Shopping fast fashion without having a guilty conscience about fashion waste is a struggle. More, fast is basically the motto for stores like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara that churn out as-seen-on-the-runway styles to the floor within a matter of days, the process for which has continually come under scrutiny for creating lots and lots of waste. But now, there’s a company that’s actually working with these brands to curb the excess in a way that gets shoppers to hop on the eco-friendly bus too — and score a free top or two while they’re at it.


If you shop at brands like Levi’s, American Eagle Outfitters and The North Face, you may already be familiar I:Co — short for “I Collect” — the company that’s putting in place a simple but important system at big-name stores that allows customers to turn in used clothing and accessories in return for a store voucher. Think of it like an even more sustainable Crossroads: From there, those donated pieces are shipped to an I:Co facility and sorted into four categories: recycling, rewear, reuse and upcycling. Items that are still in good condition get sold to secondhand retailers, and the rest of the pieces are used to make new clothing of equal or better quality or materials like insulation, windshield wipers, geofleece and stuffed toys.


With the goal of decreasing waste in the fashion industry by closing the loop in the use of raw materials, I:Co has implemented a five-year plan to use 100% of the clothing and shoes collected in its upcycling process. In an interview with Racked, I:Co managing director Nicole Kösegi said, “In an ideal world, materials will be able to flow ‘endlessly’ which means that materials tied in products can be used over and over again for new products after the end of the products’ life-cycles.”

According to a statistic on I:Co’s website, the production of a single t-shirt consumes between 10,000 and 30,000 liters of water. With stats like this, it’s important to have a company like I:Co reaching out to brands with massive outputs to help hold them accountable and move them toward more sustainable practices. Not only that, but I:Co is making it easier for you to help the environment and your bank account stay relatively padded. If sustainability and conscious shopping are trends, they’re ones that are quickly becoming so fetch: More and more consumers are choosing to make conscious choices, and fashion retailers are taking notice.

What other clothing retailers would you like to see partner with I:Co? Let us know in the comments below!

(h/t Racked)