Francisco, I remember walking around as a very young and kind of poor architect in an expensive city, being surprised by how many things there were just like out on the street, people moving and just leaving a couch or a bookshelf or a lamp out on the street. And I was kind of notorious for snatching those goods up and furnishing my apartment with them.
LESLIE COLLINS: When I started in this space in the late 90s sustainability wasn’t a sexy topic, especially inside companies. It was more of, I wouldn’t say, an afterthought, but more of an add on for companies that had a lot of money. And just to see the partnership now within government, companies, citizens like it’s pretty remarkable to see how front and center the topic is now. And I think it’s going to really enable us to make the changes that we need to make.
JONATHAN ROWE: One of the things that gives me a lot of hope is the amount of sustainability jobs I see in my LinkedIn feed. When I started in sustainability in my career about 15 years ago, 16 years ago, I was a junior architect. I was latching on to the sustainability thing. I was teaching my coworkers about LEED and green building principles. And there were a lot of naysayers that were like, Jonathan, this is just a fad. What are you doing? Pick something else. And I’m glad I stuck with it, because here we are, the seriousness with which society is taking sustainability. They see the impacts of climate change. They are visible. They are right in front of us and seeing the way corporations are really investing in people that know how to help and want to help and inspire future generations to get it right.
SOPHIA LI: The work Leslie does to help keep Meta’s supply chain running has a focus on both people and environment. Jonathan’s work keeps Meta’s data centers operating efficiently. They are constantly looking for ways to make these centers more sustainable.
When they construct a new center, they look to make positive impacts in the environment and in the communities where those centers are located.
In their data center in Odense, they’re putting the principles of circularity into direct action.
JONATHAN ROWE: Data centers generate a lot of heat because they are full of computers that we have to power up with electricity to keep them running, to keep our platform and our services working. And in Odense, we were able to partner with a local municipality to capture that waste heat from the servers in our data halls and send it to a facility that takes that heat and distributes it to homes in an adjacent neighborhood.
SOPHIA LI: Thank you to Leslie Collins and Jonathan Rowe from Meta.
So in Odense, all that heat—all that energy, which would normally be dispersed—is captured, and used to warm almost seven thousand homes in place of other energy alternatives. These kinds of energy recovery programs will play a crucial role in the circular economy, and are a great way to manage wasted energy.
Wait, can we just really quick talk about the word waste for a second? In indigenous communities, waste is an asset. Think about food waste, it can become compost. Whereas in western culture, waste is stigmatized and seen as just trash. Waste can also be an asset, if only we could think more critically and creatively about it — let’s rethink how we talk about waste.
This is particularly important to consider in the fashion industry.
Textiles, garments, footwear, accessories—seasonal trends encourage consumers to keep buying more, even when our closets are already full. And when things fall out of style, they often end up in landfills… where, if the clothing is made of synthetic fibers, it will sit for hundreds of years before decomposing.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Environmentally conscious brands are beginning to shift towards more circular systems, where clothes and accessories are designed from the start to be made again, and also, to be kept in use for longer. And more people are participating in the circular economy than ever before by investing in quality pieces that will last, specifically seeking out sustainable brands and upcycled goods, and buying vintage and pre-owned goods.
So today on the show, I’m excited to talk to Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl, for a deep dive into circular fashion.
Korina Emmerich is a designer and activist. Her New York-based clothing brand, EMME Studio, is committing to circularity through its use of upcycled, recycled, and all natural materials.
She also sits on the Board of Directors at the Slow Factory, a nonprofit that transforms harmful systems by designing models that are good for the Earth and good for the people, and works as a community organizer with the Indigenous Kinship Collective.
Emily Stochl is the Advocacy Manager at Remake, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming the industry through advocacy and educational campaigns.
She is the host of Pre-Loved Podcast, a weekly interview show about all things vintage, thrift, and secondhand. She is an active volunteer with the Sunrise Movement.
SOPHIA LI: Hi, guys.
KORINA EMMERICH: Hi.
EMILY STOCHL: Hi, thanks for having me.
SOPHIA LI: Can you please introduce yourself and tell me your climate story? Korina, let’s start with you.
