Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Educating for the Future of Fashion

The fashion and textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world next to oil. Our planet and its resources are threatened in every stage of a garment’s life, as well as during the processes that take place beforehand[1]. Cotton irrigation alone uses an insane amount of water – 73% of global cotton harvest comes from irrigated lands, and cotton covers almost 3% of the world’s crop land. In fact, there are very few places, like Brazil, that cotton can depend mostly on rain water for harvest. The apparel and textile industry is responsible for an estimated 17-20% of industrial water pollution, used during dying and treatment processes alone. Around 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles, many of which will be released into freshwater sources[2]. In another post, we talked about alternatives to cotton, and what other materials we can begin to use that are less harmful to the environment. The first step to implementing these changes and accepting other options, is to educate our communities and each other on the alternatives to make them known.

Considering that consumerism rates have only grown and will keep growing most likely, it is time to start looking at large scale solutions that can impact the industry for the better. One of these major changes needs to be geared towards the future leaders in fashion to be more knowledgeable in the garments and textiles they are designing and developing, with a conscious effort to choose materials and processes that are less harmful to the environment and the economy as a whole. Just passing three years since over a thousand workers lost their lives in Rana Plaza, not much has actually changed within the industry. Nearly all of the emphasis has been put on large brands to lead some sort of transition to a clean, safe, and equitable industry, but most have done nothing more than focus on the most easily achievable and marketable issues: detoxifying cotton, using non-toxic dyes, and recycling unwanted clothes – all of which are hardly pats on the back, seeing how these things were impressive over ten years ago [3]. What is truly needed today is a complete re-imaging of a flawed business system and supply chain, and a focus on newer methods and materials. The time is now to stop thinking about how many different ways we can produce cotton, when all are unsustainable considering the resources at hand. Now is the time to focus on these other alternatives and change things up. We need leaders who understand this.

In order to achieve the real changes in fashion that are needed, we need to start at the bottom and work our way up. We have already seen what these big companies are doing to fix the problems, or lack thereof, so why not focus our energy on the future leaders of tomorrow to make more sustainable choices for the planet as a whole? When looking at the top fashion schools in the United States, and the world, only a fraction of them even teach some sort of sustainable materials curriculum – and of the ones that do, it is hardly more than one class. It seems most of the colleges and universities are focused on teaching about trends and following them, not making your own. There is some curriculum about sourcing materials and learning about the processes behind them, but it was at less than a handful of the top schools in the world. Only two of the top ten in the United States alone had curriculum with any sort of sustainable practices included, with a focus on researching these things before selecting fabrics and supply chains. As you can see, the problem might not start in education, but education can certainly lend a hand in how we can begin on the right path to a newer, less harmful fashion industry.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sustainable Skin Care

The average person today rubs, sprays, and even bathes in almost 130 different chemicals a day. Many cosmetics companies consider most of these chemicals safe. However, others are acknowledging what kind of buildup it could lead to in the end and what these beauty products may do to you. While there are certainly skin-care companies that genuinely care about sustainability and the effect they have on the environment and the people’s health, many are simply chasing the trend. This can be seem in their “outside-in” approach to sustainability. In other words, the most immediate changes we have seen have been external to the actual product: recyclable and biodegradable packaging, non-virgin shipping materials, charitable donations, forestry stewardship programs, etc. Various companies are working on creating safer and simpler alternatives for the environment, where these products are also better for our bodies. You can avoid the worry by looking into a considerable natural skin care routine. Here are a few alternatives to consider:

Simplify your routine.
You do not need expensive creams, lotions or makeup that drug stores and cosmetic stands advertises as the best.  Just really on basic cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and maybe some lotions.

Making sure the product has real natural ingredients.
Some items may claim that they are natural cleansers, but they are not 100% natural, meaning they still may have chemical enhancers in the ingredients. Be aware and look out for “Natural” and “All Natural.”

No need for fancy Fragrances in cleansing products
Soaps, lotions, and face wash may contain mixtures of toxic chemicals to improve scent for your body. It may be okay for some people, but for many others, these chemicals frequently contain phthalates, with can trigger allergic reactions. Some symptoms are breakouts on the face and skin rashes. So try looking for fragrance free products for a more natural cleanse or scent.

