Friday Five – This week, slowing down fashion, jaded on crystals, meatballs on Mars and more


Circling back to fast fashion

Burning unsold inventories is so last-season; fashion is finding its footing in a world where the people are demanding sustainability. Total greenhouse gas emissions related to textiles production are equal to 1.2 billion tons annually — more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping trips combined, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. What’s worse, many brands are guilty of burning unsold clothing: H&M reportedly burned more than 60 tons of unsold clothes from 2013 to 2018, and Burberry burned more than $36 million worth of clothes in 2017 alone.

One solution that’s emerged from the ashes is called circular fashion, and I’m not talking about those inflatable bubble suits. In a nutshell, circular fashion is a product of the circular process, which involves integrating recycled resources into supply chains, particularly into production. Not surprisingly, H&M and Burberry are both buying into the idea. Burberry intends for every single product it sells to have at least one “positive attribute” by 2022. For example, some products might be made out of an environmentally friendly material, like its newly introduced Econyl made from recycled fishing nets. Others might use traditional materials, but they are manufactured at a carbon-neutral factory. H&M is working with Stella McCartney and Tommy Hilfiger to introduce certifiably sustainable material in its clothing. Though we are far from coming full circle, we are inching the needle on fashion’s faux pas.

The great works of Beethoven, Mozart and…BMW?

Quiet as a mouse and as smooth running as Usain Bolt, the electric vehicle market is expected to be $567.2 billion by 2026. Naturally, automakers are hopping on the wagon as fuel vehicles increasingly become a liability. The electric, autonomous future is a dream where commuters can put their feet up, relax and sit with their thoughts. However, if you’re not a fan of meditative calm, the quietness of an electric or autonomous vehicle can be quite unnerving. Who wants to be stuck with their thoughts? The NHTSA is proposing drivers be able to pick the fake noises the vehicle makes (a là “zoom zoom” by the Mazda kid). Enter BMW hiring the famous composer Hans Zimmer to make acceleration noises for its electric concept car. As silly as the business of making up noises for vehicles may sound like, it’s nowhere near as ridiculous as the Tesla Cybertruck.

Beyond noise, automakers are betting on huge display screens, gaming and customizable interiors to make vehicles more appealing to buyers. However, a lot of these are just concept cars, which rarely go into production. While electric vehicles may not win any Grammy’s for sound effects, it’s a sign of the direction that technology is heading in.

Is FDI still the wind behind global economic wings?

Since the Second World War, foreign direct investment (FDI) has been treated as a panacea for economic ills, the best trick up the economists’ sleeves to elevate entire countries out of poverty. Today, FDI is running out of steam. According to the latest Global Investment Trends Monitor report by the United Nations, global economic growth has fallen and growth forecasts have continued to be revised downwards over the past year. Trade wars, geopolitical risks, and the protectionism boogeyman have put a chill on business confidence, so much so that, according to some, FDI can no longer be relied upon to drive the world economy.

FDI accounts for as much as 50% of incoming resources in some developing world countries. Global FI inflows have peaked around 2007 at $2 trillion, but then the Great Recession has put an end to this growth. Global FDI was only able to climb back to $1.1 trillion in 2018. As for the ROI on FDI, it is also less appetizing, down from 8.1% in 2012 to 6.7% in 2018. As the world evolves, buoyed by increasing social, political, and climate complexities, the word is still out on whether FDI will bounce back or whether new frameworks and institutions will be needed to tackle economic challenges of tomorrow.

Healing crystals? Consider me jaded

Essential oils like lavender or peppermint are part of the latest wellness trend, and they are taking off with a market predicted to be worth $15 billion by 2026. Alongside these oils is the new trend of healing crystals, which are rising in popularity faster than you can say chrysocolla chalcedony with claims to help deepen one’s connection to the earth and are often used in meditation.

Whether these wellness trends can treat your common cold is one thing that has yet to be proven (if science has anything to say), but what we can prove, is that a lot of these wellness products have some questionable origins, and your oils might contain synthetic scents or even heavy metals. In fact, over half of tea tree oil for sale in Canada is not pure. And you might want to meditate on this for a moment, because unlike the heavily-regulated diamond industry, healing crystals and essential oils are unregulated and do not come with standardized certifications. It’s likely that the crystals which are supposed to promote self-reflection and wellness can often come from unregulated origins or involve child labour, sold as by-products from industrial scale mining. Yikes. Might be time to take a second look at your wellness products and be crystal clear on where they are coming from.

Meatballs on Mars

Colonizing Mars has been framed as the future of our civilization, necessary after we Wall-e our current planet. In 2012 Mars One captivated the world, launching a worldwide search for an elite set of Earthlings to pioneer a one way trip to Mars. To fund the expedition, the creators had the very 2000’s idea to make the whole event a reality show. Turns out that funding a multi-billion dollar space excursion takes more than relying on your own version of the Bachelor and Mars One folded in 2019 (aka the year-of-the-scam). As space turns into the commercialization frontier, the usual billionaire suspects Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are making space their pet projects and the path to Mars has never looked closer.

To prepare for life on Mars we have Mars on Earth – the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Ikea has partnered with the project to offer space-furniture for the compact facility. An Ikea designer lived in the space to design a line of small furniture that will be perfect for hosting a Martian dinner party. The facility is only 8 meters across so furnishings had to be small and serve multiple purposes (a real space saver). With timelines to Mars as early as Musk’s estimate at 2024 the furniture may be coming to an IKEA on Mars near you soon.

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