CLOTHING & FASHION

The latest trend in fashion is sustainability. Many of us are looking for more eco-friendly products and changing our buying habits.

The operating model of the fashion industry has for many years been to step up the pace of design and production, with many clothing companies offering new designs every week. As a result of this over production, the industry is the second-biggest consumer of water, generating around 20 percent of the world’s wastewater and releasing half a million tons of synthetic microfibers into the ocean annually. The average consumer buys 60 percent more pieces of clothing than 15 years ago. Each item is only kept for half as long.

According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters (998 gallons) of water to make one pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. Imagine what the impact is on the environment for everything we buy. Plus, less than 1 % of used clothing is recycled into new garments. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that every year, around $500,000,000,000 in value is lost due to clothing that is barely worn, not donated, recycled, or ends up in a landfill.

  • Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
  • Around 20 percent of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
  • Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 percent by 2030.
  • If demographic and lifestyle patterns continue as they are now, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.
  • Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. The danger? Microfibers cannot be extracted from the water and they can spread throughout the food chain.

From the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion: “By using fashion as a form of activism and empowerment, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion doesn’t perceive sustainability as a limitation to fashion, but rather a trigger for bringing real creativity and passion into the industry,” said H.E. Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly.

“Research shows that fashion presents many opportunities for reducing waste and improving the environment. But the fashion industry cuts across many sectors, and so to capture the full opportunity, the UN and its partners need an integrated approach that goes beyond individual Sustainable Development Goals.”

Fortunately, consumers have been taking notice of these issues and are increasingly looking for more sustainable items, while also shopping at consignment stores. Younger shoppers in particular are concerned about their effect on the environment. According to the Nielsen survey, 53 percent of those ages 21 through 34 said they’d give up a brand-name product in order to buy an environmentally friendly one, compared with 34% of those ages 50 through 64.

As a result of this, companies are changing their production processes, and their philosophy. There is clearly power in the choices we make.

Echo Errand Gloves

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Echo

Founded in 1923 by Edgar and Theresa Hyman in New York City, Echo has been creating colorful scarves and fashion accessories for almost 100 years.

Today, the company is responding to the needs of its customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and has created a new line of gloves, The Echo Errand Glove, in a super lightweight, breathable fabric (90% polyester, 10% cotton). The gloves are machine washable and can help protect your hands when out shopping.

The two versions come with or without the Echo Touch®, the technology that allows you to operate touchscreen devices while wearing the gloves.

A donation of $5 for each unit sold will be given to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund which helps food banks across the country as they support communities impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to the Errand Gloves, Echo is selling a line of washable cotton masks with a moldable nose bar, adjustable ear straps and a pocket engineered to secure a PM 2.5 filter and avoid awkward gaps. (These masks are not intended for medical use.)

DID YOU KNOW

Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Thanks to donations and support from businesses, government organizations and individuals, the Feeding America network of food banks, pantries and meal programs serve virtually every community in the United States — 40 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.

Nothing New Sneakers

IMAGE COURTESY OF: NOTHING NEW

Nothing New is making a positive impact on the environment by creating shoes from sustainable materials: their sneakers feature a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic upper, and its other components are created from recycled cotton, fishing nets, rubber, and cork.

The company is all about sustainability. Roughly 5.6 plastic bottles go into each pair of shoes, saving 160 gallons of water in comparison to regular cotton canvas sneakers. And their shoe box is made from 100% recycled paper.

According to Business Insider, “Shoes, most specifically sneakers, are by far some of the most wasteful products to make. Massive amounts of virgin plastic, rubber, petroleum, and cardboard go into producing, packaging, and shipping them to consumers. And once they’ve been beaten to the point of being unwearable, they’re thrown in the garbage to live in a landfill forever more.”

Continuing in their commitment to sustainability, the company has created a Virtuous Circle Program. When your Nothing New sneakers are worn out you can ship them back to the company and they will give you a $20 credit towards a new pair. The old sneakers will be either donated to charity or disassembled to put as much of the materials as possible back into the supply chain.

 

DID YOU KNOW

It takes 30 to 40 years on average for shoes to decompose in a landfill. And every year we throw out 300 million pairs of shoes. If you lay 300 million pairs of shoes end to end, they would circle the Earth 4.56 times!

Patagonia

IMAGE COURTESY OF: PATAGONIA

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. They’ve awarded over $89 million in cash and in-kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in their local communities. In 2002, founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit corporation to encourage other businesses to do the same.

1% for the Planet is an alliance of businesses that understand the necessity of protecting the natural environment. They understand that profit and loss are directly linked to its health, and are concerned with the social and environmental impacts of industry.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear and ReCrafted Collections address the issue of fashion as a disposable seasonal trend and the environmental impact garments have in landfills. Their Worn Wear operates by buying customers’ products back from them, provided they’re in good condition, in exchange for store credit.​ They also encourage customers to repair their items that may have been torn or damages. Their motto is “Buy Less, Repair More.”

“Repairing clothing and keeping gear in play as long as possible has been part of Patagonia’s business model since the 1970s. Today, Patagonia repairs more than 100,000 items each year in 72 repair centers globally and in Reno — where the company owns and operates the largest apparel repair center in North America.”

Their ReCrafted Collection takes worn-out damaged goods and transforms them into one-of-a-kind items. Thus, they are extending the life of garments that are no longer resale-able or repairable. The line includes vests, down jackets, and bags, carefully crafted in a workshop in Los Angeles.

DID YOU KNOW

Keeping clothing in use just nine extra months can reduce the related carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%.

allbirds

IMAGE COURTESY OF: allbirds

A native of New Zealand, Tim Brown was always well versed in the magical qualities of merino wool. Inherently curious, he began asking himself why such a remarkable, sustainable resource was virtually absent in the footwear industry. And with that spirit of wonder, the Allbirds journey began.