Search for organic products
Organic ingredients are usually found from naturally farmed products and were not enhanced with fertilizers or pesticides during the growth. You can find these products by looking for a certified USDA organic seal or label on them.    

At home made ingredients
Try making at home remedies for skin treatments. Many of us struggle with the dry winter skin and lack of exfoliation. Instead of buying an expensive body scrub, we can create our own by combining fresh coffee ground, an ingredient we all may have, brown sugar, and massage oil. Voila, your very own at-home body scrub! Click here for the recipe.

These are a few simple tips in enhancing your daily lifestyle!

For more tips, please check the links below:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Be Good to the World and Look Great Doing It

When it comes to fashion, one of the most important things in a persons morning routine can be their makeup. It helps us look more alive when we have stayed up too late doing homework and makes us look more like the celebrities that we see on social media. But what is your makeup doing to the environment and the world? Here are a few brands that are not only eco-friendly but also do something for the world itself.

  1. Lush Cosmetics - http://www.lushusa.com/
         Lush is a company that has made its name around the world for selling products that are ethical and good for you. The products they sell come in minimal packaging and what packaging that does happen is recyclable, even their packing peanuts are biodegradable and they tell you how to use them in your soil. 80% of their products are vegan and 100% are vegetarian. They use only fresh and organic produce in their products to ensure no chemicals make it into their products. All of the ingredients they buy are fair trade and cruelty-free. For 30 years they have been fighting against animal testing, even before the EU required no animal testing. All of their products are handmade by actual people giving many a job that has high working standards. Even the furniture that fills their nearly 200 North American stores is reclaimed wood furniture. They also have a product called the Charity Pot which is a lotion that has supported over 850 grassroots charities in the last 9 years. 

    2. Tarte Cosmetics - http://tartecosmetics.com/
        Today tarte is a leader in healthy, eco-chic beauty, offering cruelty-free cosmetics infused with skinvigorating™ ingredients like superfruit and plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and other naturally-derived ingredients. But it's not just about what's in their powerful formulas; it's what's not in them that really sets them apart. All of their products are formulated without parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, synthetic fragrances and gluten, just to name a few. Ingredients are absolutely important to them, but so are formulas that perform. Even without all of these ingredients, their products still come in long-wear, waterproof and SPF. Tarte also supports cooperatives in the Rainforest, contributes donations to women's health organizations and helps develop eco-friendly and healthy programs. A lot of their products are also vegetarian and vegan. 

    3. Credo Beauty - http://credobeauty.com/
         From the artisan workshops in San Francisco to the farms of New Zealand, Credo Beauty has curated an unparalleled lineup of artisan cosmetic brands that are natural and cruelty-free. Credo proves that beautiful and results-driven products can also be safe and sustainable. The company is committed to transparency, ethics and giving back and donates a portion of proceeds to The Lipstick Angels who bring joy to seriously ill patients in hospitals. 

Sustainable Fashion Through Technology

Interlaced: Sustainable Fashion Through Technology

Technology is revolutionizing the way we use and relate to clothes. Last year, Google and Levi’s announced they were partnering on Project Jacquard to develop a fabric that can send commands to your smartphone via gestures like tapping or swiping. Ralph Lauren already offers a t shirt for a cool $295 (£210) that sends workout data to an iPhone, and Lady Gaga has brought 3D printing to the red carpet. (Interlaced, 2016).

Sustainable business

Information technology today has become the keystone in an organization's quest for growth in a rapidly changing and complex environment characterized by intense competition, global impacts, uncertainties and fast-changing business models. Computer technology plays an important role in the strengthening and reinforcing the sustainability efforts and is specifically directed to the contribution of computer technology for bringing in social & environmental sustainability in the Fashion industry. It contributes significantly towards giving a greener face to the fashion value-chain. The computer technology, policies & practices with an orientation towards environmental, social and economic sustainability is known as Green Technology (greentech) or environmental technology (envirotech). Widespread application of greentech or envirotech in the Fashion industry is an important dimension of Sustainable development. Because of its role as a tool for sustainable development, green technology is also known as sustainable technology.