KORINA EMMERICH: I’ll actually introduce myself in Twulshootseed. [Twulshootseed] So basically, I just said, hi everybody. My name is Korina Emmerich. I’m originally from the Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup Tribe and I currently reside in Lenapehoking, which is the occupied territories also known as New York.
As an indigenous person, we are stewards to this land and it’s a responsibility that I hold to protect the land and reduce my own footprint here and prepare for the next generations.
I think that when it comes to fashion, it’s a very extractive industry and a big part of what I do is to try and show people that you can have some semblance of success within this industry and also be extremely responsible in the textiles that you use and the way that you produce your items.
When we’re young, we’re taught that there’s no disconnection between where our bodies end and the natural world begins. So it’s really something that’s a part of me, that the health of the planet is my own health, that what happens to the Earth is what happens to me. The basis of my climate story is I just have a lifelong responsibility to the land.
SOPHIA LI: Wooh! Thank you so much. Emily, what about you?
EMILY STOCHL: Hi, everyone. My name is Emily Stochl. And I grew up in St. Louis, so grew up in a city, wasn’t a super outdoorsy kid myself. I actually, you know, connect a lot of what I learned about the climate and climate organizing back to my grandmother, who was a labor organizer.
She worked at a plastics factory and was a single mom, raising six kids, and she worked there for 30 some odd years. She actually quote unquote “retired” to take care of me full time.
When I started to get interested in the sustainable fashion movement, it was through the fun and creativity of vintage and secondhand. But then my eyes got opened up to the harms of the fashion industry, as happens with so many of us. And I started to understand, you know, millions of mostly young women around the world working to support their families were not being paid fairly, we’re not in just situations. And I just couldn’t disconnect that from my upbringing and my understanding of my grandmother as an organizer. And so that’s when I got started with fashion activism. That’s when I got started with Remake, a global fashion activism nonprofit. Because I’ve always been passionate about, you know, we can’t have sustainability without social sustainability, without justice for people, too. And so I really connected with that organization because of the tie to human rights, as well.
SOPHIA LI: Thank you both so much, Korina, Emily. So, tell me your definition of sustainability. Korina, we’ll start with you.
KORINA EMMERICH: It’s existing between climate justice and human rights. So I think when I first started working in fashion, ethical production was probably my number one focus. And just paying people living wages. And I think that in this industry, the consumer has gotten so used to things being so dangerously inexpensive to the point where it’s at a human cost. Everything that I do in my clothing line EMME studio is made to order so I don’t overproduce and I don’t have garment waste. I try and find ways to reinvent all the scrap materials that I gain.
Also working in upcycled and recycled materials, as well as working in all natural materials. The cornerstone of my brand is to use wool fibers. I think wool is one of the most magical fibers, is just really environmentally friendly. It’s a renewable fiber. It can be recycled, composted, it can be an additive to the soil. Yeah, it’s like my number one go-to when I’m working.
SOPHIA LI: Emily, tell me your definition of sustainability.
EMILY STOCHL: You know, I used to kind of summarize it simply with, you know, sustainability or a sustainable fashion space is one that’s just for people and planet. But now I’m starting to think about, like, I want to live in a fashion future that is just, but that’s also regenerative and joyful and beautiful and kind of throwing in some of the magic that I think sustainability can bring to us as well.
SOPHIA LI: And Emily, what does circularity mean to you?
EMILY STOCHL: Circularity, like as a concept, it’s not a linear model, it’s a circular model so that at the end of a resource’s use, that resource can then be used again. Obviously, there’s a lot of complexity to that in the, like, linear world that we live in today. But that’s the basic idea is that what exists can come around and be used again.
SOPHIA LI: Thank you. Korina, what do you think circularity means?
KORINA EMMERICH: I mean, circularity to me is making use of something, but at the end of life it goes back into basically nurture future generations. The lifecycle of any animal or fish that directly impacts the trees, the soil, everything else that grows around it. So it’s all about the entire ecosystem and sustaining our – sustaining our way of life.
SOPHIA LI: Korina, I want to hear a little bit more about how indigenous communities have always embraced circularity.