After years of researching and tinkering, Tim teamed up with Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and renewables expert. Together, they crafted a revolutionary wool fabric made specifically for footwear. The outcome? An entirely new category of shoes inspired by natural materials, and an ongoing mantra to create better things in a better way.

Their merino wool fibers are 20% the diameter of human hair, making it breathable, temperature-regulating, and moisture-wicking, all without that irritating scratchiness. The company produces a selection of shoes for both men and women, along with socks and accessories.

Their shoe packaging uses 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard and that one box serves as a shoe box, shopping bag, and mailer all in one.

The company is concerned with sustainability and their carbon footprint. First, they measure the emissions of everything from their raw materials to their end of life. Next, they reduce their impact by incorporating things like natural and recycled materials. And finally, they offset the little bit that’s left with carbon offsets, making Allbirds a completely carbon neutral business. But their goal is bigger—emit no carbon in the first place.

From the company:
Our ambition is to be like a tree, leaving the environment cleaner than we found it. That’s why we believe in the power of natural materials, and their potential to transform ecosystems. We’re looking beyond carbon neutrality, which means eventually, our business will be carbon negative.

DID YOU KNOW

On average, the production of one shoe produces 30 pounds of carbon dioxide and there are more than 15 billion shoes produced each year! Another aspect that is regularly overlooked and also contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions from shoes is the transportation.

Naturepedic Organic Cotton Face Masks

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Naturepedic

Since 2003, Naturepedic has been on a mission to transform the lives of our customers through safer, healthier sleep. By eliminating materials like flame retardants and polyurethane foam from our line of certified organic natural mattresses, Naturepedic supports an organic holistic lifestyle while protecting the environment.

Due to the shortage of face masks, Naturepedic has designated a portion of their factory to face mask production. Their masks are sewn in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and are durable and machine washable. Although they are not N95 particulate filtering masks, research shows that they’re still beneficial in helping reduce the spread of pathogens and are designed in accordance with the CDC recommendations for everyday consumer use.

Breathing through synthetic fabrics may carry a higher risk of chemical off-gassing as compared to organic cotton fabrics. Choosing organic is a smart choice for ensuring less chemical exposure (even from the mask itself) with every breath you take.

Naturepedic face masks are made with two layers of 100% organic cotton material, certified to the GOTS organic standard, and have two adjustable straps to help keep the mask secure. Their masks are produced and sold at cost and not for profit.

DID YOU KNOW

When a virus that infects the respiratory system exits the body, it’s contained within a droplet of saliva and mucus. The droplets released during sneezing and coughing are larger than those released while speaking and breathing, and any of these droplets may carry many virus particles. The larger droplets tend to fall nearby due to gravity, but the smaller ones can go far, with the majority of them remaining within six feet of the infected individual. A single cough can travel as fast as 50 mph and expel almost 3,000 droplets. A sneeze can travel up to 100 mph, create upwards of 100,000 droplets, and expel droplets of varying sizes 23 to 27 feet from the sneezer.

ARIELLE

IMAGE COURTESY OF: Arielle

Texas-born designer Arielle launched her eponymous label in 2018 after a series of design gigs at several major ready-to-wear brands which left her disenchanted with the ethics of the fashion industry. Her brand reflects her personal values: ARIELLE is committed to organic, recycled and zero-waste fabrics, local manufacturing, fair-trade operations and plastic-free packaging & production.

The company sources all materials with great care and responsibility, enforcing supply-chain transparency, human rights standards and environmental protection. They work to remain on cutting edge of sustainability and apply new solutions as they become available.

An example of their commitment to sustainability is their partnering with a company in Italy that has been recycling fibers since 1878.  They collect unwanted blankets, sweaters and fabric scraps, sort them by color, shred them and then run through a mechanical blending process to render any desired color outcome without the need of any additional dye, water or chemicals. The reclaimed materials apply their original color to the new material!

A strong believer in breaking free from plastics, the company even offers a plastic-free self-reliance kit which includes everything you need to move through your day without single-use plastics.

DID YOU KNOW

The U.S. alone sends 26 billion pounds of clothing to landfills per year. Reclaiming fibers diverts 3 million tons of clothing from landfills per year, with the potential for much more. Recycled fabrics minimize energy and resource consumption, waste, and environmental impact.

LEVI’S

IMAGE COURTESY OF: LEVI'S

Levi’s has always been a leader in sustainability. In 1991, it established “terms of engagement” that laid out the brand’s global code of conduct throughout its supply chain. This meant setting standards for worker’s rights, a healthy work environment, and an ethical engagement with the planet.

Today, (counter to what most fast fashion companies are doing) Levi’s is trying to encourage their customers to be conscious that when they purchase a pair of jeans, that is not an isolated event. The garment had an impact before they purchased it, in terms of people that made it and the waste that was involved in creating it. And it’s going to exist long after they’re done owning it.

Paul Dillinger, Levi’s head of global product innovation wondered, What would happen if we could change culture in such a way that consumers imagined the end of life of the product they bought? So, what if we said that you could mulch your jeans, put them in your garden, and see how the decomposition of your Levi’s could feed the food that you were growing. That’s conceivably how we might dispose of garments in the future. That would prompt the consumer to think about little details like how the color was applied to the garment in the first place. Would the chemicals in the dye affect the garment, my food, and my body? This is the kind of holistic thinking Levi’s want to spur in our customers. Fundamentally, asking them to take into account the impact they’re responsible for in the whole system, from the supply chain to the eventual disposal of the garment.

DID YOU KNOW

The documentary “The RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save the Planet?” exposes the environmental disaster created during the process of making denim jeans.