Sustainable Technology and Processes in Manufacturing

For many manufacturers, going 
green isn’t exactly easy, but becoming more environmentally conscious has the potential to yield big rewards. Not only are you developing a sustainable brand story that consumers feel proud to wear, but you’re gaining a first-mover advantage over your competition and investing in technology that will most definitely be an inevitable and required standard in the near future.
By incorporating sustainable practices and technology—committing to improving your production processes by 5%, 10%, 15% or even 25%—you can do better for the planet, while also saving time and money.  Brands need to educate themselves and take the time now to invest in technology and new methods of manufacturing. The following are sustainable technological processes in the apparel manufacturing industry that are important to know:

AirDye™, a subset of California-based Transprint USA/Colorep Inc., is a sustainable textile printing and dyeing company. AirDye is an air-based technology that can dye or print on one or both sides of a fabric at the same time without using water or chemical treatments. According to the company, “using AirDye saves up to 95% of the water, 86% of the energy, and 84% of the greenhouse gases as compared to conventional print and dye methods. On a single garment, the water savings alone can be as much as 45 gallons.” Current companies utilizing this technology include Patagonia, Julie Apple, Hunter Douglas, and Costello Tagliapietra (Envirogadget 2013).


Interested in learning more about Green Technology? Click here to learn more!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ingeo, an ecologically sustainable replacement for oil-based plastics and fibers

Ingeo? Is that a psych-rock band from the 80's?

Nope. It's a new material, with extremely broad applications in textiles, fibers, durable plastics and packing.

What, exactly, is it?

Ingeo is a bio-based material that comes from plants, instead of oil. Produced by NatureWorks in 2003, Ingeo has grown to find itself in a wide variety of markets and industries, representing the growth of ecologically sensible and environmentally friendly materials.

It's made from 100% annually renewable resources. Starting its production (usually) from sugars found in plants, particularly field corn, Ingeo uses less than 1/20th of 1% of the world's annual corn production, contributing what they claim to be little to no impact on international or local food chains.

For those of you GMO-skeptics or GMO-phobes who can't stand the thought of us taking what we've already been doing since the dawn of time to a more microcosmic genetic level, Ingeo doesn't require or use genetically modified materials. The plant based sugars used in the biopolymer's production is certified by Genescan to contain no genetically modified material of any kind. Alternative to corn, sugar from the sugar beet, sugar cane and wheat crops could be used in its production.

Is its production ecologically friendly?

NatureWorks, from an outside perspective, appears obsessive about their eco-profile. Seeking to compete with fossil fuels and provide a green alternative to oil-based products, Ingeo's 'plastic' generates almost 60% less emissions and uses 50% less non-renewable energy in its production. The company, not believing that this is a good enough margin, continues to seek innovations that would further increase the ecological competitiveness of Ingeo in comparison to its dirty petroleum opponents.

The future is not and cannot be based in non-renewable resources. 

Moving towards sustainability will require us to cut down, tremendously, on our fossil fuel consumption. By taking small steps towards replacing petroleum products in our day-to-day life, we can help natural and bio-based materials reclaim a decent and (hopefully one day) substantial share of the market. Unsustainable dependence on ecosystem annihilating resources must be met head on in all industries - all that needs to be done now is to inject this demand into mainstream thought. Celebrities and fashion-designers debuting clothes made from biopolymers and sustainably sourced plant-based material would greatly improve our path towards an ethical and sustainable green future.

Genetically Modified Fashion

The usage of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food crops has sparked a number of international debates: intellectual property concerns, "food copyrighting," genetic ethics and overall environmental and human impact have been sparred over, often at the legal level. From local courts to the height of debate within enormous technocratic institutions and big agricultural corporations, GMOs have been a hotly contested topic.

DNA double helix rotating animation gifTo what degree, then, could we genetically modify the plants used in textile production to ensure a higher degree of sustainability and more attention paid to rare ecological resources? Unfortunately, cutting edge modifications to cotton by big agricultural organizations has done very little to reduce water usage, instead choosing to enhance the crop's resistance to extreme heat, serving to guarantee a higher quantity of fibers produced. This modification is extremely beneficial to Pakistan's cotton-based economy, with heat sensitivity representing one of the most important yield limit factors. 

