Talking with Kaya Dorey: A True ‘Young Champion of the Earth”

June 5, 2018

Happy World Environment Day 2018!

As organizations and individuals around the world stop to celebrate the earth and ways to protect it, it’s a fitting occasion to highlight the work of the newest generation of bright young eco-innovators. Last year, Covestro teamed with the United Nations Environment Programme on an initiative, called Young Champions of the Earth, which aims to inspire and support 18-30- year olds who have outstanding ideas for saving the environment.

Our first-ever winner from North America is a young woman named Kaya Dorey.

Kaya, a fashion designer who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, was honored for her unique apparel business, NOVEL SUPPLY CO., that “not only delivers on sustainability, but also on an urban street style for a generation wanting to end our ‘fast fashion,’ wasteful consumerism.”

As we await the announcement of this year’s new Young Champions of the Earth, I had a chance to catch up with Kaya to discuss her philosophy and approach, her interest in the environment and sustainability, and what winning this award has meant to her and her business. 

Question: When did you first get interested in environmental issues?

I first took an interest in sustainability when I was at Capilano University in Tourism Management. I took several environmental stewardship courses and a course on a climate change, which inspired me to want to learn more. When I couldn’t find a company that suited my style and values in sustainability, I went on a mission to start my own.

Q: Tell us about NOVEL SUPPLY CO.? 

NOVEL is a small, locally inspired conscious apparel company based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Our apparel is designed with the West Coast lifestyle and the end in mind. It’s undyed and made with hemp and organic cotton and manufactured locally in Vancouver, Canada.

We care about this place we call home and want to leave it in better shape than we found it for future generations to come. That's why we make the most conscious choices when it comes to sourcing, shipping, and marketing materials.

Q: How does NOVEL SUPPLY CO. address fast fashion?   

I am always educating consumers on slow fashion and conscious consumerism. I do this through social media, website content, clever packaging, and public speaking engagements.

Q: How has being a Young Champion helped move your company's sustainability commitment to the next level? 

It has enabled me to scale and develop the closed-loop, take-back program for my business. I had always intended on doing this, but when I started, I realized it was essentially two businesses I had to create, so I put it on hold. This award helped make this part of my business a reality and enabled me to do the research I needed to explore the compostability of fabrics and the feasibility of automated manufacturing. If automation turns out to be feasible, I will need more investment, as well as the right partners to bring the project to life.

Q: Describe the “closed-loop, take back” concept?

When a consumer purchases a product, it is their responsibility to discard it. This eliminates any responsibility from the maker of that product. I want to shift this and actually take responsibility for the products I make. It’s more of a lease model where the consumer leases the product, and at the end of its life, returns it back to me. From there, I develop the alternatives to landfill for that garment, like upcycling the fabric into new products, such as totes, wallets or stuffing for pillows. For the small scraps, I will turn them into paper or invest in a digester, which composts the fabric.

Q: Was it exciting to learn you were one of the six regional winners of the first-ever Young Champions of the Earth award? 

It was surreal when they told me I had won. I actually thought they were setting up a call with me to tell me I didn’t win. I just didn’t know if this project would be taken seriously. I am so excited to know that it is and the U.N. recognizes this as one of the biggest problems we have to tackle and it needs to happen from all levels. Businesses need to start taking responsibility for the products they are making. Consumers need to educate themselves and make better choices.

For more information, please visit https://web.unep.org/youngchampions/about-us