From ‘take-make-waste’ to ‘reclaim-repurpose-reuse’

From ‘take-make-waste’ to ‘reclaim-repurpose-reuse’

The term ‘circular economy’ is very trendy right now.

But what does it actually mean?

The Ellen McArthur Foundation defines the concept as ‘a framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design’, which is based on three principles:

-Designing out waste and pollution
-Keeping products and materials in use
-Regenerating natural systems 

More and more companies are incorporating circular principles into their operating models, from zero-waste restaurants to fashion brands providing options for customers to return their used garments, so they can be made into new products.

The circular economy and the SDGs

Shifting from a take-make-waste model of production and consumption to reclaiming, repurposing and reusing products and materials that already exist will help us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The most obvious example is SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – but promoting circular principles will make positive contributions to many other goals, from those focused on climate action, life on land and below water, to goals related to health and wellbeing, and zero hunger, through reducing contributory factors like pollution and food waste.
I’m particularly excited by initiatives that use production models to achieve social missions that create opportunities for women to earn sustainable incomes, like Love Welcomes, who reclaim the life vests and blankets worn by frightened, exhausted refugees as they wash up on European shores, and partner with refugee women to transform them into beautiful, handmade welcome mats (and other products) that they sell all over the world.

Contributing to the circular economy doesn’t have to be a high-tech endeavour!

While the average citizen of the world’s poorest countries is unlikely to have ever heard the term ‘circular economy’ in their life, they will be definitely be practicing its principles!
In countries like Bangladesh, people simply can’t afford to throw things away after a single use. – and ‘upcycling’ isn’t a hobby.
There are some incredible people out there working on pioneering technological initiatives that promote the circular economy. In contrast, the age-old ‘kantha’ tradition is perhaps the ultimate ‘low-tech’ example.
‘Kantha’* (which translates as “stitched cloth”) refers to the tradition of mothers crafting blankets for their children by stitching together their old saris. The traditional embroidery stitch that is applied over the top is known as ‘kantha stitch’.

Circular parenting – nurturing the next generation

Many people are consciously looking to make ‘eco-swaps’, from buying their cleaning products and toiletries at refill shops (where you continually re-use your own containers with washing up liquid, shampoo etc.), using re-usable food wraps made from beeswax instead of clingfilm, and replacing wrapping paper with fabric gift wrap made from repurposed saris.

Parents are becoming increasingly conscious of the impacts the ‘take-make-waste’ economic model will have on their children’s future, and how wasteful it is to keep buying things that their little ones will use for such a short amount of time.
This can be seen in the revival of cloth nappies – which now come in such gorgeous prints that showing off your ‘stash’ has become a serious trend on Instagram – and the rising popularity of re-usable baby wipes (we use Cheekywipes, who offer a great starter kit that gets you all set up), and all things bamboo – from crockery  and cutlery, to toothbrushes and wash cloths.

90% of my daughters’ wardrobe is second-hand – or what is increasingly known as ‘preloved’ (an important part of changing behaviour is making the behaviours you’re encouraging seem desirable – and language is a big part of that!)  

We’ve been really lucky to have had loads of beautiful items passed down to us in ‘good as new’ condition – and I am a regular at our local Fara Kids. During lockdown, I’ve picked up some lovely bits from Build a Bundle.

Facebook groups like this one (which has over four thousand members and offers the clothes for free – you only pay postage!) are an incredible resource for twin parents. It can be hard to find two items in the same size in charity shops – and while it’s obviously really important for twins to develop their own identities, sometimes the temptation to dress them in matching outfits is just too strong, especially after they’ve been ‘tag-teaming’ you all night!



Snowsuits handed down from a fellow twin mum......I have no idea what animal they're supposed to be...but they're pretty cute :)


On a similar note, I haven’t tried one personally yet, but I know lots of parents are big fans of rental services like bundlee (for clothes) and whirli (for toys).

And setting up milk delivery in glass bottles is very much on my to-do list (my girls still drink LOADS of milk, and they’ve lost interest in breastfeeding, except when they’re either really tired or really upset).

Khushi Kantha is proud to be part of the sustainable parenting community

The next generation will inherit the planet – and we want to pass it down to them in the best state possible.

A Khushi Kantha is made to last. Instilled with the strength of the mothers who create them, we design our blankets to withstand the daily wear-and-tear of life with little ones, and be treasured from child to child. And the multi-purpose nature of our baby blankets means that you can tick off multiple items on your ‘nursery essentials’ list in a single product!


Khushi Kanthas work brilliantly as breastfeeding covers!

My girls love chilling on our blankets at the beach

But our contribution to the circular economy goes further than that – we’re trying to tackle both pre- and post-consumer textile waste through applying circular principles in our production process. 

Regenerating tradition

At Khushi Kantha, we’re reworking the kantha technique to create products that meet Western quality and safety standards.

Bangladesh is famous for its garments industry. Lots of fabric sadly ends up getting wasted at various stages of the supply chain.

This is a particular challenge the industry is facing right now, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We want to collaborate with like-minded companies to rescue this fabric from landfill.

We’re repurposing the kantha technique by reserving the traditionally-used vintage saris for the inside layers of our blankets, and source deadstock cotton fabric for the outside, to which we will apply the traditional kantha embroidery stitch.

Making it happen!

We’ve been having some exciting conversations with household name brands who are interested in partnering with us. But they have lots of other priorities right now – and we want to get started with creating opportunities for mothers to provide for their children with dignity!

We’ve checked out some of the brilliant online platforms selling deadstock fabric like Queen of Raw and Offset Warehouse – but the gorgeous fabrics are sadly beyond our budget, given the price point for our blankets (we’d be spending more than the price we’re hoping to charge just on the fabric for the two outside layers!)

A new platform called that connects buyers and sellers of deadstock offers some more affordable options.

We’ve purchased some fabric we found on the platform from a dedicated deadstock market in Old Dhaka and used it to make our first ‘made in Bangladesh’ samples (last summer, when it became clear we wouldn’t be able to travel to Bangladesh, as planned, we created a first super, limited-edition collection of blankets thanks to a group of incredible volunteer stitchers from my local community, to start testing the market), which are currently on their way to the UK, thanks to a friend who is travelling back from Dhaka.


Sample blankets hand-stitched from by mothers in Bangladesh


But when deadstock fabric enters the local market, it’s not accompanied by the paperwork that documents the safety testing it has been subjected to…..and we’re also still trying to figure out how we’re going to be able to procure a regular supply that meets our requirements, given that deadstock fabric is basically ‘what’s leftover’ by its very definition!

But we’re trying our best to make it happen, with support and advice from brilliant individuals and organisations like Bernie Thomas, Circular Economy and Sustainability Manager at Salvation Army Trading Company and the team at hubbub – so watch this space to see where our circular production model ends up!


How do you contribute to the circular economy – or how would you like to start doing so?


*‘Kantha’ can also simply mean blanket, while ‘Khushi’ is the Bengali term for ‘happy’ – ‘Khushi Kantha’ therefore means ‘Happy Blanket’.

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