We have successfully identified the genes which control heat response in cotton crops. Unfortunately, cotton remains one of the thirstiest crops in existence, with a mere 1kg of cotton often requiring 20,000 liters of water to produce.  California used to produce a massive amount of cotton but simply cannot afford to during their current drought, with many farmers choosing less thirsty crop alternatives. If we can't genetically modify cotton to produce larger quantities of fiber with less water, what about increasing wool production?

Genetically modified sheep
Through genetic modification of the forage crops and rumen bacteria which control nutritional factors in sheep populations, we could (potentially) sustainably increase the production of wool. If the land and livestock are managed properly, it is not unbelievable that genetically modified animals and forage crops could one day produce enough wool to challenge the cotton industry, which currently constitutes about 60% of garments worldwide. 

If sheep can be genetically modified to develop a resistance to parasites, "sheep dip," a chemical used to rid the pests, could be substituted and eventually fall out of use. This toxic chemical represents one of the largest ecological dangers of the wool industry, but is one which has a solution, like many ecological problems, in future genetic modification.

CRISPR and our bright future
With very recent breakthroughs in our understanding of "Cas9" and our newfound control of primitive CRISPR  technology, the future of textile production may be radically different than our current estimations. With patent fights breaking out over hemp production, sustainable and efficient hemp plants may supplant cotton in the distant future. For more information on CRISPR and genetic modification, the following is a wonderful video.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Eco-Friendly Clothing Fabrics

Eco-Friendly Clothing Fabrics

Sustainable clothing refers to products derived from eco-friendly resources, which don’t harm the environment, in their production, such as sustainably grown fiber crops, or recycled materials. There are a lot of advantages when using green products in fashion industry. They help conserve energy, minimize carbon footprint, and doesn’t lead to substantial toxicity, or pollution to the environment. Moreover, some eco-friendly materials are biodegradable, recyclable or compostable. Basically, recycle products can reduce the need for new raw materials and the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. Check out some useful eco- friendly materials from Green America:

1.    Organic cotton:
The crops were grown using eco-conscious methods, with no toxic pesticides, synthetic chemical inputs or fertilizers. Farming practices also cultivate and enrich the land it's grown on (which must be chemical-free for three years before the cotton can even be planted on it. Natural dyes or colored cotton to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem. It garments are likely to be free from chlorine bleaches and synthetic dyes.

2. Bamboo:
Bamboo fabrics are made from heavily pulped bamboo grass. Additionally, the fabric also has natural antibacterial properties, breathes and is biodegradable. It is described as hypoallergenic, absorbent, fast-drying and naturally anti-bacterial and comes from a very fast-growing plant. Making clothing and textile from bamboo is considered sustainable due to the lack of need for pesticides and agrochemicals. Compared to other trees, certain varieties of bamboo can grow 1–4 inches long per day, and can branch and expand outward because of its underground rhizomes. However, like cotton fibers, bamboo fibers are not naturally yellowish in color and are bleached white with chemicals during processing.

3. Hemp:
Hemp is considered a sustainable crop. It is renewable, requires little or no pesticides, grows without fertilizer, requires minimum attention, doesn’t deplete soil nutrients and is easy to harvest. The hemp plant's broad leaves shade out weeds and other plant competitors, and its deep taproot system allows it to draw moisture deep in the soil. Hemp fiber comes in two types: primary and secondary best fibers. Hemp fibers are durable and are considered strong enough for construction uses. Hemp fiber is approximately 8 times the tensile strength and 4 times the durability, compared to cotton fiber. Hemp fibers are traditionally coarse, and have been historically used for ropes rather than for clothing. However, modern technology and breeding practices have made hemp fiber more pliable, softer, and finer.

4. Soy cashmere/silk:
Soy fabrics are derived from the hulls of soybeans—a manufacturing byproduct. This fabric is made from soy protein fiber left over after processing soybeans into food. The soy may be genetically engineered unless noted on the label. Soy clothing is largely biodegradable, so it has a minimal impact on environment and landfills. Although it is not durable like other materials cotton or hemp, soy clothing has a soft, elastic feel. Soy clothing is known as the vegetable cashmere for its light and silky sensation. Soy fabrics are moisture absorbent, anti-bacterial, and UV resistant.