KORINA EMMERICH: We have a term that’s called all my relations, and it really is that every single thing in the world that you interact with is related to you. What you put inside of your body to what you put inside your head, what media you consume, every single thing, but-
Salmon, for example, so my people, I’m Puyallup. I come from the Pacific Northwest. Salmon is our number one food source. So salmon, their lifecycle directly impacts the cedar trees. It directly impacts every single thing that we interact with as a community that sustains us as people, because cedar and wool go into clothing and salmon is the food that sustains us. One thing that’s happening right now with the fall in the salmon populations is that the nutrients aren’t coming from the marine, from the ocean, and they aren’t coming back to the upper watersheds in order to create those marine rich nutrients that go into the trees. So because they’re being blocked by, you know, human industrial obstacles, then it’s directly impacting so much more.
And I think a lot of times we can get into the mindset that we’re the ones in control and everything is for our use. And I think that’s a mindset that we really need to get away from. And I think we’re just becoming more and more disconnected to what’s happening to the Earth.
SOPHIA LI: Oof, yeah. Emily, I wanted to talk about waste. Does waste exist, can waste be an asset?
EMILY STOCHL: You know, much of what the fashion industry makes today is waste. We could think about everything that’s being produced as being a potential asset. But there’s so much that’s being produced that it’s never going to be able to all be used as an asset, realistically.
You know, as a person who loves second hand, as a person who believes in the potential of circularity, I think that all possible waste could also be a possible asset. I’m not sure we can ever get to that world where it is circular, where it’s all being reused unless we pull back significantly from the very beginning production.
Great researchers like the OR Foundation who are doing a lot of work in the global secondhand fashion industry. They propose that it will likely take a reduction of around 80 percent in order for the amount that is being produced to be something that is manageable within the secondhand supply chain, distributed, localized networks of resale, and things like that.
SOPHIA LI: Right, I once read a stat, actually, it was from the OR Foundation, that there are enough garments in the world to dress everyone until the end of time, the end of humanity.
EMILY STOCHL: Everything we need exists already. One hundred percent.
SOPHIA LI: Korina, talk to me about slow growth.
KORINA EMMERICH: I’m extremely slow. I would say my items are not easily consumable. Things sell out pretty fast. I do very limited runs, so it’s kind of like get it while you can mentality within my business.
It’s very slow growing, and I just have kind of accepted that this is the timeline that I have chosen. And design and my clothing line is only a percentage of the work that I do. It does not define me as a person. It is my creative outlet and it’s something that I just truly love.
SOPHIA LI: What’s the most sustainable thing you can wear?
EMILY STOCHL: Ooh, the clothes that are already in your closet.
KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I mean, I wear things until they’re threadbare. It’s like, I say, I’m a unfashionable fashion designer!
SOPHIA LI: Mmm. And is buying fast fashion second hand is that quote unquote sustainable?
EMILY STOCHL: I don’t have any problem with buying fast fashion second hand, as long as your intention is to keep it in use. You know, something that I really encourage folks who are maybe newer to second hand, haven’t tried it out before is try searching out brands that you’re already shopping with second hand instead, and maybe that helps you make the transition easier. But what you can’t bring over is those shopping patterns. You know, where the piece is purchased. But then next season, it’s not the piece that you love anymore. Right? I encourage people to try to leave that fast fashion mindset at the door.
KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I – you know, I think that in these kinds of conversations, people can feel like we’re shaming people who buy fast fashion, and I want to be clear that that’s like never my intention because I know a lot of people don’t have the monetary ability to afford sustainable fashion because it does come at a higher price point, especially if it’s made ethically. And a lot of people aren’t geographically in a place where they have that, you know, access to second hand or anything. Like the corporations in the fast fashion and their turnovers that they have on a weekly basis is the – is the issue and it’s not necessarily the individual.
SOPHIA LI: My last question for you two is how do you find hope in this movement?
EMILY STOCHL: I find hope through people, they inspire me so much, their stories, their passion, that feeling that we’re all here for each other and we’re going to make sure that we’re all OK.
