CARY, N.C. — World leaders have started to gather for the international climate change summit known as COP26, which is set to kick off on Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. The goal of the conference, hosted by the United Nations, is to get countries to agree on new commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.


What You Need To Know

COP26 is the UN-backed international climate change summit set to begin Sunday

17 million tons of textile waste ended up landfills in 2018, according to the EPA

Caitlin Hicks, 19, started a sustainable fashion brand aimed at creating graphics and streetwear with the planet in mind


In the United States, fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis. Americans are trashing more clothes than ever. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills in 2018.

Caitlin Hicks, 19, has been a sustainable shopper for five years. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, she was motivated to start her own sustainable fashion brand.

“Fashion is such a large contributor to negatively impacting the environment,” Hicks said. “And I knew when I started my clothing line, I wanted it to be something that people could shop and wear and feel good about their purchase.”

She usually begins her creative process at a thrift store, where she goes through racks of clothes to find the perfect garment to upcycle. (Upcycling is when you take a previously worn or used item and turn it into something completely different.) The next step may involve tie dye or coffee grounds, which are a natural dye. Unlike other sustainable fashion brands on the market, Hicks focuses on creating trendy graphics and streetwear.

“My graphics are kind of random and all over the place — mostly things that I’m inspired by,” Hicks said. “I’m usually inspired by the ocean because I’m from the beach.”

Hicks, a native of Wilmington, wants people to know that they can make a difference. She, too, was once a part of the problem when she was completely unaware about how her shopping habits were negatively contributing to climate change.

“It’s not easy to just completely switch over to sustainable shopping, especially if you’re caught up in trends and things like that,” Hicks said. “It can be hard. But I think over time there are small things you can do to get on track.”

Hicks is part of a generation that is worried about what kind of planet their elders will leave behind.

“The problem is more in our heads. We’re more aware of it than maybe older generations were because it wasn’t as big of a problem.”

Caitlin Customs is where she sells her apparel, including tank tops and sweatshirts, tote bags and glass mugs.

Hicks knows that she alone cannot stop global warming. She wants to use her business to encourage others, young and old, to make changes to leave a better carbon footprint.