5. Organic Wool:
Like organic cotton, organic wool must be raised chemical-free, including the food the animals eat and where they graze. This material is increasingly becoming available: it is produced using sustainable farming practices. Moreover, since lightweight wool fabrics like merino wool are naturally moisture-wicking, odor resistant, and breathable, they make a great choice over synthetic fabrics for fitness clothes.


Ethical Places to Buy Leather Goods

Here are some stores and websites that have a reputation for selling ethical leather products.

1. Organic Leather - http://www.organicleather.com/

Their leather is organic from the cows themselves to the tanning that they do. They use Oak bark and vegetable tannins that preserve the leather as well as use natural oils (from fish/animals or bees wax). The process of their leather tanning takes 5 weeks to 12 months because of the natural way it is done. The farms where the hides come from are small family farms that have cows that predominantly live on open pastures with organic feed when necessary in the winter months. They also must adhere to high moral and ethical principles of hygienic standards, which ensure exemplary standards of animal welfare.

2. Eluxe Exclusive - http://www.eluxeexclusives.com/

Eluxe Magazine was the world’s first ever sustainable luxury publications and now shares the products they have found on their website, Eluxe Exclusive. Every product they carry contains absolutely no harmful chemicals or preservatives. They aim to give you and your family an all-natural alternative to the mainstream beauty and fashion market, and you can shop with the confidence of knowing that they have done all the research for you. Their product lines include, fashion, jewelry and beauty, as well as living products that aid in everyday life like soy candles and vegan cookbooks.

3. NAE (No Animal Exploitation) - http://www.nae-vegan.com/en

NAE is a Portuguese shoe brand with a vegan philosophy that cares about environmental sustainability. NAE makes leather shoes from everything from cork to recycled tires. They were born under the assumption of no animal exploitation but is presenting collections with design, style and quality. Their biggest standout product is their Vegan steel toed boots made from recycled tires and has the word “Vegan” embossed into the side of the boot. NAE does not use any animal products and does not manufacture shoes in factories that practice human exploitation.

There are many more stores where you can purchase ethical leather goods. Just do your research and feel free to share your findings with us and others in the comments below.

Impact of the Bovine Industry -- Part 2

Leather production is done in several stages that can take upwards of a month. At the end, something that once was a food industry by-product is turned into a precious material that is adored by many for its fashionable toughness. The first step in this process is when the raw hides are taken through a series of operations and chemical treatments which rehydrate and unhair the hides. Tanning of the hides is the next step, this is what makes leather so desirable. The hides are placed into wooden drums and coated with tanning chemicals that transform the product and then shaved. This process will be repeated several times until the desired strength and thickness is achieved. Finally, the hides are dyed to obtain the desired color and softened using chemicals. 
What does all of this tanning and dying do to our environment? The impact of the environment is very negative due to the tanning chemicals that are used in most mass production leather factories. This problem is a significant issue in countries that are known for their loose industry regulations, and use low cost, high polluting production methods. This is why leather that is made in Italy and the United States is so highly priced and coveted, because both countries have strict rules and regulations about what can be done in leather production. Here are some innovative ways that are currently improving the environmental sustainability of leather production:
  1. Water-free automated retanning and dying
  2. Wet White® - An organic metal and formaldehyde free tanning agent
  3. Water based pigments that are free of VOC, heavy metals, chrome VI, formaldehyde and phthalate.
  4. Plant based tanners
Finally, the amount of water that is used to produce leather without the above innovations is astronomical. It takes 431 liters of water to produce 1 ounce of leather. To put that into perspective, that is 113.8 days’ worth of drinking water for the average adult. But what does 1 ounce of leather get you? The answer is not much, but 5 ounces of leather will get you this Italian leather purse from Coach. But mind you, the leather did take 2,218 liters of water to produce. The upside to leather, it is a long lasting material just due to the nature of the material. 