KORINA EMMERICH: Yeah, I completely agree. I think community is the biggest hopeful thing for me is, you know, breaking down these walls that have been built up. I am also just like so insanely inspired by the younger generations. Every single day I’m impressed by the younger people and their drive to create a better future for themselves and to educate themselves. And, you know, knowledge is our greatest weapon.
SOPHIA LI: Thank you both so much for talking to us and talking to me. I learned so much myself and appreciate you both so much in this space. Thank you.
KORINA EMMERICH: Thank you.
EMILY STOCHL: Thank you.
SOPHIA LI: That was Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl.
You can learn more about Korina’s brand, and order one of her beautiful made-to-order pieces yourself, at EMMEStudios.com. That’s e-m-m-e studios (dot) com. While there, be sure to follow links to learn more about the other organizations Korina works with, including the Slow Factory and the Indigenous Kinship Collective.
To find out more about Emily’s advocacy work at Remake, check out remake.world
The Pre-Loved Podcast, Emily’s show about thrifting and vintage finds, publishes weekly, and is available on all major podcast platforms.
SOPHIA LI: So every week on the show, I close each episode with a prompt, a kind of call to action, inviting you, our listeners, into the conversation.
This week, I’m asking you to do a little exercise. Financial advisors say the best way to understand money is to be hyper aware of how we use it. Similarly, the best way to understand our waste is to be hyper aware of how much we’re throwing away, instead of allowing the act of discarding something to become a thoughtless action.
So I encourage you to count the number of times you throw something away in ONE day. Every time you throw something in the waste bin, add a tally to your notes app. Once you start to pay attention, you may be surprised at how quickly the waste adds up….
But this isn’t meant to shame or guilt anyone… It’s just the first step in understanding our own behaviors and attitudes around waste, and the habits we have formed. That’s the only way we can begin to make a more conscious effort to resist these habits, create less waste, and move towards a more regenerative future.
SOPHIA LI: Next time on Climate Talks…
JOHN COOK: We were having a family get together, and he was throwing out all these arguments on why climate change was a hoax and not real. And like any son in law who is motivated to win an argument, I started building a database of all the possible arguments that might come up at the next family get together and what the science said about each one of them.
SOPHIA LI: We’re digging into climate information. We have known the facts of climate change for over thirty years. So why is it so hard for people to agree on the reality of the climate crisis, never mind work towards a solution? Join us as we explore the best ways we can communicate—with believers and skeptics and everyone in between—about the urgent realities of the climate crisis.
We’ll be taking a quick break next week in observance of Native American Heritage Day, but we’ll be diving into this topic on November 29th. See you then!
SOPHIA LI:You’ve been listening to Climate Talks, a podcast in collaboration with Meta. Many thanks to our guests this week, Korina Emmerich and Emily Stochl.
You can find our podcast on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or whenever you listen. If you like what you hear, give us five stars! And share the show with your family and friends. We want everyone to get in on the conversation, and we hope that each episode inspires you to continue that conversation with the people in your life.
This show is produced by work by work: Scott Newman, Jemma Brown, Kathleen Ottinger, Emily Shaw and by me, Sophia Li. The show is mixed by Sam Bair.
Extra gratitude to Marlo Tablante and Amanda Gardiner at Meta. To find out more about Meta’s Sustainability initiatives, visit sustainability.fb.com.
This conversation is always evolving and I’m always thinking about it. So let me know your thoughts… You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @sophfei. Thank you so much for listening, and thank you for being a part of this conversation.
Emily Stochl is the Advocacy Manager at Remake, where she helps lead campaigns such as #NoNewCothes and #PayHer. With Remake, she helped raise awareness of and support for California SB62, the Garment Worker Protection Act. (You can read more coverage concerning the signing of this legislation in Vogue.) She also produces the weekly interview show Pre-Loved Podcast, and organizes with the Sunrise Movement.
The OR Foundation is a non-profit organization working at the intersection of environmental justice, education and fashion development. Their research focuses on bringing transparency to the global secondhand fashion industry, specifically in Ghana’s Kantamanto Market. From more for Liz Ricketts, the founder of the OR Foundation, you can check out her open letter to the fashion industry in Atmos: This Is Not Your Goldmine. This Is Our Mess.
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