The Fashion Industry's Supply Chain: Globalism's Race to the Bottom

Let's face it. Unless you're extremely involved in activism and journalism regarding sustainable and ethical clothing like those who run the Ethical Fashion Forum and MySource, an enormous database and intelligence host, you probably aren't aware of the minutia of details which amalgamate to create the many-headed hydra of the fashion industry. If the imagery of a hydra seems hyperbolic, perhaps it won't after reading this post.

The industry, as it stands, is not a monolithic institution. But it does produce more pollution than nearly every other industry, besides the granddaddy of them all, big oil. Popular high-end retailer Eileen Fisher brought the issue to the public spotlight late last year, prompting mainstream criticism of the supply chain behind the textile industry, one which cares little for the planet, its own workers' quality of life or health, or the resources consumed in its processes.

The second-largest polluter in the world has ravaged ecosystems and destroyed societies in its incessant demand to fill our closets with runway fashion, at the cheapest price possible. The price of extremely cheap goods often has a less overt price - that of human lives, annihilated local cultures and imploded trade systems favoring nations which have little or no worker protection laws.

Bangladesh exports chartIn 2013, the collapse of an eight-story commercial textile factory killed over 1,100 people and maimed or injured 2,500 more. The catastrophe occurred in Dhaka District's Savar, in Bangladesh. While those who worked in the building's banks and retail shops were told to evacuate after the discovery of cracks, greedy textile bosses ordered their factory workers back to work the following day, upon which the building collapsed. This is merely one example of the many consequences of global neoliberal trade policies which favor low-cost mass-production of primary goods like textiles.

Would you die for a pair of jeans?

Cotton & Dyes

Cotton is an inefficient and greedy crop, which unfortunately constitutes nearly half of the world's clothing. Reliance on an extremely disproportionate amount of water has led the crop to serve as a catalyst for environmental degradation across the globe. As water becomes an increasingly valuable resource, it is unbelievable and inexcusable that the market should continue its obsession with this unsustainable crop. The Aral Sea, whose sources of water were diverted to help irrigate a growing Asian cotton economy, is now virtually nonexistent. The overuse of pesticides in the production of cotton has also left an obviously devastating mark on the environment.

Chemicals used in the dying of unsustainable textiles poison rivers and devastate aquatic ecosystems across the world. Half a trillion gallons of fresh water are used in the dyeing of textiles each year, reports AlterNet in its citation of research done by Yale's Environment 360. The same research also states that China is responsible for nearly 40% of these chemical discharges.

Professor Ake Bergman of both Stockholm University and Tongji University in Shanghai calls the degradation of Chinese river pollution "breathtaking," with his team monitoring discharges in the immensely critical Yangtze river, which also receives discharge from chemical plants, petroleum refineries, nuclear fuel processing plants and metal smelters. While these industries are definitely separate from the fashion industry, they are complicit in their mutual apathy towards the world we all share.

It may seem nearly impossible to shop sustainably and ethically.

It's a bleak outlook, to be certain. But there are simple steps we can take in our day to day life to do our part:

1. Spread the news and provide alternatives
 Instead of sitting atop an ecological pedestal (one still filled with holes, surely) and judging others for their purchasing habits, seek to provide them with positive alternatives and an open discourse. Yelling at your friends for shopping at Walmart isn't going to make them stop, but showing them how shopping locally and purchasing ethically and sustainably sourced goods can help the Earth may better influence them.

2. Become a master of slow fashion
Sustainable fashion is still FASHION. You can be the artistic diva you really are while refusing to contribute to a supply chain which butchers the planet - by thinking intelligently about outfits and purchasing fashion staples that can be worn more often, you can greatly reduce your environmental footprint.

3. Contribute to local businesses
Find a local boutique or business you enjoy shopping at which sources their goods in a ethical manner and shop until you drop! While the small-end of this point is merely seeking out such businesses, the more influential distance this point can be taken to involves encouraging communication between green-friendly shops and even cooperation. If a council of eco-friendly boutiques can be established, businesses would much rather hold themselves to similar standards and regulations than have a distant technocratic institution reach its invisible hand down to squish them, often while ignoring the larger grievances of mega-corporations who they actually subsidize.

At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do. But that doesn't diminish what you can do, so get out there, spread the word and continue to fight the good fight.